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Apr 15, 2014

Double Taxation: Salers

THE STORY:

One of my nicknames for Anthony is "The Taskmaster," and if I have one major criticism of my husband, it's that he is relentlessly productive. I've never known anybody who can plow through unpleasant tasks like he can, never even thinking of procrastinating, whereas I actually procrastinate about procrastinating and still have unpleasant chores on my to-do list from the mid-1990s. 

Besides his work at Ubisoft, Anthony is also moonlighting -- unofficially and for no pay -- as a full-time family tax and financial planner. For us. He has the odious job of preparing all materials for our US taxes (which are extra complicated with a self-proprietary business, quarterly tax payments, several employees, house rental income, and major business deductions), along with our French taxes (which, in turn, further complicate our US taxes since there are reciprocal agreements for portions of the tax bills between the countries), and filing the last of his father's estate taxes for 2013 -- despite the fact that his father died at the beginning of 2012 and that he was assured the tax headaches would be over and done that year. Living abroad multiplies life's joys in many ways, but it can also multiply the headaches.

He has to hit the deadlines, using one set of taxes to file the other, even when they both have different deadlines. Something you should know about French taxes, by the way, is that contributions are not taken from paychecks. Here, you take home your entire paycheck, then are responsible for paying the taxes at the end of the year. So it's not just an issue of paperwork but also of managing expectations, savings, and cashflow. Double the taxes, quadruple the fun!

Just so you know, Anthony also chips in on travel planning, is a fabulous father, makes excellent pancake and French toast and popcorn, and is a far neater housekeeper than I. But he really, really, really hates hanging our wet laundry on the line, and I send him away each time as he starts to grumble about how much he misses the dryer in San Francisco. Making matters worse, the on-island laundromat has closed, and the next nearest one is much too far to use; now even for big mattress pads and comforters, it's home-wash and jury-rig-a-spot-to-air-dry. And so, Anthony: I vow to hang our wet laundry, if you vow to deal with our taxes.

 
 
 
THE CHEESE: Salers
 
Salers is a raw cows' milk, farmhouse cheese that comes from, not surprisingly, the Salers breed of cattle. If the cheese is made of 100% Salers milk, it is allowed to be labeled Salers Tradition. The cows are put to pasture on April 15th each year and allowed to roam around the wild-grass covered mountains of the volcanic massif area near Cantal. They graze there until November 15th, and in that time their milk takes on the flavors of the local grasses and wild flowers.
 
 
Salers is a famous cheese, an old cheese, and a big cheese (both literally and figuratively).
 
 
In fact, it's considered one of the great cheeses. So much so that studies have been done on it to determine some of the multitude of flavors: plants (hay and grass), nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts), fruit (citrus, in particular), farm (barn, meat), spices (pepper, smoke, and grilled onions) and of course butter and whipped cream. In general, though Salers is similar to Cantal in many ways, Salers is considered even more complex and varied, since each batch is produced by a farmhouse and tastes of the local flora.
 
Salers goes back at least 1000 years, to the old market town of Salers that gave the cheese and the cows their name. It's closely related to the history and evolution of Cantal, which has mentions as far back as the 6th century.
 
 
Whether it's the specific batch of cheese we get, or just our personal taste, we're not as excited by the Salers as we expect to be. Maybe this particular batch is just missing some of those nutty, fruity flavors we love in a hard cow's cheese. It's nice, and we like it, but it doesn't fly off the shelf like a Cantal, Beaufort, or Comté.
 
THE CONNECTION:
 
Salers is produced on the farms starting April 15th, exactly. I'm not sure why the date is so precise. It seems kind of arbitrary. But then again, April 15th as US tax day is also somewhat arbitrary. And, frankly, it seems like all the various tax codes themselves are somewhat arbitrary. If you don't believe me, just ask Anthony. 

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