Dec 24, 2013

I'm on Fire! (No, Really): Boucanier Chèvre Fumé


On Christmas Eve, we cross the Seine, walking past Notre Dame, where barriers and an exterior video screen have been set up to accommodate the expected influx for Christmas Eve midnight mass. Instead, we opt for a 6pm mass at Eglise St. Severin, a 13th century church on the Rive Gauche side. I cannot resist snapping photos of the candlelight service, especially since they present the first live nativity play I've ever seen. It's not just in movies! It turns out that Gigi and Pippa's classmates are in it, playing Mary and shepherds. Jesus is played by a real live baby -- a very calm little girl in a tutu.

During the service, the priests hand out votive candles to all the children for a parade through the aisles of the church -- not just the actors from the nativity scene children, but all children attending.

Some of the parents are accompanying the children, and of course I want to be one of them so I can get photos from different angles. As they start handing out real, lit candles to four-year olds in a very crowded parade of children and a packed church, I think, "They would never do this in the States. It's got to be too dangerous. I just hope Gigi doesn't catch her long hair on fire." As a reader, with the benefit of foreshadowing, you see what's coming, of course. But in the church, I don't. Twenty seconds after I have this thought, I simultaneously smell the unmistakable stink of burning hair and feel the boy behind me swatting at my head.

A sizeable chunk of my hair is burnt, to about 7 or 8 inches up from the bottom. My friends assure me it is not noticeable at all. I'm not sure which is worse: having my hair incinerated or finding out that my hair always looks like it's been incinerated. I mean, what does that say about my normal hairstyle -- that literally lighting it afire makes no discernible difference? Other than the smell, that is: My friend Fabrice calls the new scent "Eau d'Enfer No. 5." ("Enfer" meaning "hell.")

My friends and I originally decide that it may be God punishing me either for being Jewish attending mass or, more likely, for being Jewish attending mass and taking photos throughout the ceremony. However, upon reflection, I decide that it cannot be that: if God really wanted to punish me, He would corrupt all my digital photo files. Instead, I think it must mean that God is a huge fan of my blog. And He just wants to contribute His own little anecdote.
THE CHEESE: Boucanier Chèvre Fumé
Boucanier Chèvre Fumé, is as the name suggests, a goat milk cheese -- raw in this case. And the word "fumé" means smoked. Think of the difference between turkey and smoked turkey, or ham and smoked ham. Closer to home in the cheese world, you might have tasted both a Gouda and smoked Gouda. If that's the case, you'll know that the smoking process changes the flavor drastically. The Boucanier is smoked with beech wood, and while I can't identify the type of tree without asking, there's no missing the fact that it's smoked.

I want to describe it to you as the exact size and shape of an onigiri, but then I will have to explain what an onigiri is (for those who've lived in Japan, you know it's a little rice triangle snack). Looking for something more universally helpful, let's say it's about the size of a deck of cards -- if your deck of cards were triangular, and shaped like an onigiri.

This goat cheese comes from Sisteron in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence; you can just picture the mountain goats cavorting happily, and that comes through in the taste. Between the smoky-goaty flavor, and the super-creamy texture, it's highly unusual and addictive. I would have expected the kids to be turned off by what I perceive as an "adult flavor", but even our girls love it. Our family would probably argue over the last bits, except that the whole triangle is gone so fast, we don't even have time to quibble.
Why is this cheese kept under a jar lid in the store? To contain the intensely smoky smell.
In the case of a Boucanier Chèvre Fumé, I love the smokiness, so instead of Eau d'Enfer, it smells to me like Eau de Paradis. Though I still wouldn't want to actually wear it. This smoky aroma is much better on the cheese than on my hair.


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