Winter work

In a village, not far from here, I came across an elderly lady in a flowery dress, sitting at a table, making small round wooden boxes.

She'd take a circular base off a pile, wrap a thin lath around it, nail the lath in place and place the finished box to one side, with dozens of others.

Then she'd make another ... and another ... and another ...

I got into conversation with her and asked her what she was doing.

She told me she was making containers for vacherin cheese. It was winter work on farms in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, when the pastures were covered with snow. She went on to explain that the base of the box was pine, but the side was larch, a wood that could be flexed without splitting.

Vacherin Mont d'Or is one of the most delicious of Swiss products—a soft, almost liquid cheese, which is why each one has to have its own wooden box. It's seasonal, appearing in the shops in from September to April and is little-known outside the country. There’s more information, in English, here.

If you can find a vacherin cheese, try it. You’re in for a treat. Heated in the microwave with a few cloves of garlic stuck in through the crust, it’s to die for. (The recipe's here).


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