If you want to get ahead, you’ve got to get a gimmick, they say. Let’s face it, having Napoleon immortalise your cheese gives you a unique selling point beyond compare.
That’s what the manufacturers of Valençay cheese have found, in any case.
Located in the Indre département, the town of Valençay produces two variations of its unpasteurised goat’s cheese.
The first is produced on farms and coated with wood ash, and is known as Valençay Fermier. This was one of the cheeses I received for my birthday, which is why it’s come to mind.
The other is made in dairies or factories and coated with vegetable ash, and is called Valençay Laitier.
Valençay is distinctive for its blue-grey rind, which is made using moulds and is darkened by dusting the cheese with charcoal powder.
Its truncated pyramid shape has also earned the cheese notoriety. It resulted from a visit by Napoleon, who stopped by the town on his way back from an ill-fated expedition to Egypt. Originally, the cheese was a full pyramid shape, but when the French emperor saw it, he sliced off the top, so that it didn’t remind him of his military failure.
In, literally, one fell swoop, he gave the cheese’s producers a marketing strategy that has lasted to the present day.