Jul 25, 2014

Southern France, in the Northwest: Le Ricochet


We are not in Bretagne, but in the Pays Loire -- just south of the Loire. South of the Loire is the key point here: this officially puts us in southern France, the Loire being the magical divider between gloomy, gray, rainy, Germanic north and sunny, blue, relaxed, Mediterranean south. Both are stereotypes, of course, and like many stereotypes, have a grain of truth mixed in with a whole lot of exaggeration.

In our case, we happen to be in the Vendée during a heat wave (canicule) which sees temperatures up to nearly 100ºf (up to 36º or 37ºc or so). Not only are we delighted to be here visiting friends, we're doubly delighted to be missing these same temperatures in Paris. Instead of sweat and cigarette smoke, we're faced with surf and scenery.

The ocean isn't so balmy, however: around 17ºc (62ºf). I manage to go all the way in, once, but the kids -- being kids -- manage to stay in and play for ages. And my friend is evidently made of heartier stock than I.


When they're not in the water, they're at the tidepools. Or the sand.

The bigorneau (periwinkle) that are caught will later be dinner. Well, a very tiny appetizer, anyway. They should be called smallorneau.

And when all this is just too much, there's always ice cream at the beachside café. And, because we are so close to Bretagne, and the people identify so much with Bretagne (but just to remind you, we are not in Bretagne which is in the North, but rather in the Vendée of the South): also crêpes.


THE CHEESE: Le Ricochet

Le Ricochet is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese made in the Vendée. It's named Ricochet because it's the shape of a somewhat flat, oval, disk and the color of a rock. "Ricochet" in French means skimming rocks (as well as the "rebound" meaning we use in English), and if this were flatter, smaller, and, um, well, not actually made of cheese, it might make a good skimming rock, indeed.

On the other hand, it also looks like it would make a most excellent hamburger-substitute.

It's rubbery and firm enough that it might actually rebound. There seems to be a theme running through the pasteurized local cheeses: rubbery and bland. It's just a tad stinky, and not in the great quality sense. 

I suspect I will someday want to write about hamburgers and will regret having already used this cheese. But, since it's a cheese from the Vendée that I eat in the Vendée when our Vendéen friends buy it for us for after dinner, and since it's an edge-of-the-water sort of beach rock-themed cheese, I'm using it now. Oddly, though there are many super flat-disk pebbles at the beach that would be perfect for skimming, we never even think to try.


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