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Raw Deal on Camembert

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On June 20, The New York Times reports that large producers of Camembert would like to abandon the time-honored use of raw milk in the exquisite cheese for which Normandy is famous, and still call it Camembert. Today’s lament against this sly attack on traditional foods comes from cheesemonger Rob Kaufelt, the proprietor of Murray’s Cheese, author of the Murray’s Cheese Handbook, and (full disclosure) Julian’s daddy.

Rob kaufelt writes:

“For an aging cheesemonger like me, the commodification of Camembert in Normandy is dire news. Having spent many years lauding this most perfect of raw milk cheeses, the notion that France would seriously consider granting this faux fromage the coveted AOC status is a travesty. Not that one can find these perfect treasures here in the United States, mind you, as raw milk cheeses aged less than sixty days are illegal and cannot be imported or sold here. Of course, not too long ago rules were a little lax, and there was often the odd bit of cheese contraband to be had. Now, however, things have tightened up considerably and the opportunity to savor one of these little treasures must be had abroad. While our thermalised brands are tasty, anyone familiar with both versions will notice they are a bit short of sublime. Ironic, too, as just the other day a friend offered me a slice of Sandwich Mate plastic-wrapped yellow single for some burgers he was grilling up. While the Camembert only contains the finest milk, a little rennet, and a little salt, this icon of Americana contains water as its main ingredient; hydrogenated soybean oil, a transfat known to cause premature heart disease; casein, now almost 100% imported, usually from China and as undocumented as to its source protein or other content as melamine-laced pet food; and assorted citrates, phosphates, gums, and 250 mg of sodium per slice. How comforting to be protected from one of the world’s great cheeses while the virtually-unregulated ingredients in our industrial food supply may literally be poisoning us. That this has been our government’s policy for years is no news, but France? The French are the standard-bearers of fine food and have a duty to hold the line on any bastardization of the food supply. As for our own government, instead of insuring a steady supply of pure, natural, real foods, we are to be made ‘safe’ once again by substituting the ersatz for the authentic. Can we look forward to the day that all we eat comes from a foreign factory designed only to maximize its profit, and nothing to do with tradition or taste? On the other hand, although our government’s foreign policy may often be questionable, at least we are secure in the knowledge that they have made us safe from raw milk cheese.”

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