Feb 17, 2014

Forget Edith Piaf: Boursin


Forget Edith Piaf, Cole Porter, and Maurice Chevalier. They're great, sure. Classics. But perhaps you want to add something a bit more modern to your French-themed soundtrack.

If you're only going to listen to/watch one, and you like funny, make it the Flight of the Conchords (whose accents are horrible, by the way, but all in the name of good comedy). Here they woo some ladies with the most romantic of the Romance languages in "Foux da Fa Fa":

In our house, the god of pop is Mika. He's multi-passported and bilingual, but basically British and normally sings in English. His most popular French song is "Elle Me Dit". So catchy!:

If you're watching with kids, be warned there's a little booty-shakin' by scantily-clad showgirls in excellent French Burlesque-style lingerie. We show it to our girls (who think it's a crack up) under the guise of "dance", but you may have different costuming standards. Though it's an American song, in English, by a Vermont-based artist, it's got a great French-theme chorus. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with "If I Was From Paris":

Pink Martini, a band originally from Oregon, has won awards in France with their song Sympathique, in the style of Edith Piaf. This video version is basically shot in our 'hood in Paris. The song is particularly near and dear to our hearts because when Gigi and Pippa first heard it at ages 5 and 7, they would walk around singing the chorus. I'm sure it makes me a horrible parent -- even worse than letting them watch sexy booty-shaking dancers in lingerie, but I always thought it was very funny to hear their little baby voices plaintively singing, "I don't want to work. I don't want to eat. I just want to forget. And so, I smoke...."

You may notice that none of the songs so far are actually of French origin. Let's face it: throughout the world, much of the soundtrack is English-language pop music: American, British, Irish. However, that doesn't mean that there's not a lively enough scene in France, and in the French language. While that first group is French-themed songs by non-French singers, this is the reverse: French singers referencing the English-speaking world.

The first is our favorite: SAULE and Charlie Winston with their Wild West video "Dusty Men":

Or Gerald De Palmas, singing "Dans Une Larme" -- a beautiful, raspy French song, with a video that's about as American as it gets:

And Juliette Katz, with "Tout Va de Travers" -- a mellow, jazzy French song, with hints of English, and shots of London:

Tying it all together is a re-make of a classic French song, "Je te Donne" originally by Jean-Jacques Goldman. I remember this song from when I was here over 25 years ago, and I guess now it's retro-hip in this bilingual remake by Leslie and Ivyrise. It's a love song, and the video itself is an homage to two great cities: London and Paris.


Boursin is a classic, highly processed cheese spread product that you can easily find in any major supermarket not just in France, but in over 35 countries.


A fluffy cow's milk cheese, Boursin is something you could easily spread on a cracker. It's not the sort of thing you're likely to see on a cheese platter -- not even a low-end one. But that doesn't mean it tastes bad, exactly. It was created in Normandy in 1957, based on the idea of fromage frais (fresh cheese), which is sort of wet and mousse-like. Mixing in herbs and flavorings to the fromage frais was a Normandy tradition, and Monsieur Boursin figured out how to mass produce and transport this rather delicate food.

Now, of course, you can buy various flavors of Boursin, including a goat cheese variety, as well as garlic & herbs, and fig & nuts, which is the version I buy. It's not actually as frais as a real fromage frais; the industrialization process has made it rather more goopy than mousse-y. It tastes OK crumbled in a salad or spread on a cracker, but I must be honest here and say that the one I bought is still sitting in my fridge two weeks later, with only a small notch eaten, and it's not very big to begin with. It may well become a moldy cheese soon -- but not on purpose.


On the Boursin website there's a recipe for an "Edith Piaf" sandwich made with radish, cucumber, salmon, dill, scallion, and plain Boursin, on a multigrain baguette. That pretty much sounds like a French version of a bagels-and-lox to me.

While I've tasted plain and garlic Boursin before, for this posting I purposely choose the fig & nut Boursin because, like some of the pop music, it's both highly processed and kind of sweet.


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