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Sep 11, 2014

Ahoy There, St. Malo: St. Môret

THE STORY:

St. Malo is a medieval walled city at the edge of Bretagne known for mariners, pirates, and an independent streak a mild wide -- or, in this case more specifically -- 1.75 km long of ramparts. There's a history of piracy here, and of rebellion: In the 1400s they declared independence, saying they were not French, not even Breton, but rather Malouins. However, it's a tiny place, and also a strategic one on the English channel, so -- as you can imagine -- that didn't last too long.


 
The pirates, called corsairs, forced English ships to pay tribute in order to be allowed through the Channel. This is the home to France's best sailors, historically, including Jacques Cartier, who I have seen described as not only the "discoverer" of Canada, but also -- more amusingly -- as the "inventor" of Canada. This is also the original home, logically, of the first colonists who settled Les Iles Malouines, which is the French name for the Falkland Islands.

Now, the pirates are the shops who will overcharge you (slightly) for souvenirs and delicious Breton crêpes, muscles, and cider. We walk around the entire old town on the ramparts to pretend that we deserve our 5000 calories of cheese, cream, chocolate, alcohol, and the famous oysters from neighboring Cancale.

 
 
 

It's only a couple kilometers, so it doesn't take too long to walk around the walls. And you get to look out over the blue-gray Atlantic with its little outpost islands just offshore.

 
 
Every once in a while, a little head pops up from a lower level.

 

Here's what it looks like from the outside.


The military history spans centuries, but now the armaments are just for show.


Here and there, you can see the difference between the truly old sections and those that the Americans rebuilt after bombing it during World War II, mistakenly believing it to be occupied by Germans. Oops. In fact, much of Saint Malo was destroyed in August 1944, in the aftermath of D-Day, and the very apologetic US was instrumental in rebuilding it from 1948-1960 (though it must be said, the Malouins seem to be very understanding about the error, given the historical context).


The town is named after Saint Malo, also known as Saint Maclou, Mac'h Low, since he seems to have been a Welshman, born around 520 A.D. He founded the town here in the mid 6th century, and is also considered to be one of the seven founding saints of larger Bretagne.
 
THE CHEESE: St. Môret
 
Created in 1980, St. Môret is basically cream cheese. It's even good on a bagel. It's industrial, low in fat, creamy, mild, and savory. Frankly, I want to mock it, but I have just snarfed down a batch of mini crackers dipped into a mini tub of St. Môret, and I'm in mini-heaven. The girls have a new favorite, little, portable snack.
 
 
It's a commercial brand name from a company, St. Môret, that makes many kinds of cheeses. Basically it's the anthithesis of a small farmhouse producer, with each level owned by an even bigger company: St. Môret is in turn part of the Fromarsca family of factories, under the group Bongrain. This cheese -- their namesake, original, hallmark cheese -- is made from pasteurized cow's milk.
 
 
St. Môret appears to be yet another fake saint, in the vein of St. Agur. The marketing experts must have determined that cheeses with saint names sell well. Therefore, might I suggest a cheese named St. Kazz?
 
THE CONNECTION:
 
I'm just happy that St. Môret is made from cow's milk, since this is Bretagne, after all, next to Normandie, and most definitely cow country (sheep and goats need not apply). But really, the connection to me is simply the names of both the place and the cheese, and how they are both named for saints (real of imagined) and sound so similar.

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