Google Doodle Celebrates Marie Harel, the Inventor of Camembert Cheese

On what would have been her 256th birthday, Friday's Google Doodle honors Marie Harel, the inventor of Camembert cheese.

The story of one of France's most popular cheeses goes back to 1791, when Harel was a 30-year-old dairymaid in Vimoutiers in Normandy, northern France.

Legend has it that a priest from the northern region of Brie fleeing the anti-clerical French Revolution that was sweeping the country, took shelter near Vimoutiers and taught Harel how to make the soft cheese famous in his home region.

Harel added her own twist on the recipe, making her Camembert cheese in smaller wheels and without added cream. She also packaged the finished product in thin, round, wooden containers that have become an international icon.

Camembert became a firm fixture in French culture after wheels of the cheese were issued to soldiers fighting in World War I. Harel's famous container also made Camembert ideal for transporting across the Atlantic, where it found a new stateside following.Google's Doodle features a slideshow illustrating how the cheese is made, step by step.


Marie Harel: Who was the inventor of Camembert cheese and how did she do it?

Marie Harel was a cheese maker who, alongside Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust, is attributed with creating camembert cheese. Now, Ms Harel is being featured on the Google Doodle on what would have been her 256th birthday. 

According to legend, Ms Harel, a then 30-year-old dairymaid from Vimoutiers, Normandy, was taught how to make the cheese by a priest, Mr Bonvoust, who was fleeing the anti-clerical French Revolution.

She apparently made some slight adaptations to the recipe, removing cream, making them in smaller wheels and also packaging the cheese in thin round wooden containers.

This container is partly the reason why the cheese became so popular, making it perfect to transport across the Atlantic.

It was given to French soldiers in their iron rations during World War I.

Ms Harel's work initiated a dynasty of entrepreneurial cheese makers, including her grandson Cyrille Paynel, who produced camembert on a large scale.

Another one of her decendents, Thomas Paynel, apparently met Napoleon III and offered him the cheese. Napoleon was so impressed with the taste he made Mr Paynel the official furnisher of camembert to the French emperor.

Ms Harel died aged 83 and a statue of her can be seen in her home town of Vimoutiers.

Who is Marie Harel? Google Doodle celebrates the cheesemaker who invented Camembert

Marie Harel was born on April 28 1761 and is credited with inventing Camembert cheese in a commune of Northern France now known as Camembert.

Today’s Google Doodle slideshow features a charming cartoon showing Marie Harel and three cows making and then eating Camembert together. 

The Google Doodle webpage said: “If not for Marie Harel, born April 28, 1761, brie might have no gooey counterpart.

“Harel, who’s credited with creating the first Camembert in 1791, is said to have encountered a cheese whisperer at the Normandy manor where she worked as a dairymaid.

“According to legend, a priest (purportedly from the region of Brie) took shelter at Beaumoncel near Vimoutiers during the French Revolution, and he shared his secret for making the now-famous soft-centered cheese.

“Harel added her own signature, packaging the cheese in its iconic wooden boxes.

“Like brie, Camembert is made from raw cow’s milk, but without cream. The cheese is yellow in colour, with an earthy aroma, creamy taste, and an edible white rind.

“Today, only Camembert made from unpasteurized milk receives the designation Camembert de Normandie." 

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