January 6th, 2005

Shoulda thought ahead

The seats that kill

On a whim, I bought two tickets to see Paris Combo tomorrow night at the Somerville Theater. What can I say? I have a weakness for French lounge music, and Belle du Berry('s voice) awakens rare and strange primal memories for me. Yes, I am that odd.

So all things considered, having tickets is great... except for the fact that what I read as "balcony row HH" (the first balcony row) was actually "balcony row MM." As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid the balcony at the Somerville because the seats there are spaced with the assumption that everyone - with the exception of those people seated in the comparatively luxurious row HH - has had both their legs lopped off below the knee. Princess Bing can back me up on this. The space between the edge of the seat and the back of the seat in front of you is, at best, an inch and a half. The world music crowd isn't much for standing through a whole show, either. The evening promises to be a balance between being transported by the music, and learning new ways to contort my hulking form into a space that was never meant for a real human being.

It's a different kind of suffering for art.
The Epicure

A proper palate

Recently, while he and I were talking as men do, Drew shared that he thought my ideal cheese would be one made from milk that had been harvested from cross-eyed goats by a club-footed dwarf - who may or may not have been with the Résistance in WWII - under the new moon in April, and which was then aged for 18 months in caves that had been used in paleolithic fertility rites. (I'll admit that I'm not remembering the finer details.) In spite of the hyperbole, he's right. I'm fascinated by food with story, especially when the story takes on something of a life of its own.

One such story was told at the first tasting I went to, about a French blue called Bleu de Termignon. According to the gentleman who introduced us to it, it's made by a 91 year-old woman in Alps from the milk of her nine cows. As legend has it, the cheese had changed significantly over the past decade as the woman aged because she no longer had the strength to hand-spike the wheels as deeply (which allows oxygen into the wheel to foster growth of the mold.) I've since learned that this story is a good 15-20 years old, and that in that time, the old woman and her nine cows have not aged one whit. Apparently, there are now several families with 100 or so cows that have taken to preserving this small-production cheese. Still, the story lives on.

cayetana passed on a book by Dorling Kindersley titled, simply, French Cheeses (which I love, btw... danke.) In it, the passage about Bleu de Termignon includes:

This is an outstanding cheese of great quality, a little fatty, natural and down-to-earth, made by just one woman in very limited quantities, in a chalet d'alpage. She keeps her nine cows high up in the National Park of Vanoise, where the animals feed on grass and flowers.

The book was revised and reprinted in 2000.

I've no doubt that the little old French woman really existed. I also have no doubt that the story will still be told 15-20 years from now. It's a legend that fires the imagination. I'll be the first to admit that I was taken by the fantasy of trekking off into the hills to study at the feet of this old woman and her nine cows so that her cottage tradition would not be lost. The story gave the cheese life, and that's as it should be.