Tag Archives: Rudyard Kipling

Comté and the Earth Song

11 Jun
cheese blog 016

All that was left of the cheese by the time I’d gotten round to photographing it

‘Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth! 

– Rudyard Kipling

If I felt I had the authority to alter a classic poem about how ‘really we’re all the same no matter where we come from’ I’d probably alter the third and fourth lines to state ‘But there is neither East nor West….When two strong men (or women….just to be politically correct) stand face to face, confronted with tasty cheese’.

Asia is not a continent revered for its cheeses. In fact handy dandy Wikipedia tells me under ‘Cultural Attitudes’ in its ‘Cheese’ entry (yup, worldwide attitudes are that important that they get their own section) that East Asian cuisine steers clear of cheese.

That being said, recently I’ve seen first-hand how my super-Chinese flatmate Dora discovered and then obsessed over a little cheese called Comté- what follows is a beautiful tale of how a historical French cheese overcame stereotypes and a lesson was learnt that ‘no matter your culinary background, great food will always triumph over those taste-buds’.

Dora guiltily staring at what was left of the cheese

Dora guiltily staring at what was left of the cheese

One day, after a visit to my parents house and a trip to Waitrose I brought back to Dora and I’s shared abode a Comté.

Comté is a hard cow’s milk cheese with a mature earthy taste that reminds you of Autumn leaves and foraged nuts- a Hippy Mother Earth of cheese if you will. Unassuming yet striking this cheese does not give off much of an aroma (making it a perfect travelling cheese- train and bus goers will not mind if you get picnicking next to them), however like a master of stealth once it hits your taste-buds it’s true guise is revealed- a refined mature Gallic cheese with a love for the country that would probably live somewhere deep in the woods with a bubbling brook and a cave nearby.

When Dora sidled up to me and asked if she could have a bite of my cheese, I could not foresee what can of worms was about to open. With an effect of what I imagine to be a bit like amphetamines, Dora’s eyes widened as she declared ‘OH MY GOD, IT’S SO GOOD!….IT’S LIKE A MIXTURE OF PARMESAN AND CHEDDAR….BUT BETTER…MMMMM’ and other such exclamations.

A couple of days later Dora’s culinary discovery led us to venture to South Kensington to a cheese shop entitled ‘La Cave a Fromage’. Here, we gleefully demanded that we wanted to try their finest Comté. With three strengths to choose from- mild, medium and mature, we found out that Comté is a slow developer who had a bit of an awkward phase. If Comté were a boy, he probably would have worn braces and not developed facial hair until well into his teens. Much like the ugly duckling Comté ripened with age. The mild was a bit too mild, the medium was just a bit too awkward whilst the mature was just right.

Comté: The Early Years

Comté: The Early Years

Unfortunately, this Asian cheese obsession did not just stop at Dora but spread to her sister too. She even developed a fun way of eating the cheese by scooping it out with a spoon much like an ice-cream scoop. Much Facetime [Iphone copyright] was had between the sisters discussing their addictive tendencies towards the cheese; but all in all, the cheese won out- the sisters were smitten.

Now, much like at the end of an American TV show, I will leave you with some parting deep and meaningful words of wisdom:

And so, much like after reading Kipling’s poem, a lesson can be learnt. No matter how different we think we are, a mutual respect for a good cheese (or a good dim sum, or curry, or tagine etc.) can always bring us together. After all, a need for food is universal to life and a common ground for all on Earth. #MAKEFOODNOTFIGHTS

And just to hone the message in and really over-do the ahem, cheesy-ness, of the end of this blog post I’ll leave you with Michael Jackson’s classic ‘Earth Song’. I just hope that Jarvis Cocker doesn’t come out to moon me.

p.s. The Comté from Waitrose was made in a disused military fort found in the hills of France in 1996 that apparently had the perfect micro-climate for the cheese to ripen- HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

If you want to find out more about Comté and its history check out its website: http://www.comtecheese.co.uk