Today we had a field trip to visit the Rockford Cheese caves and the Rockford sheep farm. My group started the day touring the caves which house 11 stories of ripening cheese! The caves where formed after tectonic plates shifted creating this naturally cool and humid environment that is perfect for fermenting cheese. We learned about the companies history including the Myth of Rockford (some Sheppard was eating in a cave but then got really distracted by a beautiful lady and left his lunch of cheese and bread there as he chased after her. He never was able to reach here and several months later, he was out tending his flock and was hungry. He remembered the cheese he had left a long time ago in a near by cave and went to see if it was still good. He found it, ate it, and decided the cheese was the best cheese he had ever had.) The caves where really cool but also super cold. We got to learn about the process of growing the bacteria from bread to put into the cheese which gives it its flavor and texture. The only ingredients used to make this famous Bleu Cheese is whole sheep milk, bacteria, and salt. The tour was very interesting and informative…. Also only in French! We got to try three of the bleu cheeses they make and I cannot say I am a fan. They where all super salty and extremely strong and bitter.
11 floors of fermenting formage!
The sheep farm was a different experience all together…. First off, there were flies EVERWHERE. It was actually awful. Also, the farmer that showed us around (who runs the farm with his brother when they took over for their parents) only spoke French so thank goodness for my Lebanese classmates that are fluent in French and English and were patient enough to translate. We learned a lot of specifics about how they take care of the sheep and such which mostly went over my head not being of any ag background. It was still interesting to learn and it is always good to learn where exactly your food comes from. This whole week of classes is dedicated to animal production and the European system for the animal welfare. We also got the chance to observe milking time which I found very intriguing. I really liked the efficiency of the system.
One big culture difference I have been noticing (and really had to deal with today) is the French view on lunch. Today we spent an hour and a half eating lunch today. We had three different courses of sandwiches and chips and apples, cheese and wine, and dessert. It was all equivalent to what I could eat for a lunch at home, yet I would eat it in about 15-30 minutes. It takes a lot for me to stop thinking about how much time we are wasting and could be getting stuff done. Instead, I am trying hard to look to the French view of using this time as a break to relax and to deepen friendships. It’s very different and I know it is even going to be more different when I get to my host family so I am trying to use this time now to get into the right mindset.
Tomorrow we are heading into the city for French class to talk to locals for a scavenger hunt…. Wish me luck as I try to not completely butcher this language!