Jun 16, 2014

Children of the Ball: Le Solognot


Despite not living LA and being Selena Gomez wannabes (or perhaps because of it), the girls and some of their friends are taking Paris by storm. Whether they're in LA, New York, Paris, or Wichita Kansas, some people are simply "enfants de la balle". This literally means "children of the ball" and is an expression used to mean people -- children or grownups -- who are natural-born performers and spotlight-seekers.
Pippa was recently cast in a French-language promotional spot for Ouigo (the new low-cost train option in France). It's a candid camera-style piece, and she is the one dressed like an escapee from a Harry Potter film. The kids wear hidden microphones, with hidden mikes also embedded in hand-made "gifts" that they present to random women for Mother's Day.


To make sure she is bold enough for the job, during the audition, she is asked to lean out the window and scream that her cat has jumped out the window. She does this so loudly, the casting director is afraid the neighbors or police will come. For the job itself, she goes up to various women and speaks to them as if she thinks they are her mother: "When does our train leave, Mom?" My favorite interaction is when one of women protests by saying to Pippa, "But I'm Japanese! You're not even mixed. You're completely white!"

Don't worry about all these stories of my children's theatrical exploits: The laws in France are specific and counteract the worst Stage Mom impulses. Auditions and rehearsals may only take place outside of school hours -- weekends, vacations, and Wednesday afternoons. Children may not be cast in a professional stage production until they're nine years old, which is too bad for Pippa until next school year.

For a show Gigi is in, for example (and yes, more on this soon), there are two casts for the children's roles, both because it's just common sense to have back-ups when dealing with kids, and also because the children wouldn't get the necessary government approval to work on stage if they had to two shows per day (matinée days) and about 10 shows per week. And, finally, as with all payments for stage, screen, and printed page, 100% of the funds go into an account in the child's name, maintained by the French government and locked until the child's 18th birthday.
One of Pippa's best friends also happens to be both an American and an enfant de la balle, and a particularly successful one, at that. In just the past half year since starting "in the biz" she's booked numerous TV ads, some magazine shoots, and this massive billboard campaign. On a busy day, she shoots more ads in a day then my kids have in three years in France (and no, I'm not exaggerating). Do you recognize her singing with Gigi and Pippa? For her, playing a sleeping child in the modeling shoot is actually acting; she's normally a spitfire!


Not only is she larger than life in this campaign, she also stars in a very cute short film called Poids Plume that you can see at this page. If you watch the film (great viewing for kids), you'll notice Pippa and Gigi do a cameo appearance at the end as well, though Gigi's harder to spot.


Meanwhile, the two adorable girls playing dress-up with Gigi and Pippa (above left) have almost appeared in two major motion pictures. For the first, Before Midnight (sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), they made it to the final selection but lost out to some twins. For My Old Lady, a movie with Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith recently filmed here in Paris, they were in fact selected and then, frustratingly, were not allowed to take the job because of a small glitch in their visa status. The kids on the right -- two French friends seen here performing in our living room -- are also actors. The boy has appeared on stage and screen many times and has been cast in the leading role for a film shooting this summer while his sister was recently up for the role of young Grace Kelly (in a French film, not the English-language one with Nicole Kidman).

Does this make me and my friends tacky Stage Moms? I would like to deny it, but as an enfant de la balle myself, I would like to deny it with a colorful costume, a spotlight, and a grand song-and-dance number.

THE CHEESE: Le Solognot

Confusingly, there is a cow's milk cheese called Le Creusiot Solognot that is a kind of Fromage Blanc (white, soft cheese) and is basically a soft (think yogurt-y textured) cheese flavored with shallots. Adding to the confusion (well, mine anyway) is the fact that when I look up "Solognot", I come across "la solognote" which is a French breed of sheep, and one that is disappearing. Evidently, as of 2007, there were only approximately 3,000 of them remaining. But neither of those explain away this goat's cheese.

Le Solognot, the goat's milk cheese that is, is a pasteurized milk cheese. The version I taste is from central France, in the Loire valley, and as near as I can make out, this is the only place it is manufactured, though I've seen this very brand misattributed to Bretagne. But at least one thing makes sense in the naming of this cheese, for the town of Sologne (after which both the cheese and the race of sheep are certainly named) is very close-by in the Loire valley region.

It's an extremely mild cheese and one that is soft -- not soft and creamy like a thick cream cheese, but rather soft and wet and fluffy, almost like a whipped ricotta or a very light custard. It serves as a nice blank canvas for flavors, since it doesn't have too much of its own.


I originally take the phrase "enfants de la balle" to mean "children of the ball/dance" but, in fact, it means "children of the ball/sphere" (le bal would be a dance). Perhaps enfants de la balle have a proclivity for juggling? It's the only explanation I can imagine.

So why Solognot? Well, children of the ball can easily enjoy this cheese in a ball. But eating it is not as much of a ball as being a shining star on stage.


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