Cheesy French calendar promotes farm-fresh fromage

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - They are soft, round and all in the best possible taste - the cheeses that is, not the pin-up girls promoting them.

Pieces of French Roquefort blue cheese are displayed in a shop in Paris January 16, 2009. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

But the “From Girls” are a group of cheese fans prepared to pose in their underwear for a pictorial calendar promoting regional French fromage.

The pin-up calendar was the idea of the Association of traditional French cheesemakers, “Fromage des Terroirs,” who say that far from being a cliche, the calendar smashes the unflattering stereotype of the frumpy French farm wife.

“It is true that the association between woman and products isn’t original in itself, but cheese and pin-ups is a bit better, because we are relatively limited in our cliches of regional products in France,” Veronique Richez-Lerouge, the association’s president said.

She said promoting rural French products with the standard images of fat farm wives in rubber boots alongside Granddad carrying a baguette under his arm has become a bit tacky.

“I thought that associating pin-ups, who associate beauty and aesthetic refinement is a way of bringing this ‘art de vivre’ back to the French, it is what we are so reputed for.”

The saucy French calendar has certainly been selling like hotcakes, with people ordering them from all over the world.

“Why not? If it brings them to us instead of the big distributors, it’s good,” said one Parisian cheese-seller, who gave his name as Stephan.

The connection between the well-formed pin-ups and the traditional products is that it is basically about form, Richez-Lerouge said.

“Cheese in Latin, in old French, means ‘form’,” she said. “You have round cheeses, triangular cheeses, square cheeses, heart-shaped cheese, it is the same subject we have here.”

“Barbara Munster,” “Roxane Cantal” and the other From Girls pictured in the calendar aren’t professional models or cheese industry employees either. They just have a passion for one of the bare essentials of French food.

Editing by Paul Casciato