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Jun 29, 2014

Pride and Joy: Tomme Corse

THE STORY:

With the Gay Pride parade marching right by my island and coming on the heels (often very high heels) of the legalization of gay marriage here in France, other countries, and various American states over the past couple years, I simply cannot resist bringing you Paris Pride.
 
 

Last year, just after legalization, the marchers were extra proud to fly the French flag freely alongside the rainbow flag. And I must say that I was pretty proud of the Supreme Court (well, 56% of it anyway!) and was not surprised to see more pro-American sentiment than might have otherwise been expected.

 

Some of my favorite signs of the times:
  
 
 
"Fascism, even for sexual orientation, is not French." And Renault's commercial attempt to jump-on-the-band(station)wagon, with the slogan "Cars for all" mirroring the gay rights slogan "Marriage for all."
 
 
 
Some winners from what I call the religious correct (as opposed to the religious right): "God loves us all (men and women)", "We read the bible gaily", and "Jesus also had two mothers." But my very favorite sign of the parade:


"God is a black lesbian." And why not?

I'm not only proud to be American, and proud to be a gay marriage and gay rights supporter, I have to say this float walking by, complete with rainbow chuppah being carried by yarmulke-wearers, makes me proud of my liberal Jewish heritage, too.

 

And, not to be outdone, my husband's Christian upbringing is represented. Here, the American Cathedral's float makes me proud of their Americanism and their very christian (distinct from Christian) openness.

 
 
I don't know if my support of gay marriage stems from my liberal upbringing, my moral values which not only tolerate but celebrate diversity, or the fact that I have good gay and lesbian friends. But sometimes I suspect it's just my love of colors, choreography, theatrics, and flamboyance in general.

 

One thing that's very nice about Paris Pride as opposed to San Francisco Pride is that you can actually get up to the edge of the parade and wander about fairly freely. It is crowded and lively, and I don't have the official numbers, but it feels like the crowd must be 1/10 the size here. However, that doesn't mean Paris doesn't have some of the same characters, even down to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, here indulging in a very French cigarette and sneer.
 
  

 Let's not forget the drag queens...

 

...and in one case, the drag Queen of England....

 

...or the men in uniform. Any uniform. I am thoroughly entertained by the UNIFS's slogan: "Guys in uniforms, and those that love them."  

 
 
Not to be confused with these guys, who are honestly guys in uniforms -- the guards patrolling the parade to keep everything safe. At least I think they're the real deal. But they are pretty darn hot.
 
 
What kind of a place is this to bring children? A mighty fine one, mostly. Very colorful and friendly.

 
 
Of course, Gigi is a little confused by the guy in zippered leather bikini briefs (perhaps he thinks he's in San Francisco at the Folsom Street Fair, which makes a Pride parade look positively tame). She is also confused when the guy giving out free condoms very pointedly passed her by; it may be the first time in her life that being a cute kid has NOT earned her free swag. It gives me the fun opportunity to explain what a condom is and does. The fact is, there are lots of men here in not much more than underwear -- and skimpy French underwear at that. Of course, some of it is rather skimpier -- and more Folsom Fair -- than others.
 
  

She's not the only kid here, though. In some ways, it's business as usual. With a lot of rainbows. People drink their canned beverages, hang out with their loved ones, and chat on cell phones -- at least when the electronic club music is not blaring so loud it makes your heart thump. Isn't that nice, though? That gay pride, and gay marriage, should have attained this degree of normalcy? Someday it will be downright boring. But the parade itself won't be.
 
   

THE CHEESE: Tomme Corse
 
Tomme Corse is, simply, a large tomme (or heavy wheel of cheese) of sheep cheese from Corsica. That it's sheep cheese is not a surprise, because nearly all Corsican cheeses are made from sheep's milk. You will also not be surprised, therefore, to learn that it is sometimes referred to as Tomme de Brebis Corse and Tomme Corse de Brebis. Nevertheless, it's not a common cheese to find "up north" as we are, here in Paris. Though it's a big wheel, it's only made by smaller farmhouse producers.
 

This cheese, which is generally artisanal, is made from raw sheep's milk but is a cooked and pressed cheese. This is not a contradiction; rather the cooking does not reach pasteurization temperatures and durations, nor does it kill all off the bacteria. In fact, sometimes the warming can activate some of the bacteria. It's then pressed to remove moisture and aged for 3 months.

 
The result is a hard cheese that is firm, dry, and crumbly. It still melts in the mouth, where a bouquet of flavors explodes. There's salt, naturally, but also nuttiness, the plants and flowers of Corsica, a slight peppery kick from the herbs the sheep eat, and -- perhaps it's all psychological, simply because I know it's from Corsica --  something that tastes a little like sunshine. There's so much earth in the flavor that I'm inclined to say it has hints of manure, like a Laguiole, except that I'm afraid it will frighten you all off, whereas I mean it in the most flattering possible way. This cheese gives the more famous Pyrénées hard sheep cheeses, like Ossau Iraty, a run for their money.
 
THE CONNECTION:
 
 
It's not a play on words, though of Corse I'm tempted. Here the connection is simply this photo I take of a Tomme Corse with other non-French cheeses in the background. The moment I snap the photo, I know what story it will accompany. In this photo, you clearly see that -- like the spectrum of humanity (race, religion, sexual preference, whatever) -- cheese can co-exist in a beautiful rainbow of diversity.
 

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