Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Je suis desolée…c’est le fromage!

 Or…I’m sorry,  it’s the cheese!

This is a public apology. And apology to all my visitors who have made the trip already, as well as to those who plan to come and visit me here in France in the days to come.  There’s nothing I can do about this grave problem, I can’t change the fact that it exists…nor do I really want to, but I need to express my contrition.

The problem…. is… the cheese. First of all, while I’m begging forgiveness, I must apologize to all the milk producers and cheese makers in my home states of Wisconsin and Minnesota before I say this…but…the cheese in France is the bomb! It is said that there are enough varieties of French cheese to try a new one each day of the year, but in fact, that’s false. According the French milk producers web site, there are more than 1000 varieties of cheese in this country. Cheese is made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk and it is often covered with mold or filled with mold, which adds to it’s flavor.  Much of the cheese is non-pasteurized which is why Americans cannot buy many varieties of “real” French cheese. It is against the law to sell it in the United States.

Cheese is revered here. Not only are there 8 separate “families” of cheese, there are actually “protected” cheeses and cheeses with special appellations…. like wine…which is also revered. We have fresh cheese, pressed cheese, soft cheese, unpasteurized aged cheese, northern cheeses, southern cheese, cheese wrapped in leaves or covered in ashes, artisanal cheeses...and yes, even cheese squares wrapped in plastic (quelle horreur!)

We eat soft, fresh cheeses as spreads or in a bowl with a little sugar or fruit as you would eat yogurt for dessert. We use cheese in cooking, to make a lovely sauce or to make a gratin of potatoes or vegetables. But most importantly, we follow every dinner with the cheese course. This comes before dessert and though I thought it was strange and a little bit of overkill when I first got here, I now always save room for it and am disappointed when it’s not served for some reason.

And like good wine, it can be the subject of conversation around the dinner table. I was at a dinner party a couple of weeks ago, and the subject of conversation at the table was the fabulous and most horrible smelling cheese that we were going to be served after dinner. The host had found it in Corsica, and was so excited for us to try it…. and smell it. It was exquisite, by the way.

Which leads me the subject at hand. My visitors have been subjected to the odor of French cheese, over and over. I always insist on taking some bread and cheese in the car when we travel. The ensuing smell isn’t too much for me and though I notice it, it is more of an appetite stimulant than anything. But my sister threatened to upchuck the first time she opened the car door after we had left the cheese inside. She insisted that she wouldn’t be able to eat something that smelled like…. well, let’s just say...excrement, although she didn’t use that word!

“Oh it does not, Jennie! Get over it!”

My youngest son, although he loved the taste of the cheese, was just as repulsed. He was a little kinder but a similar sentence slipped from his mouth.

“I’m sorry to tell you this mom, but your refrigerator smells like…excrement” (not his exact word either)!

I kept insisting it wasn’t that bad and that he needed to just get used to it. I poo- pooed him (no pun intended).

My oldest son was not even nice about it.

“ GEEZ MOM, what’s that horrible smell? It smells like …excrement!  (We’ve established that this was not the  word used). I can’t stand it!”

I had an especially ripe Munster in the fridge at the time. When I told him it was cheese, he couldn’t believe it.

 “You really eat something that smells like that? No WAY! Shut the fridge! Throw it away!”

I told him yes, I eat it and you will too. It’s not so bad. It tastes completely different than it smells.

In spite of all my chastising and insistence that he try it…he just couldn’t get it past his nose.l (he’s always had a sensitive sniffer). And I made fun of him and his obviously over-sensitive snout.

So last night, I smelled cheese. I was surprised because when my son was here he had insisted that I cover all the cheese or put it in a plastic bag (I told him this is not good for the cheese…it needs to breath…but I accommodated him). The smell of cheese got stronger and I couldn’t figure out why. I checked the refrigerator for uncovered cheese.  I tested the zip-locks on the bags and the seal on the Glad Press-n-Seal. All were in perfect working order. Nope, no holes in the bags either. I thought I must have dropped some and searched all over the kitchen for a runaway hunk of fromage. No luck.  I finally decided maybe a neighbor had purchased some particularly intense cheese and it's odor had just permeated my apartment. I let it go at that.

Until I was on the floor trying to find a pen I had dropped. I was searching for it around the cat box. The smell of cheese became especially strong. I looked in the cat box and saw that the cat had deposited a fresh crotte. And with my nose in the cat box, I realized….at that moment… that in fact, no matter how much I love it,  no matter how much I reprimand and ridicule my visitors for their obvious lack of taste and refinement, no matter how much I hate to admit it...French cheese really does smell like shit!



  1. Mlle. ChaussetteJune 16, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    oh that was too too funny!!!

  2. There is now coffee all over my keyboard !!! I made the mistake of taking a drink just as I read the end of your blog and was not cognizant of that sip as I BURST into laughter! Thanks for brightening up my day. Have to run now and see who is away from their desk so I can swap out my keyboard unnoticed.. ;)

  3. That was super....but I bet you only laughed about it saome time after clearing the cat box...

    Get your fussy eaters to try the Durian more complaints about the cheese after that.

  4. All this talk of cheese has me heading to my fridge to find some -- but it will be delicious smelling Colby from Wisconsin. Delana, I can't wait to come eat smelly cheeses with you. ;-)

    P.S. Amen to the comment about durian -- I can't imagine anything worse.

  5. Too funny, but so true! The cheese in France is the best. Entire meals and get togethers are planned around it. I must go back to FRANCE!!!

  6. Cheese glorious cheese! Your relatives must have thought that France was a very smelly country indeed, especially if you wandered in front of any cheese shops or cheese stalls in markets... I love the wiff of cheese you get as you walk past.

    Ah, cat's pooh! You must have cheese loving cats... My cats love eating cheese but I can't say I've smelt ours (I let Hubby deal with that). Have you ever thought that cat wee smells like eucalyptus? Whenever I drive any where with eucalyptus trees I start searching the car for cat wee but then I remember!

    I did not know that unpasturized cheese was not allowed in the US, that seems like crazy to me. Just think of all the cheeses that everyone is missing out on :( I have certainly learned something today :)

    I now fancy some bread & cheese with a glass of red wine... shame I'm on a diet!

  7. Hi Delana

    Thank you for joining in my waterside link up. Very pleased to have discovered your lovely blog.

  8. Yes, cheese. I'm sometimes blown away by how 'fragrant' cheese is here.

    Just last week, D opened the little container where 5 different cheeses were kept. I didn't see him open it but the first thought that went through my mind was "what's that 'excrement' I'm smelling?" Then I saw the container.

    In 2008, while in Epernay, we stopped at a bakery for lunch. We decided to share a fougasse. Later, as we headed through Alsace, we kept smelling this 'excrement' but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. About 3 hours later we realized that some cheese from the fougasse had fallen on my shirt and was cause of the recurring 'excrement' odour!

    I love cheese!

  9. Holly, it's funny..but true isn't it? Now you've returned to your french refrigerator and it's lovely smell.

    Vickels-I'm glad you got a laugh...sorry 'bout that there keyboard!

    Fly-yep. I immediately forgot about the pen and concentrated on cleaning the cat box. What is Durian Fruit?

    JoAnna- you've got a birthday coming up, no?

    Suzie-Am I the ONLY one that doesn't know about Durian Fruit?

    MAWB- yes, you must come back to France. Now that you've got that beautiful son all graduated.

    Piglet-Is that eucalyptus? I often smell cat pee when I'm walking by gardens and have wondered. As for bread, cheese and wine....I'm sure there's a diet out there that includes all these major food groups. I mean come on, that's your dairy, grains and fruit, right there.

    Sharon- and I, yours. Thanks for stopping in.

    Tanya-I love cheese too. THAT is my favorite aisle in the grocery store...but it's better at the market.

  10. Dear Delana,

    I do have a birthday happening, tomorrow. Thanks for remembering! Love my birthdays!


  11. That was so funny, Delana.

    I must say that because of the WW regime our days of having cheese at home have passed. When we go to a restaurant I will still treat myself to a cheese course and I do very occasionally buy a little pack of the Roquefort triangles.

    There are many cheeses here that I adore but some of them do make the fridge smell disgusting. Is your 'cat' experience going to put you off having them any more?

  12. Hi Delana
    yep, I'm pretty sure its the Eucalyptus - when we go to Portugal we always drive through a forest of these and the smell is just horrific (i have two cats so am unfortunately am very familiar with the smell). we've noticed the smell each time we are near one, so am convinced its that.

    I love cheese too!!

  13. Durian is a tropical first encounter was in Soho in London when I was shopping and this thing started clutching at my throat....the stall holder had cut a durian for another shopper.
    I was so damned nosy I had to have a piece too and it was wonderful....

  14. I DO miss the cheese, smells and all! Enjoy your lovely, smelly, un-pasteurized cheese Delana!

  15. Funny! I am still chuckling over your son's reaction. I like strong smelling cheese, too, but I've noticed that it makes the refrigerator smell like it needs a good cleaning. My daughter attended an international school, and developed a taste for 'strong smelling' cheese from her classmates.

    Just a couple of days ago, my husband said he would not eat cheese with mold on it! I told him that mold was important for the flavoring of cheese (my grandma was French...I guess she must have taught my mom that bit of cheese wisdom!)I have to forward this article to him so he can change his point of view.
    Love the car bit, too, your sister's reaction made me laugh out loud. Your aside comments (in parentheses) were extremely entertaining!
    Ps I wonder if the cat ate a bit of cheese?

  16. I can actually HEAR your voice as you say that!

    You're going to miss a lovely Avalon Reunion on July 17th - you're in France, so you don't care, but it won't be the same without you.


Talk to me!