Friday, September 27, 2013

Des Régions de Fromage

The last section of recipes in La Cuisine de Monsieur Momo is a mix of things that traditionally end dinner, whether that's a savory cheese dish or a sweet dessert. There's also a list of cheeses by region in France and other countries, giving the names and the dates that they're best eaten. I've made a note of those to add to my pile of cheese papers, thinking that possibly it will be useful if and when I finally do something cheese-related here in France. I'm particularly interested in seeing if any of the cheeses that were listed back in 1930 have disappeared off the culinary scene, because it would be fun to try and track them down and see when and why they stopped being made. A million projects, but neither a million months nor a million dollars to accomplish them.

Since the savories all had cheese and the sweets all used flour, I didn't make any of them, though the more devoted bakers might find it worth while to do some gluten- and dairy-free substitutions. There's the recipe for pets de nonnes, or "nun's farts," which are deep-fried balls of sweetened puff pastry flavored with citrus, and another recipe from the same convent of Notre-Dame du Verdelais in the Gironde, for "the serpent of the convent," using essentially the same dough for a baked spiral decorated with almond scales and currant eyes.

Other random recipes at the end of the book were more alcoholic, including one in which you steep a pound of garlic in a litre of port wine for twenty days, a remedy for chronic bronchitis (or at least the kind that's caught by close proximity to other people). And there are four fake recipes at the end: for grilled locusts as eaten by John the Baptist; for holy saints roasted alive according to ancient tradition; for "Cauliflower With Shit, warmly dedicated to Frédéric Masson of the Académie française" (who is also described as a "nodophage" which would be [something]-eater, but I can't figure out what) which only says, "Choose the biggest cauliflower of all ..."; and the final recipe, titled "? ? ?" which says, "Mysterious. We will never know what it is. God only revealed the knowledge of this to his prophet, who didn't say anything about it. This recipe will therefore always remain unknown to the rest of us mortals."

I tasted a few of the sheep cheeses at the Shepherd's Festival last weekend, finishing up (after a long day of selling charcuterie and taking pictures and trying to stay out of the hot hot sun) with a largish wedge of what might have been a mixed sheep- and cow's-milk cheese, because, whether it was due to the size of the sample (slightly more than one ounce, I think) or the type of milk, or something else entirely, like the lactose powder used to help cure the dried sausages I was both selling and nibbling on that weekend, my digestive system was completely shot to hell, and I spent two days this week regretting whatever it was I'd done or eaten that caused it. I know, I keep trying to deny the dairy-freeness of my life now, but it's so hard here in France sometimes, surrounded by all of the fresh and aged goodness. My mouth waters just thinking about cheese. And let's not even start on the clouds of wonderful aromas that I walk through almost every day passing by one of the several bakeries in town. And yet there are so many things I love about living in France that it's worth it, in the end.

On Monday I'll meet with the program secretaries and the other students to complete the registration process and find out whether I've been sponsored by the regional agricultural counsel and will be getting money every month in return for the weeks of work I'll be doing making sausage from September to June, or whether I'll be doing all the work for free. I hope it's the former. I hope I get to make cheese someday soon again. And I hope to someday give up hoping that I can eat cheese again as well ...

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