Feb 20, 2014

Love (and Smoke) for All: Fumaison


Gay marriage passed its last hurdle in France, as the 14th national to legalize, and well ahead of the US. The French Assembly voted in favor of legalizing by a margin of 331-225, after a disruption by a protestor in pink (which is, to the great confusion of all Americans, the color worn by the anti-gay marriage side).

The biggest celebration takes place in front of the 4th arrondissment's administrative building; this neighborhood of the Marais is widely known as the "gay district," like the Castro in San Francisco.


It appears the Parisian young, gay community represented in the square want not just the right to marry somebody of the same gender but also the right to die of lung cancer. Besides being littered with champagne and wine bottles (all drunk openly in front of the police, who clearly don't care about container laws), the square is also chock full of smoke. I'm amazed I can take photos through the haze.


Here are some signs of the times, with translations:

Ligue des droits de l'Homme = League of the Rights of Man (in the Mankind sense)

Osez le Féminisme = Dare to be Feminist

Procréation Médicalement Assistée: L'Egalite N'Attend Pas = Medically Assisted Procreation: Equality Won't Wait

And my personal favorite:

Je veux le droit d'epouser Jodie Foster ou David Bowie. = I want the right to marry Jodie Foster or David Bowie.
Even through the cloud of smoke, the clanking underfoot of bottles, and the crunching underfoot of plastic cups, the party is a really wonderful thing to see -- joyous and boisterous. However, I have to say that when it finally happens in the US, I am sure the Castro will be a whole lot crazier than this, and there will be a whole lot more costuming (wedding dresses and tuxes), kissing (very little PDA here), and controversy. Perhaps it's because it was a foregone conclusion, or perhaps it's because they're cool and French, as evidenced by the number of striped boat shirts.

There are, as you would expect, plenty of news organizations out with the revelers.

I read in the newspaper about a couple protests as well, which involved anti-gay marriage advocates throwing things at police officers, who then retaliated by throwing gas canisters in the crowd. It looks like there were a few isolated protests in Paris and Lyon, or at least only those were significant enough to report. I do see one article about how the passage of the law is making some gay people suddenly have to come to terms with the fact that they will soon have a Mother-in-Law. Hard-hitting journalism at its finest.

The day after the vote and the celebration, I don't see one sign, one rainbow flag, or any indication of the historic vote. I do see people out in throngs, happy, and celebrating...the gorgeous weather we suddenly start having. Months later, it is, as expected, a non-issue, without any noticeable effect on life in France.

THE CHEESE: Fumaison

Fumaison is a raw sheep's milk cheese made in Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, in central France, not too far from Lyon. It's an unusually-shaped, gray-dusted, square loaf of cheese striped with rope marks that is often compared to Jésus de Lyon, an unusually-shaped, gray-dusted, square loaf of sausage striped with rope marks.

It's an unusual cheese, and not just in appearance. It's got a slightly rubbery texture and a lightly smoky flavor, reminding me something of a smoked Gouda in the States, but not as potent as a Boucanier Chèvre Fumé. The effect of sheep flavor being passed through a smoker and aged for at least three months gives it a meaty, umami flavor reminiscent of...say...a sausage.
It's unusual -- a minority cheese, if you will -- and it's smoked, just like all those cigarettes at the celebration. And, it sounds like a contraction of two words: "fumer" ("to smoke a cigarette") and "maison" (house). What is this celebration about if not for people's right to make their homes together, forever, in wedded bliss, till death (by lung cancer?) or divorce do them part.


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