Mariette was the daughter of a cheese maker at Banon. She would always share sharp white patties made of goats’ milk wrapped in dry of a brown leaves that she brought from her family’s farm.
The perched village of Banon in the high north-east of Provence has produced its famous goat’s cheese since the Gallo-Roman era. Local legend even claims that the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (86-161 AD) ate so much fine cheese from Banon that he died of this excess.
Traditionally, the cheese is wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia or straw to keep it fresh through the long winters. After maturing for a couple of weeks, the little rounds of white cheese are washed with a local eau-de-vie (firewater) before being wrapped in the leaves. It’s a lovely creamy cheese with a pronounced woody flavour.
Tome de Provence is the simple country goat’s cheese of this region, which would once have been made by the shepherd’s wife at home. She would add enough rennet to curdle in around an hour, a process adapted for quick cheese making in hot summer temperatures. This too is creamy and delicious with fresh fruit.
In The Lantern, Bénédicte, younger of the two sisters whose family lived at the hillside hamlet for generations, travels up into the higher mountains of Provence to work in the lavender fields, where she meets the cheese maker’s daughter.
And here is the hill-top
, in all its unassuming splendour, above the purple cords of lavender. In the mountains to the east and south are the great mauve hillsides and plateaux of cultivated lavandin, a hardier hybrid introduced here in the 1920s for use in the scent and cosmetic industries. village of Banon