So for some reason, cheese scares me. Subsequently, as a long-term sufferer of fromagophobia (the Greeks shared my affliction and named it so), I have, over the years, found myself having numerous close encounters of the churned kind. Not churned like butter, but churned as in my stomach at the thought of congesting its not-too-distant relative: cheese.
Most phobias have their roots in some sort of childhood trauma; hence it follows that as a child I must have also had some sort of horrible experience with cheese. Perhaps I was routinely force-fed Roquefort following a display of teenage petulance, or maybe my arch-rival at playgroup was a purveyor of all things Parmesan: I don’t know. I do, however, remember my father stinking out the fridge on numerous occasions with some mutilated form of what I was come to learn was this weird “cheese” thing, and similarly I recall said parental figure slyly seasoning meals with a smoked variety of the stuff, leading to many a Gannon lunchtime becoming somewhat a traumatic affair.
Alright, I’ll cut the dramatics. I’m not one of those weirdos that you see on the TV that can’t be in the same room as pillows or paperclips. In fact, there are some cheeses that I love. Take cheddar, for example. I could talk your ear off about the stuff – as any former housemate of mine will testify, for me, a meal isn’t complete until I’ve grated half a block of the stuff on top of it. But cheddar is a wimpy cheese. It’s for complete fromagophobes in denial like me, who claim to indulge in a bit of the stuff now and then, but shy away from its more flavoursome and colourfully-named counterparts, such as Stinking Bishop. In fact, I am so wimpy when it comes to cheese that anything but mild cheddar was off the cards for me until a few years ago when a fleeting sense of rebellion lead me to try a Babybel on a whim. I have nothing against Dutch or Italian cheeses either. But Gouda, Edam, Mozzarella: I love you all but you’re hardly major players on the cheese front. What really makes me tremble is the big boys – the French cheeses.
I make no apologies for this aversion to weird-looking, smelly cheese – fromagophiles (also a Greek term) often cite the odour of a cheese as being indicative to its quality. Nonsense, I say! Indeed, being within noseshot of the most pungent of cheeses is reminiscent of the Jesters dancefloor combined with Montezuma’s Revenge ; hardly the most mouth-watering of testimonies. Yes, I have concluded that is not I, but they, who is crazy. Nonetheless, a move to France demands that one integrates with the social norms of the culture, and so surely it is time I rid myself of this cheese-related affliction.
Interestingly, I’m in a part of the country that claims to “not be big on cheese”, but given that France boasts something like 300 varieties of the stuff, it’s fair to say that even self-declared fromage-free zones are still pretty cheese-tastic. As such, the problem needs to be tackled head on. So here’s what I’m going to do to overcome my fromagophobia. Every week I will choose a different French cheese to buy and sample from Rennes’ massive-ass Saturday market, Marché des Lices. I will write my thoughts on the cheese, judging it on various criteria, such as texture, flavour and stinkiness. Every few weeks or so, I will round-up the recent cheese-proceedings with a post here to give you the news, and let you know that I’ve survived another round of “cultural immersion”.
The experiment has already begun. Admittedly, I began with a fromage that I already know and love, fearing that should I choose a cheese too zany right off the bat, I might be forced to retreat from France flailing my arms in horror above my head in a fit of fromage-induced hysteria. So, when I next do a cheese update, you can read my thoughts on the ever dependable brie, and two or three more cheeses that by then I will have already sampled, and either savoured or vomited back up.
That’s it for now folks!
P.S. I will try to finish my France vs. Mexico comparison (see post 005) soon. Life of a lecteur, it’s a busy one, y’know!
P.P.S. If anyone has any recommendations of French cheeses they liked or disliked, but think I should incorporate into this fromagefest, veuillez let me know!