When tastinga raclette with cheese made from raw cow's milk with a good glass of white wine, diners frequently ask where the expression "the nuns" comes from to designate the crust of the melted cheese that is served or not with the raclette au cheese (half wheel), according to each person's preference. But the term "religious" also refers to the cheese crust that forms at the bottom of the fondue pot.
A 1st hypothesis on the origin of the term "religious"
The expression "religious" is an appellation whose origin is difficult to define. It is important to note that this word, in this sense, is only used in Suisse Romande (French-speaking part of Switzerland) and in Savoie. In France, the term "religious" designates a pastry. Most books dealing with the history of cheese and raclette only explain it, without really justifying its origin. However, Jacques Montandon (TV presenter of a cooking show on the Swiss TV channel (TSR) in the 1960s) gives an anecdote in his books that could explain its origin.
According to him, the term "nuns" originated because when nuns visited their families in the early twentieth century, they asked them to set aside anything not used in the kitchen, such as cheese crusts. They would have used these for their gratin. Since their gratin had a better flavor thanks to these leftover cheeses, we began to eat regularly what had previously been reserved for the nun's plate.