Before We Move... The Story of How We Came to Live at Mas des Brun
The Accidental Shoplifter & Happy Medium in French

French Etiquette: Did you know about this rule for cheese? I sure didn't!

"New Day". Smokey reminds us all to live simply, slowly, and not to make a cheese about things! Speaking of fromage, tell us your favorite kind here in the comments.

TODAY'S WORD: en faire tout un fromage

        : to make a fuss about something
      : to make a mountain out of a molehill
      : to make a big deal out of something

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French expression, download En faire tout un fromage


    by Kristi Espinasse

For Friday's lunch with guests Eugenia and David, there would be two things less to worry about: the plat principal and the cheese plate. (We still had gigot de sanglier--and the rock-star selection of fromages my sister-in-law, Cécile, had brought when she and Jean-Marc's mom came for Sunday roast).  While these conveniences would not guarantee Fool Proof Entertaining (this time the powder room broke down and I burned dessert), the ready-made plats certainly chipped away at my To-Do list!

Speaking of To-Dos, I soon realized, during Friday's meal, one thing I'd left off that list: Continue to Keep Abreast of French Etiquette! 

Doubts began when I noticed my guests' hesitation before the delicious cheese platter including le comté, la tomme, la gorgonzola, les fromages de brebis... missing was la brousse (finished off that very morning for breakfast--over toast, with apricot jam! What a pity, we could have served this--la brousse avec confiture--for dessert instead of tarte brulée!)

Cheese Etiquette?

When the much-anticipated plateau de fromage remained untouched the second time around, Eugenia finally admitted: "Once, while eating at a French restaurant, I skipped dessert--opting instead for an additional serving of cheese--when someone pointed out it was impolite to have seconds from the cheese platter." Our guest finished her story with an innocent question. "Is this true? Is it bad manners to have another helping from the cheese platter?"

Everything went silent at the table but for the sound of my husband stabbing at another piece of comté--his fave.

Whatever the rules, we could see by one Frenchman's actions that there was no need to en faire tout un fromage when it came to cheese etiquette. Just dig in and enjoy!

I leave you with a photo of my burnt tart. Turns out our guests and my husband enjoyed it--washing it down with the help of a 1992 Chateau de Pibarnon.. and also a vin rouge Jean-Marc created, once upon a time, called Lunatique--which is still made at Domaine Rouge-Bleu! Does one need to be bananas to drink wine with dessert?

*    *    *


P.S. Were you aware of the cheese etiquette rule? And what is YOUR favorite cheese?

Last night I used the rest of the gigot in this wild boar lasagne!
Wistiti! = "Say cheese!" My sister, Heidi (left), Mom, and niece, Reagan (to the right) met up with longtime reader Marika--at the Cheese Importers in Longmont, Colorado! The ladies in this photo inspire me, and I am so grateful to have them--and you--in my life. Thank you very much for reading this French word journal. I leave you with an all caps comment I just received, from another reader, Gus:

Thank you, Gus!! Comments like yours are greatly appreciated and keep me on track in the meaningful pursuit of expression.

French cheese platter cheese knife roquefort

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Ken from NH

I did not know seconds were frowned upon. However, I was shocked when I stumbled upon an article, a short time ago, which showed that there is also a proper way to slice cheese as so not to take the best cut for yourself. I must go back and see if I can find it again before our upcoming trip. I don't want to make cheese "faux pas"

Sandy Maberly

The only French "rule" that I know of, concerning the consumption of cheese, has to do with its shape. Our Breton friends in Lannion advised us that when we helped ourselves to the cheese platter, it was important to cut the cheese in a way that enabled it to maintain its original shape, i.e.: do not cut the tip "flat" off of a pie shaped slice. Cut at an angle so it maintained its pie shape. On a round cheese, don't flatten it on one side by chopping off the curve. Cut a wedge shaped slice out of it. On a square or rectangular shaped cheese, cut "with" the side. Do not cut off a corner. The only reason I could think of for these rules was so that the platter would appear fresh and unused for the next person who served him/herself. I thought it was interesting that our friends took the time to advise us on cheese etiquette so we wouldn't embarrass ourselves around other French folks!

Norma Gosling

I live in France and my favourite cheese is 'Cantal-entre deux mers ' and also the King of cheese 'Comte' although the best blue I have ever eaten was St. Azur ( no, NOT Roquefort) bought in England at Waitrose.
As for etiquette - if it is not hurting anyone it is outmoded.

Norma Gosling

Sorry, typo and should have read 'St Agur'.


Ossau-Iraty, the Basque cheese made from sheep's milk is my favourite, and for an unusual blue cheese Bleu de Bresse.

Re French cheese etiquette ... when offered a choice of cheeses in a restaurant, all looking delicious, how many is it polite to select ... 3?
And if my wife only takes 2, can I ask for 4?
We usually "cheat", she also selects three, and slips one of her selection to me after the waiter has gone :-)


Hi Kristi,
More on French food rules would be helpful for all the travellers. I understood, as I had read it before my first trip to France, that it was impolite to take a second serve from a cheese platter(when a guest for a meal in a French home). Also, not to take the tip or best piece of a soft cheese.
As a comparison, here in Australia, I have observed that French people living here take a much smaller portion of cheese compared to we natives. Sigh. No wonder they are slimmer. Here also cheese is served with crackers, raw nuts, fruit and fruit pastes. Not baguette.
On a trip to France, my husband ordered some cheese in a café in Paris.( I saved my appetite for some Bertillon glaces ( ice- cream). It was a huge serve, 3 cheeses with bread, and he ate it all. I was not sure of his action. A few days later, we went to the café again, and although we were welcomed, I had the impression that we had been remembered for a bad reason! I have never dared to ask my FRENCH teachers or friends here in case they were horrified, as only a FRENCH person could be. But I am asking you, Kristi. Once and for all.
I have noticed that in casual FRENCH establishments, uneaten baguette in a basket will be put on another table. I am fine with that, but in Australia it would not be allowed ( food hygiene). The same with cheese- what you are served is yours to eat,or not. So my fearful question is- did my husband eat everybody's cheese in the café in Paris?


Kristin, I am very happy to have discovered the French-word-a-day blog several months ago. It is so much fun practicing my language skills again and also reading your account of your family's life in France is anticipated each week. You live in a beautiful country. I feel for you both as you speculate on moving and making a new start - that is never easy. However, my advice would be "vivre sans crainte". There are always new adventures to be considered and rewards to be reaped. Oh, about the etiquette of cheese boards....this is new to me, although Australians have something of a reputation of being laid back. I consider it a pleasure to see guests enjoy the food that I am able to provide, including returning for a second slice of cheese.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Oh, I remember when Gus won the key! Thanks for adding that photo and his lovely comment. BTW, Heidi looks so much like you in that photo; more so than usual I think. Beautiful photo of all of them. And, what a silly custom! Mangia, mangia* my grandmother would say. Eat! Eat! (Italian)

Kathleen from Connecticut

I have a French cheese book which shows the proper way to cut cheese and since I do like follow some rules, when I see people hack away at a piece of cheese,it upsets me. I look at it and it becomes so unappetizing. I have sometimes cut a few slices so that people might get the idea, but for many, it just doesn't register. They don't care or are clueless.
Anyways, I love cheese and many different types..a fresh cabecou, Morbier, Bleu d'Auvergne, Le Petit Basque, Reblochon. Le here are a few of my favorite ones.


I smiled while reading the comment from Gus. I appreciate your advice, dear Gus. We all need the reminder, from time to time, to hold our chins up and stand tall. Thank you.

As for cheese, as the others mentioned above, I only know of the rule that cheese should be sliced like pie. I'm all for second helpings of anything! :) That lasagna looks delicious, Kristi.

Tracy Hart

My understanding of the cheese rule is to cut into the cheese so to preserve its shape, taking a bit of the rind. So with a triangular piece of cheese like a wedge of Brie, one should slice it from the long side to preserve the triangle shape, not cutting off the point of the cheese, and taking a bit of rind on the end. With a whole round cheese, one should cut a pie shaped wedge from the center out, again to take a piece of the rind. If the cheese is too small,such as a 2-inch diameter goat cheese, you can cut it in half or thirds ... Of course you don't have to eat the rind that you take, you cut it off and leave it on your plate.

Nyla Witmore

Oh my! The CHEESE IMPORTER is 30 minutes from where I live. I recognized the background, even if so little can be seen. Bien sur! Everywhere, French theme "bric a brac" for sale...plates, aprons, tea cups, books in English and French, toys, trays, posters. Then there is the HUGE "cold room" to wander through. You almost need a coat inside. You grab a cute little basket and start choosing cheeses. All are classified by country. The displays and choices boggle the mind. The service is slow; the clatter of chatter bounces off the walls -- but I love this place. It is worth a trip to Colorado for sure. My treat next time, Kristi.
If you visit.

PS I think it is the Italians who cringe at the thought of anyone serving fish with cheese together. But their eyes roll with disgust if Americans order Cappucino in the afternoon.


Kristi, your banana tart is beautiful!!! Will you share your recipe with us??! It would be such a nice change from banana bread. Your lasagna looks sumptuous as well, although I am vegetarian and would have to say no. But perhaps others! Ah, to be able to cook as nicely as you!!

Nancy LoBalbo

Wasn't aware of the cheese "rule". I did learn somewhere that a minimum of three and up to six (or more) cheese for honored guests. Although actually eating cheese while IN France is the optimum way, I have to say that we've found a great artisinal place in in The Village in NYC called Murray's Cheese that has fabulous cheeses of all kinds from around the world. And they SHIP! We just got a good sized order for our Thanksgiving repast.
As for my favorite cheese? I'm with Jean Marc...comte, of course! I had to work hard on our local grocery store to get them to stock it, but I finally wore them down. Now they carry it, but pretty much only on holidays.

Nancy LoBalbo

Yes, somewhere I saw a chart of the certain way you are supposed to cut into cheese of different shapes. They also said that doing it in this "special" way preserves the particular flavor better. Who knew?

Audrey Wilson

Have you ever tried Mottin from Charente ? Delicious ! And I agree with Ian the Basque cheeses take some beating. Lovely nutty flavour.
Drooling over the boar dish ! The hunters round here tend to keep whatever they shoot for themselves . Pity because the boar are all round here.
I been in the UK ,where I had a wonderful surprise for my birthday. My son from California & my daughter from Arizona poppd over for a long weekend,as one does !!! They got a wonderful deal with Norwegian Airlines ,500$ return.

Betty Gleason

Here is one mention of the "no seconds" cheese rule:
However, as honored guests may take up to 6 portions, one might assume that this is done by the hostess offering these guests a second serving. You might also phrase it that way, "It would be an honor for you to choose again."
How to Politely Eat Cheese At the French Table
In a French meal, it’s likely that cheese will be offered. Usually not only one, but a carefully planned selection which we call “un plateau de fromage”. The proper way to cut a French cheese is almost an art form, and I wrote a whole article about how to cut the cheese in France (no pun intended…).

As far as good manners and cheese are concerned, you need to know cheese is usually only offered once. You are supposed to help yourself to only two different cheese unless you are invited to try more. Cheese is a delicacy: eating too much may give the impression that the main course was not filling enough.

Eating cheese properly in France is not easy: you should use your knife and bread only, and never touch the cheese with your hands. No fork either.

Once the portion of cheese is in your plate, cut a smaller piece with your knife, place it (still with the knife) on a small piece of bread you have just torn away from your bread slice, and balance the cheese on the bread till it reaches your mouth. Put both cheese and bread at the same time in your mouth: the whole thing should be small enough for you to be able to chew gracefully :-)

Peggy Wright

I'm thankful to have you in my life. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Chief Grape twice when he visited Wash. DC. I hope to someday meet the woman that feels like a daughter to me. Thank you so much for the stories of your life.


Bonjour, Kristin,
Comment les femmes de la famille soient si belles! J'aime
bien Affinois et fromage pavé. Les Amish ont un fromage
"Salem Blue" qui est très délicieux. Joanne

Kristin Espinasse

Ken, seconds are not frowned upon in France, so go ahead and enjoy them! Your host will be glad to know you liked the meal. As for taking seconds from the cheese platter, does anyone know if there is a rule about it?

Faye LaFleur

THe French need to get over it! And why leave it on table if one should not have more?
I am not a cheese connoisseur and don't like many of them...just give me Gouda, smoked or not, and I am happy!
That dessert looks scrumptious to me and healthy, would love the recipe!

Marshall Morton

While it's hard to beat Pont l'Évêque and Époisses, I think the best is Reblochon, in part, because of the story I've heard surrounding its name: it originated from the second milking of the cows. The cows weren't completely milked the first time; the manor lord's servants would daily arrive to claim the lord's percentage; the serfs would finish milking the cows and use that milk (theoretically more concentrated) augmented by that which was left over from the first milking to make the cheese.

Frederick Caswell

Enjoyed you blog, as always. I accidentally lost the one before this one but think the word "move" was caught a split second before the whole FWD disappeared. Did I miss something very significant? Comme toujours!

Mur Hayman

CHEESE - SCHMEESE !! Tell us more about that scrumptious banana tarte (like how to make it); it was all I could do to refrain from licking my computer screen.......

BJ Seale

Kristi, I really enjoy reading your blog and all about the beautiful scenery there in France. I dated a man from Brittany last year. Sadly, he moved back there. I am in Dallas, Texas. Tell me about that beautiful dog in the picture. Until the next time.


Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Your tart looks good even if it is a little burnt! :-) ..... just love the Lunatique!

Our French Oasis

Not being a huge cheese lover is perhaps one of the hardest part of living in France, everyone just assumes one eats cheese, the stinkier the better! But I do like a mild brebis or a mild brie or camembert. The only strong cheese I like is a really good Roquefort, hard to beat!

Laure S

Oh my god, I just saw how many people already answered your brand new blog! I am French and grew up in a family with very strict table manners, but I never got that there was a rule about how many servings of how many cheese kinds a guest should have. There may be a rule at an even more sophisticated table and it's always good to know these. In a more relaxed setting, I would say enjoy all the fromage! And like someone suggested, maybe the hosts can let those guests know it's OK to have a 2nd serving. In a restaurant it may not apply - I don't know. Maybe in an inexpensive restaurant?
Thank you for the wonderful blog and all the best

Virginia Newton

I love the food photos! Please take more! Also, as I am from Colorado I can heartily recommend the Cheese Importers in Longmont - it is as close as you can get to going to a Provencal market without leaving the home. Thanks for the blog and all your wonderful writing.

edie schmidt


Fun to see that photo of your lovely mom and sis at the Cheese Importer in Colorado.
Love that Cheese Importer! Have been there with my lovely sister and her husband more than once. French cheese is the best!
I have also heard that is more French to leave something on your plate and the end of a meal
rather than leaving no crumb uneaten. Is that also true?

Edie from Savannah

Herm in Phoenix, AZ


Thanks for the hints of French cheese etiquette. Many of us in the U.S. would fail since we consider cheese as an hors d'oeuvre!

Gus, it's good to hear from you again. You certainly are a "KEY" follower on Kristi's blog! Bonne santé à vous et Paulette


Dawn Johnson

I agree with your other readers, your banana tart looks scrumptious. Well browned maybe but not at all burnt. We would LOVE the recipe. I love making tarts. My husband and I were in Napa a few weeks ago and I had a crème brûlée with sliced bananas over the top under the brulee crust, Délicieux. Seems easy, I'm going to try it for Christmas dinner.
As for cheeses, I'm still too American, I like the milder cheeses. I keep finding cheeses in France that smell too much like a dead mouse that's been in a mousetrap too long. It's been a joke with my daughter and I that we keep finding those. We have a hard time getting past the smell as we both have had our share of emptying mousetraps.


Our dear Kristi,
Such a wonderful,informative and delicious(!!) post today!(YUMMY is a better description!) And,as always,your beautiful words and pictures(!!) brought smiles (and hugs!) Especially liked the one of Jules,Heidi,Reagan and Marika! Like a visit with family! Great picture of Gus and Paulette,too!(winning the key just doesn't seem like five years ago!)
I am so partial to Compte,but Roquefort(particularly Societe) is neck and neck for a tie.
One problem we have run into here in the West is that we can't always get these because of erratic delivery schedules.Didn't used to be that way,but recently they just don't bring them.We're blessed to have no shortage of others to choose from,but gosh,when you have your mind set on a special one,a substitute can be a let down.
Pleas know we keep you all in our prayers always.
Natalia XO

Suzanne Dunnaway

Did you know that a cheese, except for a round one, must always be cut at an angle? Terrible etiquete to cut the end off of a wedge of cheese. But I have to say, at our table, guests take seconds.... And your tart looks GREAT. Caramelized.

Suzanne Dunnaway

A wonderful cheese that our French friends did not know is Roucoulon. Tastes like cheeses of old and a hint of white truffle.

Lauren Joffe

Really enjoy reading your blog.


I love cheese and could lose my mind in the cheese shops in France. My favorite is Époisses de Bourgogne, a cheese so strong that it is forbidden on the métro in Paris but that didn't stop me from once bringing some home in my tote bag on our flight home.
Thanks for the cheese etiquette tip. I wasn't aware of that.

Scott Lacoste

I wasn't aware of the cheese rule in question, and to answer the second question, my favorite is Brilliat Savarin with truffles

Lee Isbell

These are the rules I have heard, although I don't think the square was addressed.

Lee Isbell

Hahaha. He is the infamous American. Never go back! Honestly, I don't know the answer to your question. The story just tickled my fancy.

Lee Isbell

Époisses takes a hearty soul. I tasted it for initiation to the group, but I'm not a particular cheese fan (nor any milk products with the exception of ice cream), so I consider that taste my one and only.

Lee Isbell

If is not fibbing about the string shopping bags, I may have just cleaned them out. If I look high and low, I might find the one I bought in France in 1959. Plastic grocery bags have just been banned in Calif, and I feel like cloth bags can get a bit unsanitary. Both the string bags and cloth ones seem so unsuitable to dispose of my used kitty litter in, so I will have to buy plastic bags. That seems to me to defeat the purpose.

Gail Bove

Oh, how I have enjoyed your writings for many years! After I did a college year abroad in France, I vowed to return and after graduation, I had my job secured to return to France. I have been back in the US for many years but France has been and forever will be a part of me. I returned annually for many years to travel with and visit my best friend in France. He and his family and friends welcomed me so warmly and still do. Your words make me smile endlessly as I remember all of the lovely cultural and etiquette lessons learned. I just reminded my Italian (& American) husband of the cheese rule (not to cut off the tip) yesterday, so this touched me even more so. Beautifully done!!! Integrating into the French culture, having your lovely family and sharing it all. Ooh la la, La France me manqué tellement!!! Merci a toi!!


Bonjour Kristi:
My favorite cheese has always been Cantal.It is vert difficult to find in the U.S.
Speaking of cheese De Gaulle once said(an these are not his exact words: "How can one govern a country with 400 cheeses"

Susan in Aix en Provence

Sandy and others explained well how important it is to cut the cheese correctly so as not to take the best part for oneself. The other "important" rule I learned is to take no more than three pieces. So I always start with the Roquefort, my favorite!

Gail in AZ

Recognized Cheese Importers right away!! It's one of my all time favorites. Longmont is where my two oldest boys lived. One still lives nearby in Frederick, the other has moved home to AZ to go to pilot school. How exciting to see Jules and Heidi enjoying Cheese Importers, too! Heidi needs to take you there next time you're in Denver. I've often wondered how one would go over here in Phoenix. 😉

Felicia Malissen

Oh my! First of all, I love the tart - yummy.
Le fromage - oui, more rules, rules, rules especially with something as precious as cheese.
My French mother n' law gave me a nasty look on a Bastille day (family cookout) when I took an extra slice from her gorgeous, costly platter - a look which of course could have been for some completely different reason but I've learned the hard way that in France, to overdo anything (unless you are French) is not cool at all.
It is too piggish or gluttonous (bad, typical American) to take an extra piece. And even if offered, I'd hesitate unless I was very, very familiar with the hosts.
It can of course depend on the family, region, etc. but to be safe, don't do it.
Eat as much as you'd like chez vous:)

Marianne Rankin

When I spent part of a summer with a French family years ago, I never heard anything about not taking seconds from the cheese platter. On the other hand, I don't remember clearly if I ever asked for seconds or not.

I like lots of cheeses, but no question - camembert is my favorite!

Susan in Aix en Provence

Felicia, I love your advice -- personal, practical, insightful in a few words. It's not cool to overdo anything; don't be piggish or gluttonous (as some Americans are -- I can say this because I'm American); and to be safe, don't do it, but eat as much as you want chez vous. Merci!

Carolyn Chase

Le fromage préféré dépend du moment. Camembert était ambrosia lors de la pause du matin tout en travaillant en plein air en été à la fouille archéologique au Château de Mâlain. Raclette ou fondue, avec des charcuteries, après le ski est le réchauffement. Un autre favori est Mont d'Or, cuit au four avec de l'ail et un peu de vin. Après le dîner, Époisses de Bourgogne ou ami du chambertin avec un verre de pinot noir est un avant-goût du paradis.
Je suis d'accord avec ces suggestions sur la façon de couper le fromage, mais je n'ai jamais été dit sur l'étiquette de servir soi-même d'un plateau de fromage. Habituellement, au moment où on sert du fromage au dîner, prendre beaucoup n'est pas attrayant, comme vous avez déjà beaucoup mangé - sauver la capacité de manger plus est plus de la question.

Joan L.

One quote I have heard is that the difference between the USA and France is that France is a country of 365 cheeses and three religions, while the USA is a country with only three cheeses and 365 religions!

Ahulani McAdam

These are familiar to me and I think your reasoning makes beautiful sense.
What I remember particularly is my grandfather telling me not to cut the "nose" off the cheese. Meaning to leave the pointy end, so the cheese just became a smaller and smaller triangle.

He said this in English, so I wonder if it is a French expression? I haven't read eveyone's delicious comments yet, so maybe someone else has mentioned this expression.

Mmmm. Got hungry so just made some toasted sourdough with goat cheese and bruchetta from Trader Joe's. Yum. TJ's will be a great support for you, Kristi, should you move in this direction.

All the best love for the next turn of the page.

Diane Young

I laughed at Joan L's comment. Vive le fromage , even if I can't eat it.


I've been living in France for 5 years now, and the cheese is my weakness! One of the first "rules" I learned about cheese is that when invited to someone's home for dinner, the cheese course is the ONLY one you can refuse politely, as it is usually the one dish not prepared by the host.

For a hilarious take on how to cut French cheeses, I include this link to a comic called ItchyFeet:


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