Apr 23, 2014

Le Best of de la BD: Pictou

Besides hard-covers and paperbacks, one of the biggest categories of books in France is the BD -- bande dessinée. This literally means "drawn bands" and basically refers to something we would translate as comics, cartoons, or, perhaps most accurately, graphic stories (not quite novels, though sometimes, as you'll see). Here I thought I'd show you, as one cover puts it, "le best of de la BD". Let's face it, folks. I can't invent a better franglais bastardization than that, so why try?

Some  BD are classics. You've probably heard of at least the first two, though Boule & Bill (counterintuitively, Boule is the boy and Bill is the dog) and Titeuf might be new to you -- if you're not French, that is. Even you non-Frenchies have heard of Astérix and Tintin, I presume.
There are literally thousands, probably tens of thousands, of other titles. We have hundreds alone right here in the house, at least one -- of course -- from the company where Anthony works, Ubisoft (Lapins Crétins, or Raving Rabbids in English). I can tell you from experience that garage sales are a great way to stock up, usually around 3-5€ per book, used, as opposed to 10-15€ new. These are general prices, and of course collector's items can go up from there. Way up.
Some are geared more towards boys, and others towards girls. Well, "girlz" anyway. But quite a lot are very gender neutral, too.
Many of the BD are of things we would not normally think of as cartoons -- novels for teenagers, and even non-fiction. What I don't commonly see are the pornographic BD -- manga, that is -- that I used to see in Japan, often being read by a very clean-cut businessman in a suit, in public, on the subway. I suspect the French have them also, but I don't really feel like searching too hard to confirm that.
But what is clear is that in France, more than in the US, BD are not just for little kids. Even in 6th grade, Gigi still loves her BD. I sometimes think this a really great way to read non-fiction, because it makes it more fun and easier to remember, with the pictures as memory aids.



Pictou (sometimes called Pictou des Deux-Sèvres, for a reason that's about to obvious) is made in Deux-Sèvres, in the Poitou-Charentes region on the western side of France, just inland from the mid-Atlantic coast. This area is riddled with goat and, it follows, with a wide variety of absolutely stunning goat cheeses.

Pictou is a lovely, oval, raw milk goat's cheese with a delicate wrinkly brain rind. It's creamy and delicious, which seems really obvious to me given the look of it, but it's that kind of thick, dry creamy, not the oozy kind. The flavor is milky and just lightly goaty, wonderful with a touch of honey on it, piled on bread, or just plain.


I think of French BD immediately after seeing the cheese called Pictou, mostly because it reminds me so much of the word Picsou, which is the French name for Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge and the shorthand word for all Mickey/Donald/Goofy/old Disney BDs. As I'm researching the BDs, it turns out that Astérix also has some famous episodes chez les Pictes (a Celtish/Scottish people that may or may not be based in reality), which certainly also sounds related to a cheese called Pictou.

In Astérix en Corse, a character named Caféolix, who is a friend of the BD's protagonist, named Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, procures transportation to get from the mainland to Corsica, and it turns out to be a pirate ship. Caféolix gives a Corsican cheese to Ocatarinetabellatchitchix to bring on the boat, and it later explodes (the cheese that is). The book is full of Corsican stereotypes and makes fun of the Corsican fondness for stinky cheeses (and this is coming from the French...). I don't know what happens after the powerful cheese explosion (and here the "powerful" refers to the cheese rather than the explosion), but I'm telling you this because as soon as I tell my French friends that I'm writing about BD for my cheese blogs, they immediately tell me this part of the story, having memorized the episode, apparently, in childhood.


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