End of November. Patches of snow everywhere. I do not know about most people, but I begin to panic, my body begins to make reserves, I check my cupboards often. There is a sadness in watching this Québec land slowly being buried with the snow, the intense maniacal cold taking over. As most I am sure, I cannot help thinking about our ancestors who decided to make this place home. In 1985, Fabienne (Suisse) and Frédéric Guitel (Normand) did exactly that. There was practically no land available in Switzerland and land in France was beyond cost unless you had abundant riches stashed away. Québec had land and reasonably priced.
They bought a farm. Pigs. 4 years of injections and the strange business surrounding it and they quickly realized it was not them, it was not what they wanted, they were not happy. Land they had, but there was suddenly the internal dilemma about what direction to take. They met some people who wanted to make a fromagerie of goat cheese and needed milk. Fantastic. 180 goats later and the project never came to fruition. They struggled. For a while they dealt with Damafro but the demand for their milk was not consistent. Delivery of fresh milk was also expensive. Then the loss of of a huge batch of fresh milk from not being able to sell it. Enter the cheese. Frédéric took a course in Joliette in 1992 for cheese making, raved about it, and Fabienne followed. Cows also followed and in 1995 the fromagerie was born.
I listen to a few customers coming in. They each have different stories, but I realize that they are saying something very similar. They don't want to be lied to, they do not want to be cheated. And this space, this fromagerie in a sense, what it felt like was a space to be able to discuss what that meant. It felt like a space to criticize society while doing something about it.
Two of their cheeses, Grand Manitou and Funambule were recipes purchased from the now non existent fromagerie La Voie Lactée, which was in Assomption, shortly after the whole listeria fiasco in Québec. There are a few such who disappear, but Fabienne and Frédéric bought these two recipes from La Voie Lactée in a sort of solidarity.
Funambule-goat cheese. nice runny insides. strong smell of goat, roasted butter, floral. taste a little acidity, butter, hazelnuts....really amazing with a 2002 Tannat wine from Uruguay (go figure the odds of that one).
Freddo-pale yellow to orange crust. smell of fresh paris mushrooms, cheddar, fresh milk, taste smoothe, butter, fatty. 60 days washed rind, semi ferme presée.
Le Sabot de Blanchette-fresh goat cheese in pyramid form, taste of hay, chives, floral, very creamy, amazing mouthfeel. Great with 2008 vin de glace Riesling from Cote d`Ardoise.
Grand Manitou-goat, cow, ewe cheese. smell of hay, goat, fresh mushrooms and nuts. Soft taste, toasted cereal, mushrooms.
Le Petit Poitou-lobster, umami, mushroom soup, wet hay. taste of mushrooms, good length, almost leaning of truffles, duxelles. type of camembert.
In 1985, when they arrived farmers were seen as, well, uneducated and...as shit. Thirty years later a different mood has settled. There is more respect for them as artisans contrasted with the wealthy multinational farmer non farmer.
North America. Welcome to the land of endless diets, fads, endless new foods, endless identity crisis' where tradition has always been pierced, beaten, violated and killed. Talking with Fabienne I realize they are descendants of a long line of agriculturalists who have been there longer than the obsessive, demented trends America is capable of, and I am happy for it, because here are people who have something more to share than artisanal cheese, and that is the pleasure of something honest.