Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just The French Way

One of the most alluring things about Paris, and I can imagine that most would agree, is the magnificent cuisine. It is not fair to merely call it food. There, it seems to be the eb and flow of life. The daily ritual of waiting in line to get a fresh baguette in the morning or the leisurely lunch at a side street cafe speaks to the Parisian way of life. Whether it be a tiny crock of yogurt or a splendid plat du jour, it is always cuisine. This is just the French way.

I grew up in a home where there was "just the French way." Food was not just food. And that especially applied to cheese. You see, my father's mother was French. Her parents had met on a dairy farm just outside of Paris. I am inclined to say that there just may be something in the genetic structure for the love of cheese, for my father was simply a cheese snob. Rightfully so, I guess, for the grandson of a French dairy farmer.

There was a ritual that took place when it came to cheese. My father would carefully buy his cheese at the local gourmet market; sniffing, touching and tasting before the grand selection. It was always imported, thus making it a small piece of stinky treasure. Nobody, but NOBODY was allowed to touch his cheese. And even more sacred than the cheese was his cheese slicer which had a sleek olive wood handle. Slicing always took place sitting down at the kitchen table, each slice carefully shaved off from the top if it were a hard cheese and down the sides if were a soft cheese. Father always would know if someone had snuck into the cheese because he wrapped it so carefully, and he sliced it with precision. And, if ever for some reason his cheese slicer went missing, or even worse ended up in the dish washer....well....it might as well be to the guillotine with you!

As I got older I grew to appreciate my father's love for good cheese. Some of my favorite memories as an adult were spent sharing slices of brie and talking about life. Now that I have my own family, I have a little boy who loves cheese; imported cheese. Every time I make my little guy a sandwich with munster or boursin I wonder what grand-pere Jean Pierre would think about his great great grandson learning to love cheese in "just the French way."

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