The ancient Greeks made cheese to preserve milk and supply sailors and other travellers with food on their voyages, and passed on their word for a mould, formos, to the the Latin forma, which became fourmage in Old French and eventually fromage. The names of two cheeses, Fourme de Montbrison and Fourme d’Ambert recall their antiquity.
Nearly every French peasant would have at least one nanny goat, the ‘poor man’s cow’, to supply the family’s dairy needs. But the first big cheesemakers were the monks in the abbeys, who were forbidden meat on Fridays, but were allowed to eat cheese—which is why many of the oldest French cheeses are associated with religious institutions, such as (Maroilles and Bleu de Gex). Even today cloistered nuns in the Dordogne make Trappe d’Ecourgnac.
Images by dairy products from France, Karen Booth