Yesterday I flew to Monterrey, Mexico. Before I left Beligum I had a snack -- a cheese plate -- that was absolutely delicious. From left to right the four cheeses pictured are: Passendale (Belgian), Brie (French), Tomme de Blanche (French) and Chimay (Belgian). While France is known for its cheese, Belgium isn't. "The more's the pity for that" as the old phrase goes.
Charles de Gaule said in a June 14, 1960 television interview -- Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cebt quarante-six variétés de fromage? Or, "How can you govern a country which has two hundered and forty-six varieties of cheese. Probalby most people in the U.S. would be scratching their heads after hearing DeGaulle say that. That is if they could watch French TV in 1960.
As far as cheese popularity goes, how governable a people may be and what that might mean today -- I did a little research while I enjoyed my cheese plate near the airport. In 1960 when France had 246 different kinds of cheese, Belgium had about 51 different kinds of cheese.
Given the difference the difference of the physical size of the two countries France produced 0.0004 kinds of cheese per square kilometer while Belgium produced (in this same time period) 0.0016 kinds of cheese per square kilometer. The Belgiums were producing four times more cheese varities than the French per square kilometer.
What would DeGaulle say about that if he only knew. He probably did know. He grew up in Northern France on the border of Belgium where many towns and villages still have Flemish names. He probably conveniently forgot how difficult it was to govern Belgians -- at any time in their history. DeGaulle was brave, but he wasn't brave enough to tackle that pesty, little country a few hundred kilometers from Paris that is known for its chocolate, lace, beer -- and oh, yes, -- cheese.
Back to cheese and politics -- becuase at this point I had to catch a plane. The screen shot below is of cover page for an article on the inability of the Belgians to form a ferderal government for over 589 days. What were they doing in the meantime? Eating cheese.