How to “cut the cheese” in France – Cheese etiquette 101 — by France Off the Beaten Path!
“Cutting the Cheese” and Other Fun Facts About French Cheese Etiquette!
Our 8 Rules – Cutting French Cheese blog post offers a short informal explanation on how to properly cut the cheese at meals while traveling in France! Knowing how to serve yourself individual servings of French cheese when presented with a cheese platter inclusive of a wide selection and variety of cheeses can pose a real dilemma to the unsuspecting traveler, and leave him or her feeling unsure of what to do next. This is especially true for someone who is new to France, or who has never known that there is actually proper etiquette for “cutting the cheese” in France.
Proper cheese cutting ensures fair distribution between the rind and the dough. By keeping this factor in mind when cutting any cheese, you’ll do your part to ensure everyone served after you has access to the same quality selection. Quality cheese is also somewhat of an expensive dish in France, and therefore, is considered a delicacy. Traditionally, it is served along with a small green salad and nut, fig, or cereal breads. It is also offered once at the end of the meal, and you only take what you can eat (leave no scraps on your plate). The cheese course takes place towards the end of a meal in order to avoid tainting your palate, so you appreciate and enjoy the flavors of the appetizer and main course. Keep in mind however, that when dining as a guest in someone’s home, if you skimp on the appetizer and main course, and then dive into the cheese platter with fervor, your host may feel guilty that they’ve not properly fed you.
8 Rules – Cutting French Cheese!
When presented with the cheese plate…
1 — Normally a separate knife is used for cutting different types of cheese. For example, 1 knife is used for milder cheeses and another for the stronger cheeses. If there is only one knife, you may use your piece of bread to wipe it clean before you cut another cheese, but never touch the cheese with your fingers.
2 — Cutting Round French Cheese (Camembert, Reblochon, Bijou…) and Heart Shaped Cheese (Neufchâtel…) —
Cut these cheeses in pie slices or into triangle shape portions, starting the cut from the center moving outwards towards the rind. The pie slice should be of modest size. If the cheese is a gooey, soft cheese, such as a very ripe Brie or Livarot, cut it in a pie slice formation as much as possible, then use a spoon to scoop onto your plate.
3 — How to Cut Brie when presented as a slice by itself —
Brie is produced in large round wheels, but is typically purchased in smaller triangle size portions at the “fromagerie” or cheese shop. If you are presented a triangle portion of the cheese, cut the tip of the triangle portion off on an angle — never cut it off parallel to the rind. Then cut slices diagonal perpendicular to the rind, as you would when cutting a pie to ensure you are getting both some of the soft center and firmer rind end, and leaving some of both for others.
4 — Cutting Pyramid Shape Cheeses (Valençay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre…) and Cylinders (Charolais…)
Cut these cheeses also like a pie ensuring to start from the top and cut all the way through the height of the cheese. You’ll end up with a tall triangular slice.
5 — How to Cut Square French Cheese (Pont-l’Eveque, Maroilles…)
Cut it like a pie, starting with a diagonal cut at the core (the center of the square) moving outward towards the rind, cutting thicker triangle slices. These larger triangle slices can then be cut in half if too large for one person.
6— How to Cut French Blue Cheese (Bleu d’Auvergne, Ambert, Roquefort…)
Often presented in a wedge cake looking like slice, you cut this cheese into parallel slices, starting on the core side in a diagonal. The cylindrical firmer blue cheeses are cut like a pie, same as round soft cheeses.
7— How to Cut French Log Cheese (Sainte-Maure de Touraine…)
Cut French log cheese in parallel slices starting by cutting off one of the rind ends, and then making equal serving slices until the other end of the log is reached.
8 — How To Cut Slices of Firm Wheel Cheeses (Comté, Cantal, Lagioule…)
When a cheese is presented in larger wheels, it would first be cut into a smaller flat, rectangular serving sizes with rind on all sides except for at the core so it is suitable to fit on the cheese tray. Cut the cheese in slices from side to side (rind to rind) so you have the soft center and rind on each end of the slice. When you reach about the halfway point of the main piece, change directions to cut in a pie formation from the core to the rind, so that you have both a soft center and one rind end. By doing so, no one ends up with a piece of only rind.
8 Rules – Cutting French Cheese!
While the etiquette of cutting the cheese in France may seem somewhat unusual or foreign to visitors. France is a country of well over 1,000 cheeses, and a culture that prides itself on its foodie “savoir-faire”. By employing these simple 8 Rules – Cutting French Cheese, you’ll not only impress your friends back home, but you’ll also impress your French hosts whether dining at home or in a restaurant.
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