Nov 13, 2018

Angélique -- Lover and Fighter: Saint Angel


My French friend is about as shocked to learn that I've never heard of Angélique, Marquise des Anges, as I would be if she told me she'd never heard of The Sound of Music (which she has) or The Brady Bunch (which she hasn't). You grow up thinking certain cultural references are universal, then realize that's only true within your own, limited universe. But if you were alive in the '60s and '70s (and pretty much since then, too) in France, then you're part of the universe that knows about this classic TV movie-series.

photo from: https://actu.orange.fr/societe/people/article-5-secrets-sur-la-saga-angelique-marquise-des-anges-CNT000000zPpje.html

Nearly every year since it came out originally in 1964, based on the book by Anne and Serge Golon, the series is aired in its entirety on French TV. My friend is so excited to share this cultural touchstone with me and the girls that she goes ahead and orders the entire set. To go with the nostalgia of the program itself, she orders it on video tapes, to play for us on her very old, fat, tiny-screen TV in her 500-year old house. Every part of the experience is like being in a time machine (but one that is confused about its decade and century).

In brief, the impossibly beautiful Angélique (de Sance de Monteloup), a young daughter of an impoverished provincial nobleman, becomes forcibly married to the old, scarred Jeoffrey Comte de Peyrac de Morens. It's a classic Beauty and the Beast sort of tale, because although he is old and scarred, he is noble and honorable and eventually -- over the course of many of these mini-film episodes -- woos his wife.

And he's not the only one. Jeoffrey (pronounced "Jyo-FRAY" and cried out many times in the series) is found guilty of sorcery and "executed" for his crime. But don't worry: you can't kill a good character off that easily. Still, that gives Angélique some good chances -- while she's a "widow", that is -- to end up with a lot of swashbuckling men who either have to rescue her or whom, in a fabulously forward feminist moment, she has to rescue.

photo from: http://www.peplumtv.com/2013/10/funeral-of-giuliano-gemma.html

I can't even remember all the vicissitudes of fortune that Angélique faces, but I'm pretty sure I remember her going from countess to beggar, wearing pants, getting clothes ripped off, ending up in King Louis XIV's court, and making out with a ne'er do well in a tiny wooden barge. Basically, any time a man pops up on screen in any significant capacity, you know there will be some overly dramatic, heavily stylized giggling, disrobing, and fighting-which-turns-into-loving-submission. It's all so very '60s, right down to actress Michèle Mercier's hairstyle and make-up, which is always in perfect form, whether she's just waking up in a haystack, heading off through the castle in her dressing gown, or crying out as she gets her bodice ripped by some man abusing his power.

photo from: http://www.peplumtv.com/2013/10/funeral-of-giuliano-gemma.html

There was a modern movie series adaptation slated to be a two-parter recently made and released. Well, the first part was released in 2013, but it tanked so badly that the plans to make and release the sequel were shelved. In fact, it was considered one of the least bankable films of the entire year. Apparently, French people like their '60s-style nostalgic adultery unadulterated. Also, I haven't seen the movie: it could really be terrible. I must go find a copy.

Besides the general camaraderie and hilarity of me, the girls, my friend, and her daughter and son and niece, all gathering around the little old TV to watch the series and yell things at the screen, one of the things that I love about this experience is that we use a little franglais and exclaim at one point, "Oh, this is so cheesy!" It takes a moment for my friend to think about it, as she's certainly heard me talk enough about cheese but, so far, always in the context of actual cheese. The French don't have any sort of slangy, cheese-related equivalent that means "kitschy" or "tacky".

But after a pause, she nods and laughs and says, "Cheesy, because it's just like melted cheese!" So many expressions don't translate well, but for some reason it makes me inordinately happy that the meaning behind this one is so instinctive, even to a full-fledged, French fromage eater and Angélique fan.

THE CHEESE: Saint Angel

Saint Angel is a pasteurized cows' milk triple-cream cheese with a white bloomy rind. This oozy, gooey, super-rich and buttery treat of a cheese is made in the natural park area called Pilat, which is one of the oldest-established national parks created in the country. Located in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in southeastern France, Saint Angel is made by Guilloteau, a cheese manufacturer created in 1981 which grew to a sizeable regional cheesemaker and which was then purchased in 2016 by the large-scale industrial dairy enterprise Agrial.

Even before being purchased by Agrial, was no small potatoes. By 2015, Guilloteau was exporting to over 20 countries, and international sales comprised a third of its annual 65 million euro per year revenues.

The cheese, however, retains that feel of a smaller-batch manufacturer and, though it's exported overseas, also that very authentically French, funky flavor. It's almost impossible to taste Saint Angel or describe it without thinking "butter" but if that brings to mind a hard stick of butter, we're barking up the wrong tree. It's more like a mousse that melts in the mouth, such a delightful combination of the saltiness and the milk's sweetness with hints of mushrooms and mustiness.


It's the name, of course, that inspires this pairing, but it's not just the name. What's perfect is that this is exactly the sort of oozy, goopy cheese that gives meaning to the slang term "cheesy" and which makes its usage immediately understandable to a French person.

Angélique is a very cheesy lover and fighter, and if this is on the cheese platter, I can guarantee you will love and fight for this Saint Angel.


  1. Ha! Too good. Please keep writing as I love reading your posts.
    I'm married to a lovely Frenchy guy from Orleans, but live here in my native "The Great State of So-Cal."😊

  2. Not long after reading this post, I happened to be leading myself into temptation at an upscale grocery store's cheese counter and decided to go for some Saint Angel because of your recommendation. It did not disappoint! I just finished the end of it, and I kind of want to run out and pick up another wedge right now!

    1. I'm so happy you like your St. Angel. Vive le fromage!


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