I had lunch at the Rio Café in Manningtree, an honest little establishment, not a million miles away from the River Stour, so the name is more or less justified. I ordered the Brie and cranberry sandwich (with garnish and slaw) and it was perfectly good. It looked like this:
But it did set me thinking about when exactly cranberry sauce became such a regular and apparently essential accompaniment to Brie? It didn’t used to be that way did it?
A short online amble reveals recipes for Brie and cranberry twists, cranberry Brie bites, Brie, cranberry and red onion pithivier,cranberry and Brie bombs. There’s also an outfit called KK Fine Foods that offers Frozen Mushroom Brie & Cranberry Wellington which sounds unimaginable but in fact looks like this:
Didn’t Brie used to come with French bread and at most a few grapes? This is a largely though not entirely rhetorical question. And when I ask myself, as I occasionally do, what’s the most enjoyable sandwich I ever ate I always come back to a Brie sandwich bought from the café at the Rodin Museum in Paris, and eaten in the sculpture garden. It was beautifully a chunk of baguette containing some slices of Brie, and nothing else - no salad, no butter, and certainly no cranberry sauce. I didn't take a picture.
I decided to recreate it at home, but I got down to the Co-op and didn’t like the look of the Brie, so I bought some Camembert instead. Incidentally there are as many dodgy recipes online involving Camembert and cranberries as there are involving Brie and cranberries:
It was good but it wasn’t quite as good as I wanted it to be. Of course it wasn’t Brie, and maybe I needed to be in Paris, and surrounded by Rodin sculptures, but one thing that definitely wouldn’t have made the sandwich any better was cranberry sauce.
And speaking of Brie, there’s a story, apocryphal l suppose, that Henry IV of France was introduced to Brie by his queen, Margaret of Valois, known as Margot. He liked it so much that when he was tempted to visit his mistress Gabrielle d’Estrées, his wife offered him a slice of Brie and he stayed home. It was a hollow victory. Henry had the marriage to Margot annulled, as was the style at the time, because she couldn’t give him children. This is from the movie.