Jan 3, 2014

Cake & Pain: Le Lingot


Cake & Pain is a headline announcing neither food poisoning nor a sudden affliction of gluten-intolerance. Actually, it is the name of a cafe/bakery I once saw in Japan, and I have always loved it as the ultimate example demonstrating the problems of mixing languages and, in that case specifically, French and English. As you start to read the sign, your brain automatically recognizes "cake" as an English word and wants to continue on. Then you find yourself saying "pain" and only after the meaning sinks in do you realize they meant to advertise bread, not agony.

Well, hello franglais. Enchanté and nice to meet you. When I was here in 1987 as a camp counselor (one month near Biarritz, exchange program during college), the Académie française, the government-appointed body created in 1635 for the purpose of defining and protecting the French language, was waging a war to keep French pure and unpolluted by English. You can easily see as you walk the streets here that that battle was long ago lost (or won, I suppose, if you do in fact want the English language to conquer the world. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaa -- evil world-domination laugh). There is English on signage everywhere, and more than that, even native French speakers speak a kind of franglais with each other.

For the first month or so, every time one of the girls would seem like they were about to run into a road without looking, I would yell, "Arrêtez!" I was the only idiot out there screaming that, because all the French people were yelling to their children to "Stop!" I've asked French people about this and they shrug -- never having given it much thought. "Well, it's just quicker to say it in English." As if to prove my point, in our Mille Bornes game, every card is in French, except for the "Stop" card.

The classic example is "le weekend." If you try to say "la fin de la semaine," ("the end of the week"), you will probably get corrected. I am also the only idiot using the term "courriel" when all the French are not only sending "email," I've even heard them conjugating it like a French verb: j'email, tu emails, il/elle/on email, nous emailons, vous emailez, ils/elles emailent. Needless to say, virtually all words computer-related come from English (surfer l'internet, le blog, le software, le smartphone...) except, ironically, "computer," which is "ordinateur."

But it's not just technology. It's also words about style, food, and daily living. Examples are everywhere and, often, mixed in quite naturally with French. Sitting at my breakfast table, I look at the Special K box and discover that they have eight flavors of the cereal that will let me, "bye-bye la routine!" Or, did you know that pop singer Shakira is, according to Télé magazine, "In love avec un frenchie?" I do, because I speak fluent franglais, and because I spotted it at the supermarket, where all important news is transmitted. You can't tell me the French don't have a word for "good-bye", "love" or "Frenchman". They just think the English sounds cool.

As you can imagine, this was all especially confusing for Pippa, when she learned to read at complex levels in 1st and 2nd grade here in Paris, both in French and English at the same time.

"Glaces," she reads on the above sign, found in a small, non-touristy town in Normandy, rhyming it with the English word "places."

"No, that's in French."

"Oh. Glaces," she says in a French accent, so that it sounds roughly like the English word "gloss." She continues: "Crêpes. Milk-shake [pronouncing it meelk-shock]."

"No, that's in English."

"Oh. Milk-shake," she corrects herself. "Juicy [I said they use a lot of English, but I didn't say they always use it correctly]. Desserts. Maison [Reads like Mason]."

"No, that last one was in French."

"Oh. Maison."

And so, mes chers amies, je vous dis bye-bye and au revoir pour today.


Le Lingot is a raw goat's milk cheese that none of my French friends have ever even heard of, yet when they taste it, they ooh and aah. It's salty, uber-wet and oozy, with a full-bodied, rich, savory flavor and a pleasant acid tang at the end, and is at its best and ooziest at room temperature. The one I buy is made at Les Gariottes farm in Alvignac, which is in the Midi-Pyrénées region.

But it turns out that Le Lingot, or various versions of it, can also be made from cow's milk, at which point it is a slightly different cheese called Le Lingot d'Or, or from sheep's milk, at which point it is called a Lingot de la Ginesterie (or sometimes simply Ginesterie). There's Le Lingot de BETZ, Le Lingot du Quercy, Le Lingot du Mèzenc, Le Lingot de St Nicolas, and Lingots that are ashed. I'm beginning to think that I could do a whole Year in Lingot. In any event, it's amazing to me that with this many kinds of Lingots -- at least some of which are available in Paris -- none of my friends have heard of it. Especially since it's divine.

I don't buy this at my usual cheese shop, but rather a tiny little shop on Ile St. Louis across from the famous Berthillon ice cream shop. And I'm telling you that for the Paris-based readers who might want to go out and get one. My mouth is watering just thinking about that little nubbin leftover in my fridge. I know what I'm having for dessert tomorrow.


First of all, some of those names -- Le Lingot de BETZ? Quercy? Mèzenc? -- barely look like French. So again, you're reading along then need to say those...in what accent exactly? It's a mystery. But more to the point, this is a cheese whose name is pronounced "lingo" -- as in speaking two different lingos -- which is something I hope to do correctly, but it's hard when they're all jumbled.


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