When it comes to cheese, Americans have a simple choice: swiss or cheddar. For French people, deciding which cheese to serve with dinner is a bit more complicated. Walk into any French Fromagerie and you'll see what I mean. The options seem endless! In fact, it has been said that in France there are as many variety of cheeses as there are days in the year. And you know what? I believe it. What's more, I think I might be well on my way to tasting each and every one of them.
I've eaten more varieties of cheese in the three months I've been in Paris than I had previously seen in my entire life. There have been creamy cheeses, dry cheeses, hard cheeses, soft cheeses and smelly cheeses. I've enjoyed cheese made from goat's milk, cow's milk and sheep's milk. I've tasted blue cheeses, yellow cheeses, white cheeses and cheeses that are bright orange. And of course there were the round cheeses, crumbly cheeses, cheeses cut into cubes and cheeses shaped like a slice of pie. I've seen it all; nothing shocks me anymore. If someone were to show me a neon pink cheese in the shape of the Eiffel Tower made from the milk of an elephant I wouldn't even blink.
I'm not a terribly picky eater, and I'll try any cheese at least once. This sense of adventure when it comes to tasting aged dairy products has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. Take last night for example, when, despite the smell, I tried a soft, yellow cheese with an orange casing that goes by the name of Langres. I wish I could have seen the look on my face after taking the first bite; this cheese was strong! I mean, burns-the-roof-of-your-mouth strong. It literally hurt to eat it. Well, it hurt me at least. The Frenchmen in our group didn't seem affected, but the other foreigner at the table reacted much in the same way I did. It's true that a lot of French cheeses are strong, but we both agreed that this one had gotten a little out of hand. Cheddar, anyone?