These Locked-Down French Monks Need to Sell More Than 4,000 Pounds of Surplus Cheese

Cîteaux Abbey put its cheese online and hoped for a miracle.

Photo: Sylvain GRANDADAM / Contributor/Getty Images

We've lost track of how many times we've started a paragraph with the words "in normal times," but in normal times we wouldn't have typed that phrase this often. And, in normal times, the monks at the Cîteaux Abbey in Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteau, France would be selling its coveted raw milk cheese to restaurants throughout the country or to visitors who come to the monastery to experience more than 1,000 years of history (no, really) and almost 100 years of cheesemaking experience.

But since restaurants in France have been largely closed since the end of October, the 19 Trappist monks who live at the abbey have been sharing their space with about 4,000 extra wheels of cheese, a surplus that adds up to around 2.8 tons of uneaten dairy products. "We tried explaining to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk but they don't seem to have understood," brother Jean-Claude said, according to The Guardian. "Our sales are down nearly 50 [percent]. We need to clear out our stock."

In an attempt to give themselves (and their cheeses) a little space, the monks partnered with a website that sells nothing but products produced by abbeys and monasteries and hoped for a miracle. Last week, the cheeses went on sale through Divine Box and they set a goal of selling 2,000 pounds of cheese by Monday evening.

Whether it was divine intervention, good marketing, or just their award-winning cheese, within 24 hours customers had pre-ordered more than 2,006 kilograms (4,420 pounds) of the abbey's Reblochon-style cheese.

That has to be a huge relief for the monks, who seemed a little overwhelmed by their situation just a few days ago. "Normally we turn down orders," Jean-Claude told AFP last week. "We are sold in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Dubai."

Let's all hope that this time next year, the Cîteaux Abbey monks are carefully packing up their cheeses and sending them all over the world—and delivering them to wide-open French restaurants that are no longer under early evening curfews and are welcoming customers again. You know, things might even be the way they were in normal times.

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