Photo by Daphne Zepos
In its final days, the Bush administration imposed a 300 percent import tax on France's famous Roquefort cheese, among other luxury food imports from Europe. Designed as retaliation for a European Union ban on imports of U.S. beef containing hormones, the measure was announced on January 13 and was to take effect at the end of April. Had this happened, it would have eradicated the U.S. market for Roquefort.
All winter, goodbye celebrations for Roquefort took place in cheese shops across the country. My personal farewell to Roquefort took place early last week, during the final tasting of a three-day cheese seminar. Roquefort was the last cheese on the plate, and as 20 students solemnly focused on their sliver, I realized it was the best Roquefort I'd ever tasted on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Roquefort is a wet, delicate cheese, vulnerable to the trials of shipping, and often the melodious balance of flavors looses its pitch in transport. But this sample dissolved cleanly in my mouth, leaving behind a faint trace of the crystalline grit that forms where the blue veins meet the fatty white cheese. The very salty and very sweet flavors--typical of Roquefort--sparkled and were balanced and inextricably intertwined.