When I first lived in France as a young student, in a tiny flat in Nice, every day felt like an adventure. I had a bicycle and would get all over the town, discovering what French living really meant.
Of course some learning just happens to us without even realising it. We observe, we pick up as we go along.
Sometimes however we need A Teacher!
I liked to shop at the little street market close to my flat. You know how it is buying for a girl living alone, you don't really need that much, but you enjoy the detail. I used to spend hours at the market, observing how the French bought their food, how interested they were in the quality and liked to know where it came from.
Nowhere was this more true than on the cheese stand! To begin with I hurried past, hardly daring to stop and try because I knew so little about the cheeses. One day I finally dared to stop at a stand and timidly asked for a goats cheese.
Little did I know that this first purchase would be the start of a gastronomical tour de France!
The cheese monger was charming, and maybe also a little bit charmed by a young foreign girl who had everything to learn!
Over the next few months he taught me about the flavours and textures of french cheese, carefully choosing which cheese I would try each week, and never failing to ask what I thought of last week's selection!
Via the amazing cheeses in his store I took a virtual tour; to the east of Paris to try Brie, down the centre of France to discover Cantal; along the Swiss border to explore the Gruyeres and Emmenthals, or slightly higher the Munsters. In the centre and south of France he helped me discover the various goat's cheeses, including some of my favourite from Corsica. The back up the south west via the sheep's cheeses of the Pyrenees, the wonderful flavours of the Auvergne, blue Roquefort and of course all the cheeses from Normandy that I now know so well.
And today, if I buy cheese at the farmer's market, I often remember my kind 'teacher', and how he gave me the confidence to discover so much more of France.