May 25, 2014

Groundhog Day: Picodon d'Ardèche


It's Mother's Day in Paris, and the question is raised: Is it possible to be overappreciated?

We have marked on our American calendar that Mother's Day is May 11, and so on that day, Anthony and the girls present me with a lovely plant, complete with a colorful little stuffed bird nestled among the leaves. The plant is intended for a pot that's been sitting empty, into which I once almost transplanted a lush-looking palm I found on the patio, till Anthony informed me it was fake. This should give you a clue about the level of my botanical expertise, so you may not be surprised to know that I do not get around to transplanting and watering this Mother's Day real plant until it is, sadly, too late. The good news it that it has dried rather nicely.


You would think this blatant negligence would not only kill the plant but any impulse the girls might feel to give me Mother's Day presents, but you would be wrong. It turns out that Mother's Day in France is not until May 25, always two weeks after American Mother's Day (mysteriously moving about the calendar in tandem like Easter & Passover). Last week, Gigi comes home from school with a gift, but she's too excited to wait until the actual day. So, I am prematurely given Mother's Day present #2, which is a lovely dish she made in class and a very sweet poem she wrote in which I learn that if I were a dessert, I would be a brownie. And I always thought I would be a blueberry-nectarine crumble.


Not to be outdone, Pippa also comes home with a school-made Mother's Day present (#3), a book that they've been working on all year, with pictures and entries in it. It also contains a poem mentioning that my favorite color is -- as you may have guessed by now -- orange, which is not-coincidentally the color she has painted the cover of the book. She can't wait till Mother's Day, either, and gives it to me on the Saturday before.

And wait, here's yet another Mother's Day poem gift (#4), written at home, from Pippa.
You love orange.
I like blue.
You love black.
And I like to snack.
This is my mom
that I've known for long.
She took care of me
While I partied.
Besides the obvious issues with the rhyme sequence and how the poem scans (and don't even get me started on the spelling, which I corrected for you), is anybody else concerned that my 8-year old is out there partying?
The girls and I are invited by the Mairie du 5ème arrondissement (the city hall of the 5th, located in the shadow of the Panthéon) to a Mother's Day show in which a woman tells the (only slightly Disney-influenced) tale of Aladdin. As with so many events for mothers, it turns out it's really more for the kids -- I mean, it's not like Colin Firth is on stage, or anything. However, Gigi gets picked by a staff member to introduce the show to the audience of about 200-300 people. She does this in a French so perfect, I don't think anybody knows she is American. That's my gift (#5) right there!


At the end, we get pastries, cakes, and juices as our treat, and even a couple white roses (Mother's Day gift #6), which we mix in with the orange bouquet that Anthony gives me (gift #7).

I will say this, though: Today --French Mother's Day -- turns out to be the greatest Mother's Day celebration of all. The picture below, taken this afternoon, gives you just a tiny hint why. But I'm saving that story for another day, because it's a doozy...

I am thinking that rarely, if ever, has a mother been so fêted, simply for being a mother. If I had my own magic lamp and genie, these would be my three motherly wishes:
1) the continued health and happiness of my children.
2) a little less competition between the girls ("But she got to go on stage!" "Well, she got three pastries, and I only had two!" "But she got to play the video game this morning, and I didn't!" etc.).
3) no more Mother's Day celebrations till next year!

THE CHEESE: Picodon d'Ardèche

A "picodon" is so named because, often, once aged, the cheese will "piquer" or prickle in a slightly spicy, peppery way. Traditionally, they were aged in a pot with wine, which probably helped with the prickle, frankly. But now, these raw goat's milk little cheese pucks are generally aged for a month in a boring, old cellar. Still, they "piquent".

AOC since 1983, the goats are pastured in full sun during the summers and fed with cereal and grains grown on their own farm during the winter. There are many versions of Picodon, but the two most common come from Drôme and Ardèche.

It's a firm, dry, crumbly goat's cheese that manages to turn creamy in the mouth (if you haven't crunched your way through it before then). Besides a little peppery kick, the taste is also medium-strength goaty, herby, nutty, and really quite delicious.
Does Picodon sound familiar? Look familiar? That's because you will see Picodon over and over and over, albeit slightly different each time (think of the film Groundhog Day, which is what Mother's Day for an American in Paris turns into). My last Picodon was a Picodon de Drôme, whereas this one is from Ardèche. Are they similar? Yes. Could I tell which one was which if they weren't labeled? No. But are they technically different cheeses, and am I therefore allowed to write about them separately? Hell yes!


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