Monday, July 19, 2004
Cheese and sex
If you met someone who told you that they thought food and cuisine weren’t very important in French life, what would you think? I’d think they were either joking, or had come from a parallel universe where the France cook like the English, and where the English make music like the French.
Well this weekend the impossible happened - I met a French guy who wasn’t joking, who didn’t come from a parallel universe, and who tried to convince me that cuisine wasn’t very important in French life.
I find it literally impossible to think of France without thinking of food. Food is everywhere and in everything.
I mean, the universally used ‘Restaurant’ and ‘Café’ are both French words. The ‘Michelin Star’ is the benchmark measurement for restaurant quality applied all over the world. The love of food runs so deep that French noses have even evolved to be larger than other noses in order to be able to smell the food and wine better. What was that guy talking about?!
Food isn’t just an obsession here, it’s a religion. You may think that I am overstating the case a bit, so to prove my point let me tell you the tale of Roquefort cheese, as it was told to me by the artisans who make this pungent blue favourite.
In the beginning there was the sea. Over millions of years a thick layer of sedimentary rock was created from the bones of dinosaurs and fish who swarmed across the planet in ignorance of the glory of cheese.
When the sea eventually receded the mountains of the Tarn Gorges were revealed in their majesty, but a sudden disaster struck the earth and the they were shaken by a great earthquake. When the dust had settled the mountains of Tarn found that they had been fortunate and had held strong without collapsing. They had however, been cracked and fractured by all the vigorous shaking.
In the warm breezes of summer, the jagged fissures that had been formed by the quake allowed life-bringing drafts to blow deep into the depths of the mountain, where in the altered microclimate a special type of bacteria was born.
Eventually humans settled in the area, and slowly over time figured out how to make boring normal cheese from the milk of ewes. One day, while casting a watchful eye over his flock from the shelter of cave mouth, a young shepherd boy spied a beautiful maiden frolicking in the grass on her way home. Smitten, he immediately followed her, leaving his flock behind on the hill and his lunch behind in the cave.
Although the story doesn’t go into the details of what exactly those two got up to, the shepherd must have been gone for some time.
When he finally returned to his flock he was exhausted and had a craving hunger. He remembered that he had left his lunch behind in the cave. In the open cave mouth he found his parcel of cheese. This was not the same cheese he had left behind however. This cheese had mutated and grown a covering of blue mold. Being unable to contain his hunger he took a bite, and thus was discovered the first ever Roquefort cheese.
So whenever you take a little nibble of some Roquefort, just remember that you are not only eating – you are participating in the creation of the earth, the birth of a species, and the timeless magic of sexual passion.
You don’t get that from a plate of Fish and Chips.
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