All I could think about driving to La Chevriere de Monnoir was Millet. Jean Francois Millet, the famous french painter. Along the quiet morning roads in the countryside I watched the cows and sheep feeding in the fields, close to one another. I pulled over, got out of the car and listened to the strange sounds of them munching on the grass. Millet became one of the founders of the Barbizon school which was in a sort of defiance to the Romantic movement, opting more for what many saw as Realism. I stood there thinking about his paintings The Angelus and the Shepardess and her Flock which I had seen at the musée Orsay while doing culinary stages with Ducasse and El Bulli. Incredible paintings, often describing a universe in which man has a definite place. It was also a nature which was already heavily manipulated by human intervention by fraught with hardship. The Angelus, that early morning peace of prayer came back with especial intensity. That moment before intense toil which we all feel, before the difficult interaction with the free, seemingly wild motives of humanity. That particular painting seemed purged of greed and envy, or rather it captures that moment before they appear. I got back into the car and wondered at the fact that every generation has a dominant movement that we question and oppose. I started thinking of all the fast food restaurants out there and the motives behind them....
Driving into the La Chevriere de Monnoir I see a few rabbits in a large cage, some chickens, a lama in a fenced in area beyond, and a really strange looking goat. All this is a little staged, almost surreal. When I enter the fromagerie a woman is there. I ask her how is everything. Not so good she replies with a direct honesty. Why? Part of her dairy facilities burnt as well as part of the flock. She forced a smile. No one was hurt. She managed to explain to me that most of the cheese that she sells is made from the Chaput familly. She delivers her goat milk to them. This was more like a French system of fromagers.
Champagnole, good sharp taste with notes of hazelnuts, semi ferme, yet melts upon tasting. Washed rind, aged for 6 months.
Artisan Romantique, white croute, creamy to runny with a good dose of buttery bitter taste.
Prestige-goat cheese, not compact, good caprine notes with hints of pear. ashlike rind.
Fleurs des Monts-distinctly floral, Parmesan style.
There was also a smoked saucisson of chevre made by Saucisson Vaudois. A good solid smoky garlic sausage. Marie France Marchand also sells eggs from their chickens which takes the zoo like quality away from the area. Outside the crisp autumn air is chilly. I think of work, the stress of having to feed so many, to keep quality up, to worry about resto critics, the fierce competition, tense about food costs, to manage so many others with so many other interests and wandering attentions. I think of Millet's Angelus, and stand there with a little prayer, as if it were reminding me to be thankful to have tasted these cheeses, to be alive and a witness these autumnal colours, the pleasure of good crazy friends and an exceptional girlfriend.