Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Gals are Growling: What Gives?


Gals are Growling: What Gives?

An Editorial by M-J de Mesterton
Posted on September 28, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Every time I am exposed to radio or television--and that isn't often--I am puzzled by a new trend in women's speech. If one has never ceased monitoring popular U.S. broadcasting outlets, entertainment and media advertising, it may not be apparent to them.  Being in the habit of avoiding American pop-culture--and only occasionally witnessing the stuff--like Rip van Winkle, I have suddenly awakened in a world that has changed drastically. Women, especially those under fifty, are chirping their sentences like Valley Girls, and culminating them in a very fatigued, strained-sounding growl. This guttural sound is not feminine, and I don't know whence its inspiration, nor whom they are attempting to emulate. Listening to a paragraph spoken by one of these hapless victims of fashion is like travelling ten miles of bad gravel-road.

There is a better way to speak, which simply involves modulating one's voice in a soft tone all the way to the end of each sentence, leaving that grating growl to the dogs and to your male counterparts. Men really don't think it's sexy. I've heard gents describe this new manner of female-speaking in the most unflattering of terms. For examples of attractive feminine speech, old movies are instructive. Even Lauren Bacall didn't do the gritty, guttural growl. This new way of talking must have been in fashion for quite some time while I "slept," because it takes a concerted effort to put into effect--in fact, some of us find it impossible to imitate. Maintaining a pleasant and natural tone, terminating your phrases with a definite stop instead of an audible question-mark, is a winning habit. I don't like to preach--leave that to other writers. That said, I occasionally feel the need to make a suggestion. Mocking some pop-tart who is piled-out on coke, booze and cigarettes is a losing proposition in any facet of your life, so it would be good for you girls to get the gravel out of your gullets, and start sounding like real women again!

©M-J de Mesterton 2010

Elegant Aloe Vera Plant


Aloe vera plants make excellent hostess gifts. Their neat habit and elegant shape make them welcome in any room. They are low-maintenance and useful in wound-care applications. Because aloe vera needs very little water, it is also the perfect plant for a college dormitory room. The aloe vera plant provides a natural healing salve and some elegant greenery. ~~M-J

Elegant Aloe Vera, Natural Healer

Aloe vera plants make excellent hostess gifts. They are low-maintenance and always useful in wound-care applications. Because the aloe vera plant needs very little water or care, it is also the perfect plant for a college dormitory room both as a natural healing salve and a bit of elegant greenery. ~~M-J

Elegant Cat with Aloe Vera Plant

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The Health-Benefits of Salt

Himalayan Salt Painting by M-J de Mesterton ©2007;

It has been determined that gargling with salt-water reduces one's risk of acquiring colds and flu by 40%.
Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in six ounces of warm water and gargle a couple of times per day after a sore throat begins, or when you believe you have been exposed to rhinovirus and/or influenza. Gargling with salt will soothe a sore throat by drawing-out moisture, thereby taking down swelling. ~M-J de Mesterton

Salt and Health 
(from The Salt Institute–edited by M-J for clarity)

Salt is essential not only to life, but to good health. It’s always been that way. Human blood contains 0.9% salt (sodium chloride) — the same concentration as found in United States Pharmacopaeia (USP) sodium chloride irrigant commonly used to cleanse wounds. Salt maintains the electrolyte balance inside and outside of cells. Routine physical examinations measure blood sodium for clues to personal health. Most of our salt comes from foods, some from water. Inadequate salt can be problematic. Doctors often recommend replacing water and salt lost in exercise [see advice on maintaining hydration for weekend athletes, bodybuilders, professional athletes and outdoor athletes such as marathon runners and ultra-endurance athletes, and for those people working outdoors. Wilderness hikers know the importance of salt tablets to combat hyperthermia. Oral rehydration involves replacing both water and salt. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) has been termed, by the British Medical Journal “the most important medical advance this (20th) century.” Expectant mothers are advised to get enough salt. Increased salt intakes have been used successfully to combat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The unique microclimate of salt mines is a popular way to treat asthma, particularly in Eastern Europe. Dramatic deficiencies (e.g. “salt starvation” in India) or “excessive” sodium intakes have been associated with other conditions and diseases, such as hypertension and stomach cancer. Testing the salinity of perspiration is a good test for cystic fibrosis; scientists suspect that cystic fibrosis is caused by a deformed protein that prevents chloride outside cells from attracting needed moisture (and, of course, we cannot forget that iodized salt is the choice of public health professionals to combat iodine deficiency, has been fortified to battle other diseases like lymphatic filarisis, and is considered “the first antibiotic”).


The National Academy of Sciences recommends that Americans consume a minimum of 500 mg/day of sodium to maintain good health. Individual needs, however, vary enormously based on their genetic make-up and the way they live their lives. While individual requirements range widely, most Americans have no trouble reaching their minimum requirements. Most consume “excess” sodium above and beyond that required for proper bodily function. The kidneys efficiently process this “excess” sodium in healthy people. Experimental studies show that most humans tolerate a wide range of sodium intakes, from about 250 mg/day to over 30,000 mg/day. The actual range is much narrower. Americans consume about 3,500 mg/day of sodium; men more, women less. The very large percentage of the population consumes 1,150- 5,750 mg/day which is termed the “hygienic safety range” of sodium intake by renowned Swedish hypertension expert Dr. Björn Folkow. Chloride is also essential to good health. Every substance, including water, can be toxic in certain concentrations and amounts; this is not a significant concern for dietary salt.

Salt and Cardiovascular Health
For 4,000 years, we have known that salt intakes can affect blood pressure through signals to the muscles of blood vessels trying to maintain blood pressure within a proper range. We know that a minority of the population can lower blood pressure by restricting dietary salt. And we know that elevated blood pressure, “hypertension,” is a well-documented marker or “risk factor” for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, a “silent killer.” Cardiovascular events are a major cause of “premature” death and cost Americans more than $300 billion every year in increased medical costs and lost productivity. Reducing blood pressure can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke – depending on how it’s done.
Some have suggested that since salt intakes are related to blood pressure, and since cardiovascular risks are also related to blood pressure, that, surely, salt intake levels are related to cardiovascular risk. This is the “salt hypothesis” or “sodium hypothesis.” Data are needed to confirm or reject hypotheses.

Blood pressure is a sign. When it goes up (or down) it indicates an underlying health concern. Changes result from many variables, often still poorly-understood. High blood pressure is treated with pharmaceuticals and with lifestyle interventions such as diet and exercise. The anti-hypertensive drugs are all approved by regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To be approved, these drugs must prove they work to lower blood pressure. Whether they also work to lower the incidence of heart attacks and strokes has not been the test to gain approval (it would take too long to develop new drugs), but the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has invested heavily in such “health outcomes” studies.

Health Outcomes
The ALLHAT study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to compare the health outcomes of four classes of anti-hypertensive drugs, all of which had demonstrated their ability to reduce blood pressure in relative safety. The idea is that blood pressure is only a “surrogate outcome,” and we should be more concerned with clinically meaningful endpoints. Dr. Jeffrey R. Cutler of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has supervised the study and explains its importance: “Trials are based on the notion that different antihypertensive regimes, despite similar efficacy in lowering blood pressure, have other beneficial or harmful effects that modify their net effect on cardiovascular or all-cause morbidity and mortality.”

Lifestyle interventions are “antihypertensive regimes” too. For years, the same situation prompting the ALLHAT trial applied to lifestyle interventions designed to improve blood pressure — they were untested regarding health outcomes. Certain dietary and lifestyle interventions reduced blood pressure, at least in sensitive sub-populations. Whether they also reduced the incidence of heart attacks and strokes had never been tested. Thus, until the 1990s, scientists had never tested the “salt hypothesis” by documenting whether reducing dietary salt actually reduces a person’s chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. As in the drug “health outcomes” trials, this is now changing. The results have vast public health policy implications. We should not be recommending that everyone change their diets without evidence of some overall health benefit.

Even documenting an association of, for example, low-sodium diets with reduced incidence of heart attacks would only be the first step. Association is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, unless an association is established, we have no reason to think that a causal link is possible. Of the first fifteen “health outcomes” studies of sodium reduction, three have found an association in the general population between low-sodium diets and reduced incidence of cardiovascular events like stroke or heart attack (and two of those were in exceptionally high salt-consuming societies). Three others have identified health risks of low-salt diets. Here’s what scientists have found:
1. A ten-year study of nearly 8,000 Hawaiian Japanese men concluded: “No relation was found between salt intake and the incidence of stroke.” (1985)
2. An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets – the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995)
3. An analysis by NHLBI’s Dr. Cutler of the first six years’ data from the MRFIT database documented no health outcomes benefits of lower-sodium diets. (1997)
4. A ten-year follow-up study to the huge Scottish Heart Health Study found no improved health outcomes for those on low-salt diets. (1997)
5. An analysis of the health outcomes over twenty years from those in the massive US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) documented a 20% greater incidence of heart attacks among those on low-salt diets compared to normal-salt diets ( 1 2 ) (1998)
6. A health outcomes study in Finland, reported to the American Heart Association that no health benefits could be identified and concluded “…our results do not support the recommendations for entire populations to reduce dietary sodium intake to prevent coronary heart disease.” (1998)
7. A further analysis of the MRFIT database, this time using fourteen years’ data, confirmed no improved health benefit from low-sodium diets. Its author conceded that there is “no relationship observed between dietary sodium and mortality.” (1999)
8. A study of Americans found that less sodium-dense diets did reduce the cardiovascular mortality of one population sub-set, overweight men – the article reporting the findings did not explain why this obese group actually consumed less sodium than normal-weight individuals in the study. (1999)
9. A Finnish study reported an increase in cardiovascular events for obese men (but not women or normal-weight individuals of either gender) – the article, however, failed to adjust for potassium intake levels which many researchers consider a key associated variable. (2001)
10. In September, 2002, the prestigous Cochrane Collaboration produced the latest and highest-quality meta-analysis of clinical trials. It was published in the British Medical Journal and confirmed earlier meta-analyses’ conclusions that significant salt reduction would lead to very small blood pressure changes in sensitive populations and no health benefits. (2002)
11. In June 2003, Dutch researchers using a massive database in Rotterdam concluded that “variations in dietary sodium and potassium within the range commonly observed in Westernized societies have no material effect on the occurrence of cardiovascular events and mortality at old age.” (2003)
12. In July 2004, the first “outcomes” study identifying a population risk appeared in Stroke magazine. Researchers found that in a Japanese population, “low” sodium intakes (about 20% above Americans’ average intake) had one-third the incidence of fatal strokes of those consuming twice as much sodium as Americans. (2004)
13. A March 2006 analysis of the federal NHANES II database in The American Journal of Medicine found a 37% higher cardiovascular mortality rate for low-sodium dieters (2006). See their university’s news release. Hear a podcast.
14. A February 2007 reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology studied 40,547 Japanese over seven years and found “the Japanese dietary pattern was associated with a decreased risk of CVD mortality, despite its relation to sodium intake and hypertension.” (2007)
15. An April 2007 article in the British Medical Journal found a 25% lower risk of CV events in a group which years earlier had achieved significant sodium reduction during two clinical trials (TOHP I and TOHP II). (2007)

Controversy Continues
For many years, the intense public controversy that has characterized the public policy debate over public health nutrition recommendations on salt intake has focused on the wrong question. Medical experts, public health policy-makers and the public, trying to sort out the issues reading the consumer press – have all focused on the relationship of sodium intake to blood pressure instead of the relevant question of whether changing intake levels of dietary sodium results in improved health outcomes. See, for example, Salt Institute comments to the (British) Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. The (British) Salt Manufacturers Association has further information (including its comments to SACN).

There is no evidence that reducing dietary sodium improves the risk for heart attacks or strokes for the general population. In 1999, the Canadian Hypertension Society, the Canadian Coalition for High Blood Pressure Prevention and Control, the Health Canada Laboratory Centre for Disease Control and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada issued a joint statement opposing general recommendations for sodium reduction.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations for a healthy diet, chapter 56 on “Counseling to Promote a Healthy Diet,” at page 634 states:
There is insufficient evidence that, for the general population, reducing dietary sodium intake or increasing dietary intake of iron, beta-carotene, or other antioxidants results in improved health outcomes (”C” recommendation); recommendations to reduce sodium intake may be made on other grounds, including potential beneficial effects on blood pressure in salt sensitive persons.”

The debate has confused the public. Medical journalists from ABC-TV’s 20/20 to America’s pre-eminent scientific journal, Science, published by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, have investigated the source of this confusion. The report in Science won author Gary Taubes a top prize from the National Association of Science Writers and has also been translated into French. Taubes concluded:
“After interviews with some 80 researchers, clinicians, and administrators around the world, it is safe to say that if ever there were a controversy over the interpretation of scientific data, this is it…. After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests either that the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small or that it is non-existent and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding of other variables.”
In letters to Science, NHLBI contested Taubes’ conclusions, but others found them valid and valuable.
The Salt Institute is confident that the higher standards of evidence-based medicine will reduce the ongoing controversy, better inform public policy and reduce consumer confusion. For more information about the importance of evidence-based health, you may wish to visit the Cochrane Collaboration (particularly consider the 2003 Cochrane Reviews “Reduced dietary salt for prevention of cardiovascular disease” and “Effects of low sodium diet versus high sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterols, and triglyceride”), Oxford University (UK) Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, the Health Information Research Unit (McMaster University) or the Canadian Centres for Health Evidence. Using the latest science, we can create better public health nutrition policy and avoid sending confusing messages to consumers.

There is a lot of current activity on this issue, in medical research, public health policy and popular media ( 1 2 3 ). For further information contactthe Salt Institute (or see an informative presentation by the Institute), federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Hypertension, The Annals of Internal Medicine, The Lancet, British Medical Journal, Public Library of Medicine, Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology (FASEB), American Heart Association, American Society of Hypertension (ASH), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), American Dietetic Association (ADA), Society for Nutrition Education (SNE), The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, National Food Processors Association, American Council for Science and Health and (British) Salt Manufacturers Association. Information about clinical trials sponsored by the U.S. federal government is also online.

M-J, December 28, 2008 at 7:46 am 

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Boomers against Tumors

With a focus on prevention rather than cures for cancer, here is Elliot Yudenfriend's excellent site about how to avoid developing the dis-ease: http://boomersagainsttumors.blogspot.com
and Elliot's other informative prevention-resource website,
www.boomers-against-tumors.com

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Save Energy Using Your Dishwasher the Cool Way

When the weather is hot, use your dishwasher in the late evening, and turn off the heated drying feature. The glasses and dishes will dry naturally overnight. Your place will not heat up as much, and because heat has a bad effect on polymers, rubber and plastics, the items made with those components will last much longer without it.





Elegant Home-Garden Purple Cabbage and Beetroot

Capsicum, Beet and Red Cabbage, all Grown in M-J's Home Garden
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Elegant Cabbage Salad

ELEGANT CABBAGE SALAD



 Click for larger view.
Elegant, Delicious  Simplicity with Traditional Cabbage 
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, thus its consumption is believed to help prevent cancer. 
Slice cabbage as finely as possible, rinse it under very hot water, spin it dry, then dress it with oil, vinegar, and the seasonings of your choice.  Your dressed cabbage  will, of course, be ready to eat immediately, but the longer you let this traditional European salad marinate, the better it will taste, and its texture will be very pleasant.
Variations on the Cabbage Salad Theme 
 For Mexican flavour, add a little lime juice; sliced, roasted jalapeños and some chopped cilantro to your marinated cabbage.
A delicious Cypriot village salad will have finely sliced cabbage and/or  lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, feta cheese and some Kalamata olives.
A French salad with cabbage contains  chunks of Comte cheese,  some walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil.
© M-J de Mesterton, February 12th, 2010 

Elegant Cabbage Salad

ELEGANT CABBAGE SALAD


 Click for larger view.
Elegant, Delicious  Simplicity with Traditional Cabbage 
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, thus its consumption is believed to help prevent cancer. 
Slice cabbage as finely as possible, rinse it under very hot water, spin it dry, then dress it with oil, vinegar, and the seasonings of your choice.  Your dressed cabbage  will, of course, be ready to eat immediately, but the longer you let this traditional European salad marinate, the better it will taste, and its texture will be very pleasant.
Variations on the Cabbage Salad Theme 
 For Mexican flavour, add a little lime juice; sliced, roasted jalapeños and some chopped cilantro to your marinated cabbage.
A delicious Cypriot village salad will have finely sliced cabbage and/or  lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, feta cheese and some Kalamata olives.
A French salad with cabbage contains  chunks of Comte cheese,  some walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil.
© M-J de Mesterton, February 12th, 2010 

Elegant Cabbage Salad

M-J's ELEGANT CABBAGE SALAD


 Click for larger view.
Elegant, Delicious  Simplicity with Traditional Cabbage 
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, thus its consumption is believed to help prevent cancer. 
Slice cabbage as finely as possible, rinse it under very hot water, spin it dry, then dress it with oil, vinegar, and the seasonings of your choice.  Your dressed cabbage  will, of course, be ready to eat immediately, but the longer you let this traditional European salad marinate, the better it will taste, and its texture will be very pleasant.
Variations on the Cabbage Salad Theme 
 For Mexican flavour, add a little lime juice; sliced, roasted jalapeños and some chopped cilantro to your marinated cabbage.
A delicious Cypriot village salad will have finely sliced cabbage and/or  lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, feta cheese and some Kalamata olives.
A French salad with cabbage contains  chunks Comte cheese, walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil.
© M-J de Mesterton, February 12th, 2010 

French Cheese Primer

French Cheese, an Elegant Appetizer


There are Three Main Categories of French Cheese:

– Pressed Cheeses
- Soft Cheeses
- Blue Cheeses
The Three Types of Milk for French Cheese-Making
- cow’s milk
- goat’s milk
- sheep’s milk.
The Two Basic Sources of French Cheese
French cheeses  either are produced at a farmhouse (fromages fermiers) , or are industrially manufactured.

French Cheese Labels

A further distinction is also possible: traditional regional cheeses with an “appellation contrôlée” label (there are about 40 of these), traditional cheeses without an “appellation contrôlée” label, and modern dairy-designed and produced cheeses.
1. Pressed Cheeses
Cantal
A very tasty uncooked pressed cheese from the Auvergne mountains, Cantal is a cheese that many consider to be quite close to an English farmhouse Cheddar or Chester. A lot of this “appellation contrôlée” cheese is made on farms, but obviously local dairies in the region also produce it in large quantities.
Cantal comes in two varieties: “jeune” (young) and “entre deux” (between two), meaning cheese that has matured for longer. This cheese’s strength and taste increase with aging, and generally speaking, Cantal cheese is stronger than Cheddar.
Two smaller areas within or bordering the Cantal department produce specific appellations of their own, Salers and Laguiole. These cheeses, made from the milk of cows grazing at high altitude, tend to be more expensive than generic Cantal, and are generally aged longer.
Comté
This delicious French cousin of the swiss “Gruyère” cheese is an appellation contrôlée from the Franche Comté region of eastern France. The production area stretches along the Swiss border, and all milk comes from cows grazing at at least 400 metres altitude. This cooked cheese is manufactured collectively village by village, and the production method has changed little over hundreds of years. Any Comté that is produced outside the region, or using milk not coming from cows grazing according to the “appellation contrôlée” rules, is sold as Gruyère.
Though produced village by village, in the local village dairy (fruitière), a lot of Comté is matured in industrial cellars by large dairy companies such as Jurador.
Comté cheese generally comes without holes in it; but sometimes it may have small holes. Like Cantal, Comté comes in different varieties, sometimes called “fruité” or “salé” (fruity or salty). Fruité Comté is often more elastic; salé is usually a little more brittle. The most expensive Comté is Comté Vieux (old Comté), which is generally aged over six months and possibly over a year. Comté is the traditional cheese used in a cheese “fondue”, and also for “raclette” (see below).
A cheese similar to comté is Beaufort, made in a similar manner in the French Alps. Beaufort tends to be stronger tasting than Comté, and the taste is also slightly different.
Emmental
Emmental is your traditional cheese with holes in it. It is not an appellation contrôlée cheese, and is thus produced over a large area of France, notably in the east. It lacks the finesse of Comté, and is generally produced industrially, though industrial producers have their own label of quality for this cheese.

Mimolette

A round cheese, made in the area of Lille in the north of France. Its orange colour is the result of added vegetal colouring. The cheese was originally made as a French variation of the Dutch Edam cheese, to which it is very similar. Mimolette production relies upon the use of mites in the cave, which cover the cheese during the aging process.  I’ll take Edam!
(Tomme des) Pyrénées
This slightly-cooked hard cheese is produced in the Pyrénées mountains. It does not benefit from an appellation contrôlée label. Pyrénées comes with a distinctive black skin. Generally speaking, it is a fairly bland cheese that will appeal to those who do not like strong-tasting cheeses.
Reblochon is a rich, soft pressed cheese made in the Alps; it has quite a strong flavour, and a creamy texture.
2. Soft Cheeses
There are hundreds of soft cheeses in France; each region has its own specialities. Many of these – notably those with appellation contrôlée – are manufactured in small units, and (with notable exceptions such as Brie and St. Nectaire) if you want to buy one, you must buy a whole cheese.
Brie
There are two sorts of Brie: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun, both named appellation contrôlée cheeses named after two nearby towns in the the country some fifty miles south east of Paris. Brie comes as a thin round cheese about 20 inches in diameter, with a soft white crust. This crust is traditionally eaten.  Brie is a very mild creamy cheese that should appeal to anyone who does not enjoy strong tasting cheese.
Camembert
A cheese from Normandy, Camembert is known and imitated worldwide. A ripe Camembert should be just soft on the inside, but not runny. A young Camembert will tend to be hard and dry, and rather tasteless; an overripe Camembert, gone yellow on the outside, will tend to smell quite strongly and is only recommended  for those who enjoy strong cheeses. The crust of a Camembert is usually eaten.
Supermarkets are full of Camembert imitations, since any similar cheese that is not manufactured in the appellation contrôlée area in Normandy cannot call itself Camembert. These look-alikes tend to be sold young. To test a Camembert or an imitation thereof, open the box (not the protective wrapping paper) and press gently. The cheese should be just soft, but not spongy.

Epoisses

A fairly strong “rind-washed” soft cheese from the Burgundy region. Thicker than a Camembert, Epoisses, like other rind washed cheeses, is yellowish on the outside, and white on the inside. The white center is often almost crumbly, while the cheese under the skin remains very soft. Epoisses has a distinctive taste, shared with a similar cheese from a bit further north Langres; both of these cheeses are appellation contrôllée cheeses, and are admirable accompaniments for red wine. Another cheese in the same family is Maroilles, made in the north of France.

Mont d’ Or

This very distinctive appellation contrôllée cheese from Franche Comté (known asVacherin in Switzerland), is manufactured along the French-Swiss border, at altitudes of at least 800 meters. Like the Comté that is made in the same region, it is a cheese whose manufacturing process has changed little over the centuries. This rind-washed cheese matures in a round frame made of a thin strip of local spruce wood. In the course of maturing, this wood imparts a delicious aroma into the cheese which is later packaged and sold in round boxes made from the same wood.
Unfortunately, Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese and is not manufactured in the summer months because the milk quality in the region has a different quality when the cows have rich summer pastures to graze on.
This cheese comes with an undulating beige crust, and under the crust the cheese itself is soft to runny. Though it is quite a strong cheese, Mont d’Or is not usually a sharp cheese. It tends to appeal to all tastes.
In recent years, local dairies have looked for ways to produce and market a cheese similar to Mont d’Or year-round. The most successful imitation is called Edel de Cleron, made in the Franche Comté region, but in a dairy at a lower altitude. Like Mont d’Or, Edel is packaged in spruce wood, to give it the distinctive aroma.
Muenster
A fairly strong rind-washed soft cheese from the Vosges mountains in Eastern France. Muenster is definitely not a cheese for those who do not like strong tasting varieties. It comes in two varieties, normal and “au cumin” (with cumin seed). Darker on the outside than Langres or Epoisses, Muenster generally has a thicker rind which some eat, others cut off. Even an unripe Muenster is tasty; a ripe one – which may well be quite hard on the inside – will be very strong. However, like other strong cheeses, Muenster should never have an acrid taste. If it does, it is over-ripe.
Pont l’Evèque
A creamy soft cheese, uncooked and unpressed, from the coastal region of Normandy, south of Deauville; Pont l'Evèque is one of the oldest cheeses in France, and has been documented since the 12th century.
Saint Nectaire
Some claim that this is the greatest of French cheeses–-and possibly this could be true for an exceptionally good cheese; but Saint Nectaire – an appellation contrôlée cheese from the mountains of the Auvergne-–is, alas, a cheese that varies considerably in quality and taste. There are two distinct types, the farm variety and the dairy variety. The farm variety is generally better and more expensive, the dairy variety, usually found in supermarkets, is frequently sold too young. When this cheese is young, it is quite dry and hard; a properly matured Saint Nectaire should be soft and elastic, with a slight tendency to flow if left at room temperature. One does not eat the rind of  Saint Nectaire.
A cheese very similar to Saint Nectaire, notably to the variety found in supermarkets, isSavaron, a non-appellation cheese that is also produced in the Auvergne, mostly by industrial dairies.

3. Blue (Bleu) Cheeses
Bleu d'AuvergneBleu d’Auvergne ranges from bland to sharp. An appellation contrôllée cheese whose quality and taste can vary considerably, you can ask to taste it before you buy Bleu d’Auvergne.  Specific varieties of this cheese include the ancient Bleu de Laqueille.
Bleu de Bresse is not an appellation contrôlée cheese, but a French industrial dairy’s attempt to imitate the success of Danish blue. It’s a soft and almost spreadable cheese.
Bleu des Causses is an appellation contrôlée cheese which is generally delicious and strong-tasting, without being sharp. A cows-milk cheese, sometimes quite crumbly, manufactured in the same area as Roquefort and quite similar tasting.
Bleu de Gex is a blue from the Swiss border, rather hard and not very strong.
Fourme d’Ambert is a mild blue cheese from the Auvergne, often with an almost nutty flavour. No one should find this too strong.
Roquefort is the most famous of France’s blue cheeses, though not necessarily the best. Roquefort is an appellation contrôlée cheese, made from the milk of one single breed of sheep, the “Lacaune” breed. The cheese has been made since the Middle Ages, and has been famous for many centuries; more recently it has been the object of intense and successful marketing, making it into a virtually industrial product. Over 18,000 tons of Roquefort are manufactured each year, and the cheese is exported worldwide. Though made in the “causses” mountains of southern France, in the department of the Aveyron, and matured in caves, a lot of the milk used in the making of Roquefort is imported into the region.
Other Cheeses
Goats’ Cheeses:
Crottin de Chavignol, Valençay
There are dozens of different goats’ cheeses, and many local producers market their cheese under their own local village or regional name. Goats’ cheeses can be sold either very young (frais), when they are soft and spreadable, medium matured, when they are still soft, but not spreadable, or fully matured, when they are hard.
Ewe’s Milk Cheeses:
Ineguy is a pressed cheese from the Basque country, similar to other southern European ewe’s milk cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano from Italy.
Some Modern Dairy Cheeses
Saint Agur (a soft blue cheese, made in the Auvergne), Brillat-Savarin, an almost buttery soft cheese, RouladeSaint Albray, Port Salut, Boursin, a cream cheese containing herbs and garlic.
Raclette
Raclette is a mass-produced industrial cheese designed for a “raclette”, i.e. a meal in which thin slices of cheese are heated and melted then poured over baked potatoes and eaten with gherkins, mountain ham and other accompaniments. Raclette is an easy and convivial meal, where everyone serves themselves from the raclette grill which is placed in the middle of the table. (Traditionally, the cheese was melted in front of a hot wood fire). However, “raclette” cheese is not the best cheese for a raclette. I prefer Comté (the best) or  Cantal.
Generic Terminology:
The words “tomme” and “fourme” are generic words that can describe several different types of cheese. Etymologically, the French word for cheese, “fromage” is a diminutive version of the word “fourme”.
Unusual Cheeses
Cancoillotte
 is a very distinctive cheese that comes from Franche Comté; it is a runny cheese strongly flavored with garlic, and is very much an acquired taste. It can be eaten cold or hot.
Remember to always serve cheese at room temperature, because cheese has a high fat content, which needs to become softer to be flavourful.
Below, French Cheeses: the Image is Originally from Cook’s Magazine
French Cheeses, from Cook's Magazine

French Cheese Primer

French Cheese, an Elegant Appetizer
Still Life with Basket of CheesePieter Claesz, Dutch Master Painter: Still Life with Basket of Cheese
There are Three Main Categories of French Cheese:

– Pressed Cheeses
- Soft Cheeses
- Blue Cheeses
The Three Types of Milk for French Cheese-Making
- cow’s milk
- goat’s milk
- sheep’s milk.
The Two Basic Sources of French Cheese
French cheeses  either are produced at a farmhouse (fromages fermiers) , or are industrially manufactured.

French Cheese Labels

A further distinction is also possible: traditional regional cheeses with an “appellation contrôlée” label (there are about 40 of these), traditional cheeses without an “appellation contrôlée” label, and modern dairy-designed and produced cheeses.
1. Pressed Cheeses
Cantal
A very tasty uncooked pressed cheese from the Auvergne mountains, Cantal is a cheese that many consider to be quite close to an English farmhouse Cheddar or Chester. A lot of this “appellation contrôlée” cheese is made on farms, but obviously local dairies in the region also produce it in large quantities.
Cantal comes in two varieties: “jeune” (young) and “entre deux” (between two), meaning cheese that has matured for longer. This cheese’s strength and taste increase with aging, and generally speaking, Cantal cheese is stronger than Cheddar.
Two smaller areas within or bordering the Cantal department produce specific appellations of their own, Salers and Laguiole. These cheeses, made from the milk of cows grazing at high altitude, tend to be more expensive than generic Cantal, and are generally aged longer.
Comté
This delicious French cousin of the swiss “Gruyère” cheese is an appellation contrôlée from the Franche Comté region of eastern France. The production area stretches along the Swiss border, and all milk comes from cows grazing at at least 400 metres altitude. This cooked cheese is manufactured collectively village by village, and the production method has changed little over hundreds of years. Any Comté that is produced outside the region, or using milk not coming from cows grazing according to the “appellation contrôlée” rules, is sold as Gruyère.
Though produced village by village, in the local village dairy (fruitière), a lot of Comté is matured in industrial cellars by large dairy companies such as Jurador.
Comté cheese generally comes without holes in it; but sometimes it may have small holes. Like Cantal, Comté comes in different varieties, sometimes called “fruité” or “salé” (fruity or salty). Fruité Comté is often more elastic; salé is usually a little more brittle. The most expensive Comté is Comté Vieux (old Comté), which is generally aged over six months and possibly over a year. Comté is the traditional cheese used in a cheese “fondue”, and also for “raclette” (see below).
A cheese similar to comté is Beaufort, made in a similar manner in the French Alps. Beaufort tends to be stronger tasting than Comté, and the taste is also slightly different.
Emmental
Emmental is your traditional cheese with holes in it. It is not an appellation contrôlée cheese, and is thus produced over a large area of France, notably in the east. It lacks the finesse of Comté, and is generally produced industrially, though industrial producers have their own label of quality for this cheese.

Mimolette

A round cheese, made in the area of Lille in the north of France. Its orange colour is the result of added vegetal colouring. The cheese was originally made as a French variation of the Dutch Edam cheese, to which it is very similar. Mimolette production relies upon the use of mites in the cave, which cover the cheese during the aging process.  I’ll take Edam!
(Tomme des) Pyrénées
This slightly-cooked hard cheese is produced in the Pyrénées mountains. It does not benefit from an appellation contrôlée label. Pyrénées comes with a distinctive black skin. Generally speaking, it is a fairly bland cheese that will appeal to those who do not like strong-tasting cheeses.
Reblochon is a rich, soft pressed cheese made in the Alps; it has quite a strong flavour, and a creamy texture.
2. Soft Cheeses
There are hundreds of soft cheeses in France; each region has its own specialities. Many of these – notably those with appellation contrôlée – are manufactured in small units, and (with notable exceptions such as Brie and St. Nectaire) if you want to buy one, you must buy a whole cheese.
Brie
There are two sorts of Brie: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun, both named appellation contrôlée cheeses named after two nearby towns in the the country some fifty miles south east of Paris. Brie comes as a thin round cheese about 20 inches in diameter, with a soft white crust. This crust is traditionally eaten.  Brie is a very mild creamy cheese that should appeal to anyone who does not enjoy strong tasting cheese.
Camembert
A cheese from Normandy, Camembert is known and imitated worldwide. A ripe Camembert should be just soft on the inside, but not runny. A young Camembert will tend to be hard and dry, and rather tasteless; an overripe Camembert, gone yellow on the outside, will tend to smell quite strongly and is only recommended  for those who enjoy strong cheeses. The crust of a Camembert is usually eaten.
Supermarkets are full of Camembert imitations, since any similar cheese that is not manufactured in the appellation contrôlée area in Normandy cannot call itself Camembert. These look-alikes tend to be sold young. To test a Camembert or an imitation thereof, open the box (not the protective wrapping paper) and press gently. The cheese should be just soft, but not spongy.

Epoisses

A fairly strong “rind-washed” soft cheese from the Burgundy region. Thicker than a Camembert, Epoisses, like other rind washed cheeses, is yellowish on the outside, and white on the inside. The white center is often almost crumbly, while the cheese under the skin remains very soft. Epoisses has a distinctive taste, shared with a similar cheese from a bit further north Langres; both of these cheeses are appellation contrôllée cheeses, and are admirable accompaniments for red wine. Another cheese in the same family is Maroilles, made in the north of France.

Mont d’ Or

This very distinctive appellation contrôllée cheese from Franche Comté (known asVacherin in Switzerland), is manufactured along the French-Swiss border, at altitudes of at least 800 meters. Like the Comté that is made in the same region, it is a cheese whose manufacturing process has changed little over the centuries. This rind-washed cheese matures in a round frame made of a thin strip of local spruce wood. In the course of maturing, this wood imparts a delicious aroma into the cheese which is later packaged and sold in round boxes made from the same wood.
Unfortunately, Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese and is not manufactured in the summer months because the milk quality in the region has a different quality when the cows have rich summer pastures to graze on.
This cheese comes with an undulating beige crust, and under the crust the cheese itself is soft to runny. Though it is quite a strong cheese, Mont d’Or is not usually a sharp cheese. It tends to appeal to all tastes.
In recent years, local dairies have looked for ways to produce and market a cheese similar to Mont d’Or year-round. The most successful imitation is called Edel de Cleron, made in the Franche Comté region, but in a dairy at a lower altitude. Like Mont d’Or, Edel is packaged in spruce wood, to give it the distinctive aroma.
Muenster
A fairly strong rind-washed soft cheese from the Vosges mountains in Eastern France. Muenster is definitely not a cheese for those who do not like strong tasting varieties. It comes in two varieties, normal and “au cumin” (with cumin seed). Darker on the outside than Langres or Epoisses, Muenster generally has a thicker rind which some eat, others cut off. Even an unripe Muenster is tasty; a ripe one – which may well be quite hard on the inside – will be very strong. However, like other strong cheeses, Muenster should never have an acrid taste. If it does, it is over-ripe.
Pont l’Evèque
A creamy soft cheese, uncooked and unpressed, from the coastal region of Normandy, south of Deauville; Pont l'Evèque is one of the oldest cheeses in France, and has been documented since the 12th century.
Saint Nectaire
Some claim that this is the greatest of French cheeses–-and possibly this could be true for an exceptionally good cheese; but Saint Nectaire – an appellation contrôlée cheese from the mountains of the Auvergne-–is, alas, a cheese that varies considerably in quality and taste. There are two distinct types, the farm variety and the dairy variety. The farm variety is generally better and more expensive, the dairy variety, usually found in supermarkets, is frequently sold too young. When this cheese is young, it is quite dry and hard; a properly matured Saint Nectaire should be soft and elastic, with a slight tendency to flow if left at room temperature. One does not eat the rind of  Saint Nectaire.
A cheese very similar to Saint Nectaire, notably to the variety found in supermarkets, isSavaron, a non-appellation cheese that is also produced in the Auvergne, mostly by industrial dairies.

3. Blue (Bleu) Cheeses
Bleu d'AuvergneBleu d’Auvergne ranges from bland to sharp. An appellation contrôllée cheese whose quality and taste can vary considerably, you can ask to taste it before you buy Bleu d’Auvergne.  Specific varieties of this cheese include the ancient Bleu de Laqueille.
Bleu de Bresse is not an appellation contrôlée cheese, but a French industrial dairy’s attempt to imitate the success of Danish blue. It’s a soft and almost spreadable cheese.
Bleu des Causses is an appellation contrôlée cheese which is generally delicious and strong-tasting, without being sharp. A cows-milk cheese, sometimes quite crumbly, manufactured in the same area as Roquefort and quite similar tasting.
Bleu de Gex is a blue from the Swiss border, rather hard and not very strong.
Fourme d’Ambert is a mild blue cheese from the Auvergne, often with an almost nutty flavour. No one should find this too strong.
Roquefort is the most famous of France’s blue cheeses, though not necessarily the best. Roquefort is an appellation contrôlée cheese, made from the milk of one single breed of sheep, the “Lacaune” breed. The cheese has been made since the Middle Ages, and has been famous for many centuries; more recently it has been the object of intense and successful marketing, making it into a virtually industrial product. Over 18,000 tons of Roquefort are manufactured each year, and the cheese is exported worldwide. Though made in the “causses” mountains of southern France, in the department of the Aveyron, and matured in caves, a lot of the milk used in the making of Roquefort is imported into the region.
Other Cheeses
Goats’ Cheeses:
Crottin de Chavignol, Valençay
There are dozens of different goats’ cheeses, and many local producers market their cheese under their own local village or regional name. Goats’ cheeses can be sold either very young (frais), when they are soft and spreadable, medium matured, when they are still soft, but not spreadable, or fully matured, when they are hard.
Ewe’s Milk Cheeses:
Ineguy is a pressed cheese from the Basque country, similar to other southern European ewe’s milk cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano from Italy.
Some Modern Dairy Cheeses
Saint Agur (a soft blue cheese, made in the Auvergne), Brillat-Savarin, an almost buttery soft cheese, RouladeSaint Albray, Port Salut, Boursin, a cream cheese containing herbs and garlic.
Raclette
Raclette is a mass-produced industrial cheese designed for a “raclette”, i.e. a meal in which thin slices of cheese are heated and melted then poured over baked potatoes and eaten with gherkins, mountain ham and other accompaniments. Raclette is an easy and convivial meal, where everyone serves themselves from the raclette grill which is placed in the middle of the table. (Traditionally, the cheese was melted in front of a hot wood fire). However, “raclette” cheese is not the best cheese for a raclette. I prefer Comté (the best) or  Cantal.
Generic Terminology:
The words “tomme” and “fourme” are generic words that can describe several different types of cheese. Etymologically, the French word for cheese, “fromage” is a diminutive version of the word “fourme”.
Unusual Cheeses
Cancoillotte
 is a very distinctive cheese that comes from Franche Comté; it is a runny cheese strongly flavored with garlic, and is very much an acquired taste. It can be eaten cold or hot.
Remember to always serve cheese at room temperature, because cheese has a high fat content, which needs to become softer to be flavourful.
Below, French Cheeses: the Image is Originally from Cook’s Magazine
French Cheeses, from Cook's Magazine