What is Mieja Mieja cheese?
This is an extremely rare cheese with an unusual name: mieja meija (or medja medja, depending on who is spelling it). The word means “half half” in Occitan , the language which was once spoken all through the South of France, in parts of Northern Italy and in North-Eastern Spain. Catalan, which is spoken in the province of Catalonia in Spain, is considered to be a close relative of Occitan. There are still speakers of the various dialects of Occitan (Provençal being one of them) all through France. I’m really glad to know this old language is still around, though apparently it is on the list of endangered languages. If the numbers of speakers continue to fall, it may sadly just end up as a curiosity of Southern french town and village name signs, which often have both the french and Occitan names printed on them.
Where does Mieja Mieja come from?
Although the evolution of language is an engrossing subject which you could write an entire blog about, I’m actually not here to write about it, but instead, what I actually want to tell you about about is this delicious cheese. Mieja Mieja is made from the milk of goats and sheep that graze on the Plateaux du Larzac in the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses, in the french department of Aveyron, which lies east of Toulouse. I have driven through this area and I have great admiration for the farmers who live there. The area is very beautiful, but also extremely arid and windswept. White limestone formations stick out of the scrubby vegetation like strange sculptures. The sheep and goats are brought in during the winter months as the weather can be very harsh, but in the warmer months, the grazing is perfect for sheep and goats. There are only four goat farmers and four sheep farmers that the cheese producer, Jésus El Bitar, uses to make Mieja Mieja. As the name suggests, the cheese is made with half goat milk and half sheep milk.
what does Mieja Mieja taste like?
Mieja Mieja is a semi-hard cheese with a washed rind. It has an initial sharp taste, with earthy mushroom flavours coming in as you chew it. You can definitely taste the goat milk part of it! It doesn’t have a pungent smell though, so it is not necessary to wrap it in layers of anti-smell aluminium foil like you need to do for cheeses such as Munster from the Alsace. If you manage to get hold of some (look out for the brand name Fromabon), do try it!
Travel Photo of the Week
This photo comes from the area near where all those sheep and goats are grazing, and very close to La Cavalerie, where the cheese is produced. The bridge you see is the Millau viaduct; the tallest bridge in the world. The highest part of the bridge is a little higher than the Eiffel Tower (that’s what all tall things are measured against in France!). It’s very spectacular to see, and to drive over. If you would like a good view of the bridge, head down to the tiny village of Peyre (where this photo is taken from).
By Lisa Watson