Legend has it that Camembert was invented in Normandy in the year 1791 after Marie Harel (1761–1844) was visited by a priest from Brie. Father Brie explained a process of making cheese that involved milk, time and penicillin. Harel apparently made the cheese in Normandy for Normans until an engineer named Ridel devised a wooden box in which to ship the cheese further afield.
In the end, Camembert gained its fame and its enduring association with France during the Great War. When Europe was in the grip of its first global conflict, the French army was victualled with Camembert and red wine. This was done specifically to link taste, identity and national heritage in the minds of the fighting men. They were fighting for France, and they were reminded of that every day in their rations. This stunt was apparently repeated years later when the Argentinians were given locally-produced Malbec before tussling with the British Royal Marines in the freezing wet of the Falkland Islands.
In the recipe given here, Camembert and its little wooden box are the key elements of an informal, bread-dipping starter that can be thrown on the countertop along with cold beers or cocktails for friends to dig into.
- 1 Camembert in its own wooden box
- 8 tips of rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic split in two to make 8 slivers
- Half a tbsp honey
- Half a crusty baguette
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat an oven to 180˚C.
Score the top of the cheese in a diamond pattern. Insert rosemary and garlic into the cheese at the cut intersections.
Place the cheese in its box on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15–20 mins. Drizzle with honey and serve with crusty bread and cornichons to dip.