15 SEPTEMBER 1961, Page 28

Thought for Food


By RAYMOND POSTG ATE Since those days, the Danes have become more meticulous in their nomenclature (though a tin called 'Danish Petit Camembert' is a pretty poor show); anyway, their present carefulness is frus- trated by their past laxity. I have been examining cheeseboards in restaurants and cheeses, especi- ally packaged cheeses, in grocers' shops. There recurs regularly a good, rubbery, slightly stinky cheese which the Danes labelled Port Salut once; they have relabelled it Port Danois, Ambassa- deurs, Turnmill and finally just Esrom, in vain; the restaurants and shops almost always sell it blandly as Port Salut still. Danish blue is more rarely nowadays called Gorgonzola, though it still is in far too many places, and the unlovable word Danazola is everywhere. (It does not taste like Gorgonzola.) There is an excellent, hard caraway cheese that goes under its place name or a 'fancy name' like 'King Christian' and tastes of caraway.

The place of the Danes as name-stealers is being taken rapidly by the Germans. `Raum Camembert,' Edelweiss Brie' and so on abound. I would have thought that the 'Spanish cham- pagne' case would have been a legal precedent and have put a stop to misleading labels of this kind; presumably it is not so, or perhaps it is merely that since there is no Ministry of Food now there is no one to put the law in motion. In any case, it is hard to blame very severely the restaurateurs who put these imitations on their cheeseboards, under the French names. Those names are on the labels and their makers are allowed to put them there; and the average land- lord, outside London anyway, honestly doesn't know the difference. Soon, I daresay, we shall have 'Dutch Stilton.' We already have 'Scotch cheddar,' which is a sourish cheese which] am told is properly called Dunlop.

The mention of Cheddar brings me to the subject of English cheeses. The worst, which is also the commonest, cheeseboard consists of a tinfoil packet of something that is called 'pro- cessed cheese' or 'cheese-spread,' a heel of chalky Danish blue and a sweaty, pale, tough and nearly tasteless chunk called 'Cheddar.'

Sometimes this will be orange and crumbly and called 'Cheshire. This sad sight, in most cases, is the ultimate result of the passionate energy and expenditure of the Milk Marketing Board and its offspring the Cheese Council. There are cases, of course, where a better selection is offered—perhaps as many as seven cheeses (which is effectively all the English varieties there are—there are 121 listed French varieties) in larger pieces, not dried up. But even so, the sight and taste of them are discouraging, and this is for two reasons.

The first is that nearly all the English cheeses are now factory-made; as a result of the war the number of farmhouses making cheeses went down by 90 per cent.—that is, nine out of ten stopped. Therefore, there cannot be. ,individually meritorious cheeses, except in restaurants which have a private link with a farm. The second reason is that the authorities and the trade still go on the assumption that the average English- man is a Victorian labourer and that his chief meal is bread and cheese and beer. For that meal you need a mild, hard cheese that can be eaten in big gobbets to fill your stomach. You can't make do with a soft cheese, and you certainly don't want to . eat (say) lumps of camembert or gorgonzola as your daily lunch. Therefore, the cheeses offered provide those qualities. They consist of Cheshire and Cheddar, which are mild but have (when properly matured) a perceptively different flavour, Caer- philly and Derby, which have almost no taste at all, Leicester and Lancashire, which, have some bite when they are fresh, Double Glouces- ter, which is gentle, and white Wensleydale, ia which the fanciful claim to find a taste of honey. None of these is suited to the end of a restaurant meal, unless you have not had enough to eat; the restaurateurs 'sadly watch them dry up, unasked for, on the cheeseboards.

The only English cheeses of real individuality

'Convey my compliments to the chef with just a minor reservation about the Sauce BriIlal Savarin.'

that you can get in restaurants today are the green cheeses, for some reason nowadays called blue.' Blue Vinny, from Dorset, hardens so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep. Blue Cheshire, to my mind the finest, is a sport and a landlord cannot always get it; to mature Properly it must be huge. Stilton is almost always to be had, but customers insist on spoiling it. It should not be doctored with port or brandy, Which only breeds maggots, and it should not be dug out with a spoon It should be cut laterally and served in wedges, but the only inn - keeper I know who dares to insist on this is the formidable Mr. Heptinstall in his justly famous Fortingall Inn at the foot of Glen Lyon. Blue Wensleydale, once its rival and equal, is only just coming back on to the market, and I have but once been offered it in a restaurant. Double Cottenham, that Cambridgeshire wonder, seema to have perished for ever.

These are the best; the worst, I think, are the bars which Kraft have recently been wrap- ping up in coloured papers and labelling Cheddar and Cheshire and so forth.