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Grate news: There's finally a museum dedicated to French cheese and its makers

Mmm, cheese.
Mmm, cheese. Copyright The Musée du fromage
Copyright The Musée du fromage
By Amber Louise Bryce
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"En faire tout un fromage." Literally.

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It makes sense that the founder of a new cheese museum in Paris would have cheese as his profile picture on Whatsapp.

The colour of Cantaloupe, cheesemaker Pierre Brisson tells me it's Mimolette - a strong cheese traditionally produced in Lille that he'd carefully carved into a flower. "It's a technique to make the cheese more appealing," Brisson says.

Lovely, but let's be honest: when it comes to cheese, most people don't need any floral flourishes to kickstart their salivary glands. In fact, the uglier and stinkier the better.

Whether grated, melted, baked, sliced or slabbed on a board, France in particular is a nation of fromage lovers that camembert a day without it.

A report earlier this year ranked France the second cheesiest country in the world, which is understandable considering they're also its biggest global importers and produce 246 varieties in total.

Many of the world's most famous cheeses are French: roquefort, brie, morbier, cantal, camembert and Époisses de Bourgogne, the latter of which was crowned best cheese at last year's so-called 'world cup of cheese'.

It seems surprising, then, that the gastronomical heaven of Paris is only just opening a museum dedicated to its dairy deities.

An early draft of what the museum would look like.
An early draft of what the museum would look like.Musée du fromage

"I realised that lots of things were already organised in Paris to promote wine. Wine culture is developed in France. Cheese is also a big thing, but there were no places where people could learn more deeply about the processes of making cheese," Brisson tells Euronews Culture.

After moving to Paris around 15 years ago, Brisson opened Paroles de Fromagers, a cheesemaking school. But he always dreamed of starting a museum that could not only educate, but also inspire people from all over the world to join the profession.

Now, after a decade of saving and planning, the Musée du Fromage officially opens on 13 June.

"I put everything I have into this project, to finally have a place where everyone can come," Brisson says. "The idea is to transmit the passion and the amazement [of cheesemaking]."

Pierre Brisson, founder of Paris' new cheese museum.
Pierre Brisson, founder of Paris' new cheese museum.Mitzi Yao and Thea McMillan

At the heart of the new museum is its goal to celebrate traditional cheesemaking processes, a skill that has been in decline over recent decades as younger people move  to cities instead for work.

Meanwhile, economic and environmental issues continue to plague the industry, with French cheesemakers going on strike just last year over proposed changes to camembert's wooden box storage due to it not being recyclable.

"More and more people are leaving the countryside, and also it's not an easy job. It's a job that is well paid, because a good cheesemaker earns well in life, no problem. But it's still a production job, so every day you produce the same produce, you have to follow very strictly the timing. You need to be very meticulous on the job." explains Brisson, who also notes that there's a high demand for traditionally made cheeses in the country, but less availability due to labour shortages.

Brisson believes, however, that the cost of living crisis, and growing senses of disillusionment and detachment in modern-day work culture, might inspire more younger people to consider learning older, lucrative, agriculture-based skillsets.

"More and more people will understand that the wealthy life that our parents and our grandparents [might have] had will not be accessible for us. And it's time to come back to a more tough life. But a tough life doesn't have to be horrible. It could be a very happy life."

To prove this, Brisson has put cheesemaking demonstrations as his central exhibit, with the opportunity for visitors to take part in workshops and, yes, taste the finished products.

We are opening a little window in the heart of Paris to the rural side of France.
Pierre Brisson
The Musée du Fromage founder

"People can see cheesemaking live and also talk to the cheesemaker, so that's an important part of what we do. We are working with many traditional farmers, so we want people [to feel like they're] kind of traveling when they taste the cheese. We are opening a little window in the heart of Paris to the rural side of France."

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Feeling un-brie-lievable levels of cheese cravings by now.
Feeling un-brie-lievable levels of cheese cravings by now.Canva

Housed in a magnificent stone building that's over 500 years old, it's also an opportunity for visitors to reconnect with their ancestors, learning about the history of France's agriculture while realising exactly what goes into the food they're eating. This latter point has become of particular importance to an increasingly health-conscious and sceptical society looking to consume things more ethically.

"Cheesemakers and farmers are more aware of what people are sensitive to, and so they are trying to show the way they work. If you want to make a good cheese, you need to make a good milk. To make a very good milk, you need to have animals that are well treated," explains Brisson.

More than anything, the Musée du Fromage is a reminder to cherish every bite of creamy cheese - and every human being that brought it into existence; the comfort of age-old processes that bring about specific results in a world of uncertainty and chaos.

"I'm always amazed at the fact that just milk makes so many different varieties of cheese. It's kind of magical," says Brisson.

"Now, we are able to know, thanks to science, a lot of things about cheese. But our ancestors, they didn't know all these details, but they still could make amazing cheese and develop very amazing skills of cheesemaking. So there is a know-how that's developed for centuries that we kind of inherited today. We have a responsibility to keep this alive and to continue to pass to new generations the passion."

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