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For the love of Roquefort

November 21, 2010 | 10:10 am


A cool water droplet hit my forehead as I descended narrow stairs into the caves. An overwhelming smell -- ammonia meets dirty feet -- assaulted my nostrils. Chilly, stinky, damp. It was heaven. I had entered the caves of Roquefort, a village in the south of France and home to the world's most famous blue cheese.

My love affair with Roquefort possibly began in the womb. My mother loved all things French, especially pungent cheeses. So I panicked last year when I saw a newspaper headline declaring: "U.S. Punishes France With Roquefort Tariff." A small wedge would skyrocket from $20 a pound to $60 or even higher in a matter of weeks. Quelle horreur! Who would bother to sell? Bigfoot might soon be easier to find. My lifelong desire to visit became a mission to secure my stash at the source.

I arrived in Marseille, France, then hopped a train for the five-hour journey northwest. For one week, I would eat Roquefort on baguettes. In salads. On le chicken and le duck. Straight out of the package with a fork. Roquefort-flavored chocolate and potato chips? Oui. I would eat it until I could feel my pants becoming uncomfortably tight.

Read more in the Sunday Travel section: "Roquefort, France: Where the blue blood of blue cheeses lives."

Photo: Bob Edme / Associated Press