Posted tagged ‘Le Farto’

It’s Not What You Think

April 4, 2011

I confess, we went up to Thônes because we couldn’t resist going to Le Farto. I mean, could you? If you knew there was a place called Le Farto just a few kilometers away, and you were American and had grown up with a zillion fart jokes, wouldn’t you be drawn there with a greater than magnetic attraction?

But first, this being France, we got ourselves an excellent lunch and some education. Thônes has a really nice museum of local history, which they need because their past is so complex it’s mind-boggling. Famous now mainly for its Reblochon cheese, in the past it was governed by the Dukes of Savoie, Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, and was finally attached to France in 1860.

King Victor Emmanuel was King of Piedmont, Sardinia, Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Savoy, plus, as the document indicates: etc, etc, etc. He became King of Italy just after the Savoyards voted to become part of France. But when I asked the librarian who keeps the museum if, as a consequence, the Savoyards identify with Italy, she said “Not at all, in fact, most people feel more Sayoyard then French, even.” And I can believe this, because for the first time in France, people in Thônes couldn’t understand my French, as if we were in a different country.  Five or six different people made me repeat, endlessly, whatever I wanted to say. When I mentioned this to the barkeeper here in Annecy whose Internet we’re using, he said “Oh, the Savoyards are just like that. Ils sont très particuliers” They’re just weird like that.

The museum has lots of neat old stuff, like this book from 1636 all about the importance of notaries in France at the time. French real estate law is hideously complex today, and judging from the thickness of the book, it was that way even 400 years ago.

There’s a collection of old guns from their long series of wars,

medals won in battles,

a bust of the patron saint of Thônes,

and old household artifacts like this sausage stuffer, which looks remarkably like our current model,

old tarot cards,

and a demonstration of the processes used in making Reblochon, which has been made in the region since the 14th century.

Which brings us at last to Le Farto. As you can see here, farto is a word for a cheese cave, originally under the house, used for aging cheese in the winter. Despite what you were thinking, it has nothing at all to do with cheese cutting, and everything to do with cheese aging. The cooperative cave of Thônes is called Le Farto, and it’s there that local farmers bring their farm-made Reblochons to be washed and brined and aged to perfection. Of course we bought some, as well as other local cheeses like Abondance, Emmental de Savoie, Tomme de Savoie, and Tamié, this last one made by monks in a nearby Abbey. I’ll be showing them to you as we eat them, but for now, I can scarcely bear to open the fridge, so strongly does it smell like a farto.

And outside Le Farto, wonder of wonders, a raw milk machine. Last time we found one, it mooed loudly as it was dispensing milk,

but this time Shel had to content himself with a silent dispenser of some of the most delicious milk ever, produced by Abondance cows that are just starting to browse on spring grasses and flowers. All that and Le Farto too, quite a day for us, but just another day in the Haute Savoie.