Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The moon is made of Green Cheese

Last summer, a friend of ours was a delegate at a conference of Mathematicians in France. The conference venue, as organised by the University of Toulouse, was the little village of Nant, which happens to lie in the D├ępartement in which Roquefort Cheese is, officially, produced.

Like all the best food produce, Roquefort has a Season. It so happens that early spring milk forms the raw material for the best cheese. After it is fermented, spores from a mould found in local caves (and subsequently named after them) are added, then the cheese solidifies and is shaped into drums weighing a few pounds each. The best time to eat it, if you really like a cheese that fights back, comes about four months later.

Those four months are best spent (I mean by the cheese, not by the prospective diner) in the region's caves, after which the cheese is exported all over the world (except, for a very brief interlude, to the USA, where it was named as a weapon in a Trade War). The caves, after that point, are empty.

At least, they are empty of cheese. However, with four months having elapsed since "early spring" we are now into the beginning of the tourist season. And, by a delightful coincidence, of the conference season. So along come our Mathematics delegates, to sample the delights of Roquefort and see the caves in which it is born. So as to look the part, the caves are now graced with stacks of replica Roquefort drums. We're not talking packaging here, I mean models of what the actual cheese looks like.

And that, of course, begs a question to those of us who study, and comment upon, the wise use of Space in all its forms:

Unless the replica cheeses are inflatable or somehow collapsible, Where are they stored in the spring?