Jul 19, 2014

Invasion Equation: Chevrotin des Aravis


As for the other surprise guests, 'tis the fifth season here in Paris: fall, winter, spring, summer, and tourist. So, our guests have started arriving. In droves. And often on a different day than expected.


The basic issue -- though not the only one -- is that many of you are telling us the day you are leaving the US (and especially the West Coast), as opposed to the day you are arriving here in France.
So when you tell us your trip to Paris starts on the 9th, and you are arriving around 3pm, we are here waiting for you around 3pm on the 9th. The problem is, you lose a day coming over from the West Coast, so you may be leaving on the 9th, but you're not here till the 10th.

Our first guest, Jen, is a former international pilot, so she understands time zones, and hers may be the only case where we are caught off guard by my own error. Originally, she is slated to come in on a Sunday, and when her plans changed to Saturday, I somehow miss the memo. So Saturday morning, we're having a leisurely morning at the house when I receive a phone call from Jen. I figure she has some last-minute question before she boards a plane, or is going to warn me of a flight delay. "Where are you?," I ask. "Coming out of your metro station..." (Cue: scrambling to clean apartment....)

So when our second guests also arrive a day earlier than expected in April, Anthony is convinced that I am a complete scheduling ignoramus. But no, in that case they had clearly told me Saturday, only to change plans unbeknownst to us and show up on a Friday. Luckily, we are home a lot, so all's well that ends well.

More recently, Anthony calls to check on his brother and sister-in-law, when they still haven't arrived hours later than expected. It turns out they hadn't even gotten on their first plane yet. And our guests who are here now have been on our calendar for half a year as arriving on Monday. A few days ago we find out -- you guessed it -- that they leave on Monday, but get here on Tuesday.

So from now on, even if you let us know your travel plans in very specific detail, we'll just go about our business and look forward to that unexpected doorbell at a completely different day and time. I hope you find us home!


Math for the Tourist Season

your time zone
+6 hours (East Coast), or 9 hours (West Coast), plus 7-11 hour flight (without layovers)
= arriving the day after you take off from the US, plus so many hours

regular laundry
+travel laundry
+guest sheets and towels laundry
+ hand-dry racks only
=a lot of laundry

two adults in our family
+two children in our family
+two visiting adults
+two visiting children
+one toilet
=people in the hallway doing the pee-pee dance while waiting their turn

our kids
+close friends or family they haven't seen in a long time
=less whining than usual, but less sleep than usual too

many people to cook for
+not a lot of time to plan, shop, cook
= many meals of pre-roasted chicken or salad/cheese/pâté

lots of people visiting
+visiting lots of people
= total breakdown of regular writing schedule

Kodak child
+digital camera
+photogenic subjects
+French backdrops
= ridiculous number of photos to catalog

+big (enough, just) apartment
+great central location
+many things to do and see
+good friends visiting
=absolutely fabulous times, despite more laundry (see above), more dishes, and less bathroom time (see above). On the other hand, there is also more laughing, more reasons to indulge in cheese (see above), pastries, and champagne, and more chances to create unique memories with people special to us.
So...come in droves (but not all at once)!


THE CHEESE: Chevrotin des Aravis

Chevrotin des Aravis, sometimes called Chevrotin du Grand Bornand, is, technically, a hard cheese, though it feels closer to a soft cheese (albeit a rubbery, firm one). It's a mountain cheese made in the Haute-Savoie and looks for all the world like a cow's cheese Reblochon. Since the 17th century, this goat's milk cheese has been made in the same region -- and even at the same farmhouses -- as a Reblochon, using similar methods and conditions, so that similarity is not a coincidence. It is unusual to have a goat cheese that is "pâte pressée" -- "pressed paste" or "pressed dough", literally -- meaning the cheese mixture is weighted, the liquid is pressed out, and the result is this sort of melty, rubbery cheese. Usually goat cheeses will be creamy, and this particular texture is seen on cow cheeses.

The crust is lightly orange and also covered with white mold which develops (and covers the cheese either wholly or partially) after being washed periodically over 6-8 weeks in a humid cellar. The whole cheese is then platced on a base that is a sliver of spruce. It's a stinky cheese -- not the worst of the stinkers, but not for the faint of heart or cheese-afraid. After you get your nose past it, the taste has hints of sweetness, herbs, flowers, and spruce that are released as the cheese warms and softens in the mouth.

The Chevrotin has a few very specific rules around it: it must be a farmhouse cheese, and all the milk must come from the same herd of goats, 80% of which at least are Alpine breed. The permitted area for a Chevrotin des Aravis is along the Alpine Massifs of Aravis, Chablais, and Mont Blanc. It's made and sold from April through December.

The fabrication of the Chevrotin des Aravis cheese has co-existed since the 17th century, with that of the Reblochon farm. Originally the cheese was simply destined for consumption by the families who owned the goats, but then the rearing of the goats and the fabrication of the Chevrotin developed. The Chevrotin des Aravis is shaped in the form of a convex disk with flat sides (equivelant for that matter, to the shape of Reblochon). It is matured for 6 to 8 weeks in the humid cellar and is periodically washed.

The word "Aravis" reminds me of the word "arrival". Sure, it's not an exact match, nor is it an exact match when I expect you on Friday morning, and you show up on Saturday, or on Thursday when I'm in my pajamas doing my laundry.


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