Apr 1, 2014

Foolish Fish Fest: Bleu de Bonneval


Francis Blanche, a famous French actor/comedian who lived until 1974, once said: "A day without a hoax is like a Gruyère without holes." That's particularly a propos today, and yet in France, April Fool's Day is not a day for elaborate hoaxes and creative trickery. As with many other aspects of French culture, there's a specific tradition, and they're sticking with it. In France, it is known as "Poisson d'Avril" or April's Fish, and the point is to tape a paper fish on an unwitting person's back. Basically, it's like a "Kick Me" sign, without the kicking.

This means I have to turn my back on my girls for large portions of the morning and pretend not to notice when they give me long, pat-pat-pat hugs out of nowhere. I think in theory, once they get you, they're supposed to yell "Poisson d'Avril!" but of course this would take all the joy out of it as far as we're concerned. Let's just see how long somebody will go around with a paper fish on their back. Much more fun. You will, on the rare occasion, see a joke headline, or a grown-up might try to pull the wool over you, but the lion's share of the holiday is a bunch of kids running around with paper fish and tape.

The girls meet up with some of my dance classmates and manage to hug some of them hello and rather successfully slip on some fish. A few truly do not realize what's been done, much to the girls' delight. I may be walking around with a fish, and we may have needlessly used up a lot of scotch tape, but at least I know I won't have to worry about salt in my sugar bowl or cellophane over the toilet seat till we get back to America.

THE CHEESE: Bleu de Bonneval

Bleu de Bonneval, or Bleu de Bonneval sur Arc to use the full name it is sometimes given, is made exclusively at the Cooperative dairy of Haute-Maurienne Vanoise in the village of Bonneval. Bleu de Bonneval sur Arc is unusual in that it's a blue from the mountain country of Savoie, where cow's milk is generally transformed into nutty, hard cheeses like a Beaufort. In fact, this is Beaufort country, and the milk used for this blue comes from the same breed of cows: Tarine and Aondance.

Bleu de Bonneville is a sticky cheese caught somewhere between firm and gooey. Despite the huge veins of blue mold running throughout, the blue flavor is actually not pronounced at all. The appearance completely belies the taste, which is mild to the point of almost-boring (of course, I love a blue tang that knocks my socks off. If you prefer a subtle blue tang, you might feel differently).


Both a blue, and fish, that don't smell bad. Actually, they're both pretty mellow, considering one is a French blue, and the other is supposed to be a mischievous prank. Anthony buys me this cheese when he is in the Alps, and the store clearly labels it "Bleu de Bonneville" both in the shop and on the package he buys. After a lo-oo-ooo-ot of mostly fruitless research, it turns out that it is mislabeled. So while there is no cheese called "Bleu de Bonneville", this is, rather, a rare, local Alpine blue called "Bleu de Bonneval". So I guess the joke's on me.


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