France // The Massif Central //

Laguiole: knives and cheese

Laguiole knives, which draw hordes of French to the town’s many shops, are characterized by a long, pointed blade and bone handle that fits the palm; the genuine article should bear the effigy of a bee stamped on the clasp that holds the blade open. The industry started here in the nineteenth century, then moved to industrial Thiers, outside Clermont-Ferrand, before returning in 1987. At this point, the Société Laguiole (the only outlet for the genuine article) opened a Philippe Starck-designed factory on the St-Urcize road, with a giant knife projecting from the roof of the windowless all-aluminium building. They have a shop on the main through-road, on the corner of the central marketplace (w http://www.forge-de-laguiole.com).

Laguiole’s cheesemaking tradition (w laguiole-online.com) dates back to the twelfth century; unpasteurized cow’s milk is formed into massive cylindrical cheeses, and aged up to eighteen months. To sample or buy, try the factory outlet on the north edge of town.