petite anglaise

November 30, 2004

crawling off the plate

Filed under: miam — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:39 pm

Well, I don’t suppose any of you thought I’d let another opportunity to talk about food pass me by. Especially cheese of the ‘akin to socks worn for ten days with trainers and athletes foot’ variety. I am nothing if not predictable.

To get to the kitchen from the bedroom in our apartment, one has to cross the living room, walk down a corridor, and turn to the left. It is 45 fairy steps from bed to fridge (I just checked – the Frog thinks it’s still the drugs). However when the Frog opens the fridge door, I can distinguish from my bed whether there is an unpasteurised Camembert Le Rustique skulking in there. Or perhaps a couple of goats cheeses lurking out of sight. The little egg shaped plastic thing which also lives in the fridge and claims to neutralise all forms of pong, whiff and odour remains powerless against the pungency of these cheeses. Emprisoning the cheese in a tupperware container works, but creates a ticking time bomb: it is advisable to wear goggles/nose-peg when you decide to liberate the contents.

The cheeses mentioned above are freely available in our local Franprix supermarket. Kept refrigerated, and securely wrapped in clingfilm. In a proper cheese shop, or at an outdoor market they are just sprawled out on a counter, and ooze merrily in all directions. I would probably be able to smell those in my fridge if I was collecting the post from my letterbox five storeys below.

Coming from a family of mild white (or red) Cheddar eaters, who might also treat themselves to a slab of Wensleydale with their Christmas cake, I think my palate has made considerable progress since living in France. It has been more of a slow progression than a sudden epiphany. First I learnt to appreciate cheeses similar to English and Dutch cheeses with which I was already familiar, like Cantal, Emmental and Swiss Gruyère. Later I was introduced to proper non-pasteurised Brie and Camembert during my year in Normandy. The family I stayed with had their cheeses on a platter in a cupboard, never in the fridge, and it all looked worse for wear when it emerged at mealtimes, tough outer crusts with lots of messy oozing in the middle. But once I got past the offputting pong and appearance there were some surprises in store. (Sometimes blocking my nose and letting my tastebuds continue unbiased helped.)

Traveling around France has also been a source of inspiration. On my regular trips to the Jura I have been initiated to regional cheeses: runny garlicy Cancaillotte, made in a factory where Mr Frog once had a holiday job, Morbier, Mont d’Or, nutty earthy Comté. I’m now also very partial to ewes milk cheese from the Basque region (Ossau Irraty, Etorki), and Brocciu from Corsica.

I do have my limits though. Green veined Roquefort I can handle. But anything which has a layer of festering mould on the outer skin, or that ressembles a sheeps dropping someone found at the back of the barn several months later is unlikely to meet with an enthusiastic response, no matter how good the glass of red that accompanies it. A cheese with worms crawling inside it is not making it onto my plate. (I didn’t make that up – read ‘Almost French‘.) I’m not much good when faced with washed rind cheeses. I just can’t get past the odour of the rind, I don’t care how good the innards are supposed to taste. So I don’t think the Vieux Boulogne (the cheese with the title ‘smelliest cheese’ was bestowed upon) would be my cup of tea.

Extract from the Guardian article by Patrick Barkham, “Smelliest Cheese Honour”, 26/11/04:

“The odour of rotting vegetables and the scent of a goat on heat wafted down Farringdon Road a full five minutes before the cheese strolled in the door. “It’s gone to the post room,” said the man in the courier hut. “It was smelling the place out.”

Unwrapped from its plastic covering the Vieux Boulogne sent an aroma of six-week-old earwax floating through the Guardian’s offices. From a safe distance of 50 metres, the cheese emitted a pleasant eau de farmyard, replete with dung and Barbour jackets. Close up, its firm orange flesh, flecked with a delicate mould, recalled varnish.”

However I might be willing to sample it for a price, especially as it is described as ‘a cure for winter colds’. How about I add a paypal button and when the price is right, I’ll broadcast the Vieux Bologne sampling fest via webcam?

I feel I have to warn you though, it might end up looking like the Jackass egg eating competition.


  1. Pour ce qui est des fromages qui rampent sur l’assiette, j’avoue que je ne suis pas tentée non plus!

    Comment by Jenny — November 30, 2004 @ 11:03 pm

  2. Ossau Iraty is marrrrvelous!

    Comment by srah — November 30, 2004 @ 11:09 pm

  3. If you haven’t had a chance, do try the St. Marcellin. It’s really lovely…

    Comment by Nigel M. — November 30, 2004 @ 11:45 pm

  4. yum yum yum …. we don’t have unpasteurised cheeses for sale in Oz … or they’re hard to get … i think the government thinks it’s doing us a favour :evil:

    anyway, that said, you can probably buy them at the farm gate in some areas.

    having grown up with goats (not literally – we ran up to 45 milking goats on our little farm in the country) … for odours ….. bugger the ‘little egg’ … go the BIG open pot of bicard soda, changed regularly … about the only thing that really works. Vanilla fridge wipe is good but sometimes the resulting combination of smells makes the original pong a preferred option! bonus of the bicard is that it’s a useful pipe clearer when you change it over by tipping it down the sink :smile:

    Comment by Miss Lisa — December 1, 2004 @ 12:37 am

  5. that would be BICARB not bicard … we had a stinking hot night last night (around 28 degrees C!) and I’m working on about 3 hours sleep :shock:

    Comment by Miss Lisa — December 1, 2004 @ 12:38 am

  6. Hey there. I’m a bonefide cheddar, feta, and maybe mozarella kind of gal. I’ve tried on several occasions to force myself into tryingg several more ‘sophisticated’ cheeses, but must admit defeat. The sad thing is that I am Dutch, we have cheese in our veins!

    Comment by Vanessa — December 1, 2004 @ 8:29 am

  7. I’ve just returned from a trip to the UK, and I honoured a friend’s request to bring a Munster Cheese (from the east of France). Having bought the little device wrapped in clingfilm, I then enclosed it in 3 supermarket carrier bags. It totally fumigated my fridge. So the next step was tupperware followed by a “garden waste” strength bin bag. This did the job for the transport phase (I couldn’t smell it from my seat on the plane), but I must remember to text my friend, as we had to banish the cheese to her garage, where it will be melting the tyres of her bike…
    The odd thing is how mild these strong-smelling cheeses frequently taste. Did you try a “Chaume” when in Normandy? When ripe, it has a smell akin to a dog’s home in summer.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — December 1, 2004 @ 9:54 am

  8. Csatherine took me to one of her local markets in Brittany they had cheese on display, all I could think was in this country “health and safety” would be on their case big time.

    Comment by Mike Da Hat — December 1, 2004 @ 10:20 am

  9. If you live by New York, Guillemette has a good plan for French Weapons of Fridge Destruction.

    Comment by tehu — December 1, 2004 @ 10:43 am

  10. I’ve tried and failed to eat and enjoy stinky cheese (pt also has its fair share, but nothing on the french scale as far as varieties go)… I just don’t get it…i do think machismo has a lot to do with it. things smell nasty for a reason, don’t they?

    Comment by vitriolica — December 1, 2004 @ 12:20 pm

  11. All cheese is rancid, but to a varying degree. I like lots of different cheeses, but when it smells like death, that’s nature trying to tell me not to eat it, I don’t care whether it’s considered “sophisticated” to do so…

    Having lived in France, I was coerced into trying various fetid substances, but for me, taste is bound up with smell, and I can’t separate the two.

    Comment by witho — December 1, 2004 @ 3:15 pm

  12. I see your Vieux Boulogne and raise you Stinking Bishop. Made somewhere in the West Country the rind is lovingly washed in Perry (pear cider) and develops a particularly pungent odour that, after transporting a portion from Twickenham to Chester, stank out the car for a week afterwards despite being securely wrapped.

    Comment by Andy Minshull — December 1, 2004 @ 3:33 pm

  13. Petite, I’m having trouble in DCity. Your opinion as well as those of your magnificent readers would be greatly appreciated. Will you read about my dilema and tell me what you think. I read your blog everyday and you have become a bit of a habit. I’m curious to know your take on the matter. Help. When there is trouble in DCity, there is trouble in my paradise. Sorry to raid your blog.

    Comment by M.J. — December 1, 2004 @ 5:01 pm

  14. You absolutely made my day. Thanks.

    Comment by M.J. — December 1, 2004 @ 7:40 pm

  15. Andy – you’re on

    but it’ll have to be quick because my nasal passages are clearing and I was counting on not actually being able to taste anything…

    in short, cheating.

    Comment by petite — December 1, 2004 @ 9:06 pm

  16. I’m with Vanessa there, although I have to know a fair bit more about cheese as it’s my job.

    The great bit about cheese I find is actually knowing the legends about how they were created. Lots of stories about French mountains and avoiding tax.

    It does have it’s advantages though – I answered 3 bonus questions on University Challenge the other night that were on Cheese.

    Well it’s important to me anyway.

    Comment by Watski — December 1, 2004 @ 10:29 pm

  17. I just discovered Reblechon (from Savoie, I think) which when runny can also double as smelling salts. Delicious.

    Comment by Anna — December 2, 2004 @ 6:04 am

  18. I talk about cheese on my blog too this week :smile:

    Apparently a UK university has made a study to determine which cheeses in the world are the smelliest.
    The first two are french cheeses :oops:

    Comment by sandrine — December 3, 2004 @ 8:27 pm

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