scraping-1What beats cheese?

See it start to bubble?

Melted cheese. And it isn’t even fondue!

table-setWe don’t have a food processor but we do have a special apparatus for melting a giant half-wheel of cheese. This specialty, called a raclettedates to the Middle Ages, when shepherds set half of their round of cheese on a sone and turned the cut face toward the fire so it would get all bubbly and yummy. They would scrape off the melted part, and melt the next bit. They ate the melted cheese with bread, potatoes and dried meats.


scraping-2Today, we have a large heating coil, similar to a toaster, that beams down on the cheese. You can lower the heating element as the cheese grows smaller. The cheese itself can be pulled out and tilted, for easier scraping. Raclette comes from racler, to scrape.

cheese-in-wrappingMore common today are round appliances with little drawers (check this out: 117 choices here!). Supermarkets sell the particular cow’s milk cheese pre-sliced that’s just the right size. The heating element also heats the top, where you can cook little sausages, in what’s known as a pierrade. We also have a pierrade, but it’s a real slab of slate stone that you put a Sterno flame under, like back in the Stone Age. But that’s for another time. For one thing, it takes up most of the table. And so does the half-round of cheese. So chez nous, it’s raclette or pierrade, but not both.

We do the charcuterie.

charcuterieWe do the potatoes, going for little ones called grenailles (named after lead shot because of their size, about like a thumb). Managed to get a photo of a couple of leftovers.

Grenailles aren’t new potatoes, but the little ones that grow between big, normal ones.

We do the bread. Duh. We also do a big green salad with a simple shallot vinaigrette.

cheesecakeFor dessert, we stayed with the cheese theme and had triple-chocolate cheesecake. Inspiration and recipe from French Country Cottage. However, we’d all eaten so much cheese, that the next time I will go for a lighter dessert. This one is perfect for a midafternoon snack, especially if dinner will be late, or a followup to a lighter meal.

A raclette has a nice rhythm to it, because you have pauses while waiting for the cheese to melt. The plates of cheese and all the trimmings are passed around and around, so it’s pretty convivial and relaxed.

The wine also contributes.

Years ago, the Carnivore belonged to a civic group whose winter fundraiser was a raclette. Imagine a banquet hall with a couple of these monster melters on each table of 20 or so. A very elegant, massive cheese-scraping dinner.

barrage-lakeSpeaking of convivial, the next day was gorgeous and just demanded a Sunday promenade. The entire village seemed to have the same idea. Everybody wanted to see what damage the river had done (not much–see below. Some neatly plowed gardens got a new layer of mud dumped on them. The jogging path through the woods is mostly gone. But honestly, those things belong in a flood plain, because they’re easily righted).

This was not the path. It was full of brush before, and impassable.
This used to be the path; it went right through that wall of washed-up debris.

The most striking thing to me was the number of multigenerational groups out walking. Three generations strolling, time and again. There also were kids out alone, because we live in a time warp where kids play unsupervised, and elderly villagers, some alone and a few couples. Some parents with kids. But over and over I saw knots of five to seven people, from kids to grandparents, including aunts and uncles and cousins. And the kids included teens. How many teens do you know who go for a walk with their parents and grandparents?

The various groups would stop and chat as they crossed paths. Discussing how high the water had gotten. How it was nothing compared to ’99. Some reminiscing about the travails of that time. Then they continued on their ways.

I think about the neighborhood where I grew up, the one where my parents moved to later, where my siblings live, where friends live, and I cannot remember seeing as many people out for a walk (not a jog, solo or with a buddy, but a stroll), especially these multi-generational, extended family groups. It was like Halloween, but in broad daylight, without costumes or candy.

The French even have multiple terms for it. Se promener is to take a walk, either for exercise or distraction, while marcher is to walk (kind of the generic brand). Randonner is more hardcore, a hike. The loveliest is flâner, to walk without a goal, just for the pleasure of it.

At one garden, owned by an elderly couple, four cars were parked, taking up most of the road, but it didn’t matter because the river flows over the road there (passage à gue), and crossing wasn’t yet possible. Maybe 20 people were there, all ages, picking out stones deposited by the torrent. Clearly the extended family mobilized to help out. They weren’t grim about it. Everybody seemed to be having great fun.

The barrage had water flowing over the entire width for a day or so, I’m told.

I felt such affection for these neighbors, who themselves have such affection and respect for each other. J’aime la France.



29 thoughts on “Scraping By With French Cheese

  1. I love Raclette, for one reason it is not hard work and very little preparation and means the head chef (me) can sit and enjoy it all with friends, we have tried having one with just the two of us but it isnt the same ambiance, the chocolate cheesecake looks to die for but after so much cheese I think it would have beaten me, we also know about floods as we lived in England on the banks of a river and while it was beautiful most of the time we flooded twice and had to move out of our home for at least 6 months,..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely lovely description of you and your neighbors out strolling. Truly sweet. I’m so glad the flood did not permanently destroy anything.

    But … that meal ….. Yes, I’m sure it tastes amazing, and I would love eating it. I do realize that one does not have to have multiple portions of everything. But it scares the cholesterol out of me!

    How often do y’all eat a meal like that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have raclette once or twice a year. It definitely isn’t a routine thing. On the other hand, we have cheese every day. And we eat butter. No cholesterol problems (knock wood).


  3. OK so know anything about hotel Bristol near the canal me thinks? I hope its not too ‘orrible..such a classy name too :))

    Carol Gillott Paris in your mailbox


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paris is like that too believe it or not. Last sunday was gorgeous and everyone was out strolling to no place in particular, except many places here are extraordinary.
    I have never had raclette..flirted many times even in London’s Bourough market. Tomorrow at the Salon de l’Agriculture I’m getting it.
    I eat cheese every day and butter like I never did in the US and I never felt better.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My neighbour has the exact same racelette machine. The cheese is incredible expensive here….but what fun to eat. When visiting France we have also been lucky enough to partake of a lunch of racelette using the small containers that you discribed.
    The families strolling always make me smile. They seem to enjoy each other’s company so much.
    Great post….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That ‘ machine’ looks a bit intimadating and the size of cheese required must be for feeding huge numbers! We have a mini electric version and it really is convivial eating.
    With Triple Choc Cheesecake and wine…Bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a lovely weekend visit with your family through your blog. The raclette meal sound scrumptious and the beautiful blue sky would definitely have pulled me out of the house to become a flaneur as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. CAME BACK for CHARD recipe and see I missed TWO POSTS!WHY DID THEY NOT COME TO MY INBOX!!!!!!!!I will be back after I make the little packages!!!!XX

    Liked by 1 person

      1. LOVE THEM!
        SO< one POST came yesterday in my inbox after I was here……………
        THEY ARE pretty simple to make and such a treat for the PLATE!

        Liked by 1 person

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