Dec 26, 2013

Sprink and a Ding Dong Ding: Saint Nicolas


Saint Nicolas -- full name Saint Nicolas de la Dalmerie -- is made in a Greek Orthodox monastery about 85km west of Montpellier, in the Languedoc region of central-southern France. The monastery of Saint Nicolas has been in the hamlet of la Dalmerie since 1965. The monks keep a herd of goats and transform all of the milk that they produce into this lovely cheese, dedicated to Saint Nicolas, an icon in the Byzantine tradition.

It's luxurious, creamy, and scented with thyme and rosemary, which explains the green thyme sprig that comes on top. The herbiness is not just for show; it subtly infuses the flavor. It's creamy in a firm way, and melts in the mouth. Saint Nicolas is a delightful, delicious gift of a cheese.


Pippa wakes up completely excited and rarin' to unwrap her presents. Unfortunately, it is 11:30pm, Christmas Eve. She catches me at the computer and Anthony cleaning up. The presents are all under the tree, the stockings are filled, and Pippa catches us in flagrante delicto (go ahead, look it up, it doesn't have to refer to sex...), preparing for Christmas morning. She tells us she's awake because she heard footsteps on the roof (which is four stories above us) and the "'sprink of a magic sprinkle from Santa Claus." So we think up a lie, and we think it up quick: it is well after midnight, and we too were woken up by the "sprink." We've gotten out of bed to check the online Santa Tracker. Fully appeased, she goes back to bed.

What's amazing is that our story is backed up by the Santa Tracker, which is run by the indisputably reliable NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. For those who don't know, Santa Tracker lets you follow the course of Santa during his delivery route on Christmas Eve through modern satellite technology. When we wake up, we can go online and see what time he came through Paris, and watch live as he makes his way through San Francisco, nine hours behind us. On our first Christmas in our apartment, we replay the Paris portion and see something amazing: The magic in each city opens with a realistic graphic of a snowflake dropping and touching down. In Paris, it drifts down past the towers of Notre Dame and touches down on our balcony. We replay it over and over, and it's clear that's where it lands. Pippa looks both smug and delighted, "I knew I heard a magic sprink!"

Santa flies over Paris at some point, but it couldn't be midnight on the dot. The bells ring here for fifteen solid minutes: Not just every bell of Notre Dame, but also the bells of the dozen other churches within spitting distance. Basically, churches here are like Starbucks in the U.S.: one on every block, sometimes two right across from each other. Around our apartment, we have Eglise St.Gervais and Eglise St. Paul on the Rive Droite side of the isles; Eglise St. Nicolas du Chardonnet and Eglise St. Julian le Pauvre on Rive Gauche; and both Eglise St. Louis-en-L'ile and of course Cathédral de Notre Dame in the middle.

It is an impressive display of bell ringing, in surround sound, and the biggest Christmas miracle is that it seems more melodious than cacophonous. But still, let's just say we're amazed that Pippa could hear the magic sprink over all the ruckus. Poor Santa. I hope he wears ear muffs.


It's Saint Nicolas cheese, and a story about Santa. Do I really have to spell it out for you?


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