Dec 2, 2013

Bonjour, With Feeling: Chevre Madame


Chevre Madame is a creamy, lightly goaty beauty about the length of a hand, aged a few weeks. It tastes as delicious as it looks, with a  flavor in the family, at least, of other better-known ash-coated goat cheeses like Sainte-Maure de Touraine or Selles-sur-Cher. But this one is not in the encyclopedia, nor is it easy to find online. The reason is that, like Saint-Clément, it's made only by a very small producer, and sold only in very select stores.

This cheese is absolutely not to be confused with the American made Madame-Chevre, which is an all-white, very cream-cheesy log.

THE STORY: Bonjour, With Feeling

I pride myself on having some manners, some class (not much, but some -- give me that). After a lifetime of living in the US, I feel like I've done my duty when I respectfully approach the saleslady and say, "Excuse me. Can you please tell me where I could find the games for 8 year old?" At which point, here in Paris, the lady will give me a supercilious stare and say, pointedly, "Bonjour, Madame...." Ah yes. So I restart, "Bonjour, Madame. Excuse me. Can you please tell me.....?" Sure enough, the haughty stare is replaced by a polite smile. And if I actually remember to start with the "Bonjour, Madame," I am treated to first class, all-smiles service from the first moment.

It's not just salesladies. I have the same reaction from police officers. "Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to...." And then the man-in-blue addresses me with the pointed  "Bonjour, Madame...."

I have heard the teachers correct even small children, upon their arrival at school, when they fail to say "Bonjour" to their teachers. And when they leave, they are chastised, gently, when they forget to say "Au revoir, Maîtresse."

And walking in to a store, browsing, and leaving -- all without saying hello and goodbye to the salesperson -- is simply the height of rudeness. So the secret to good service -- and good manners -- when in France is to greet somebody first with a hearty Bonjour Madame or Monsieur.

[*ED NOTE: POST-PUBLICATION ADDITION TO THIS POSTING....As if to prove my point, after this is published I see a piece in the national news about a small café in Southern France that has posted this sign:]


It's all in the name, but it's OK if you don't address this cheese by its title.


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