Jul 6, 2014

Your French Doppelgänger: Laruns


Today, while walking along Parisian streets, I see my friend Kevin from San Francisco. Mysteriously, his wife Michelle and three children have been replaced by a different wife and children. Upon closer inspection, it is clear that Kevin is not living a double life but, rather, that I have encountered his doppelgänger, his evil twin, roaming the Latin Quarter eating street crêpes with his children (how dastardly!).

My sister sees this magazine in an airport and gasps, "It's Pippa!" I show it to 20 people here in Paris -- including Pippa and her father -- all of whom think it's Pippa. Her comment is, "When did I take the photo for that?" So, we may be separated by an ocean, and I may think of you frequently, my friends and family, but how can I miss you when I feel like I am still seeing your lovely faces?

Check out my cousin Neal, and you can see why I do a double take when I walk by the portrait of Henri de Lorraine, duc de Guise (1549-1588), dit Le Balafré (a.k.a. "Scarface") painted by François Quesnel, hanging at the Musée Carnavalet. If, in a former life, Neal lived as a nobleman in 16th century France, then my poor cousin; the Duke was at one time considered likely to ascend the throne of France, until he was assassinated by King Henry III (who was, in turn, assassinated a year later). My God, how I would love to photoshop in a big ruffled collar over Neal's T-shirt.

Wait, wait a second. Quick lesson from my dad on how to (ab)use photoshop. Here it is...

In the metro, I am regularly greeted by a larger-than-life sized poster of singer Ben Mazué and feel like I've got my dear friend Rey right there with me.
One day while dining with my new very good friend Béatrice, it suddenly occurs to me that one of the reasons I must be so drawn to her is that she reminds so much of my old very good friend Trina, back in the Bay Area. In this case, it's not just how they look, but also so many other things about them: their family backgrounds, warmth, humor,  attitudes, professional interests and experiences, parenting styles (they've got 9 kids between them!). Really, it's uncanny, and once it hits me, I feel like I've known Béatrice for a decade. I expect that they'll meet someday. Will they see the similarities? 
My real mom (below left in red) and my French "mom" (that is, the mom of my friend Christine, who hosts us when we go to Normandy) are both retired teacher/school directors, and they remind me so much of each other in terms of demeanor and interests. They have met and exchanged visits between Normandy and Boston.
And if you know my daughters, and know that they occasionally model, you can understand why I do a double take not only when I see Pippa's almost-magazine cover, but also in Picard, when I see this face peering out at me from a cookbook.
In this case, her doppelgänger (left) got the modeling fee and the glory that should have been Gigi's (right). Bummer.
I first noticed this phenomenon after many year of living in Japan, : I would see my friends' and family's faces everywhere. Once, I nearly called out my aunt's name -- quite surprised to see her on the Tokyo subway -- only to realize that I was looking at a Japanese woman.
So when will I next see your smiling face, and where? Only your doppelgänger knows...
Laruns is a hard sheep's milk cheese that comes from the Pyrénées in southwestern France. While the milk is unpasteurized, it's a semi-cooked cheese, which only means that the milk is heated in the curdling, cheese-making process but that the organisms (that make the cheese yummy) are not fully destroyed.

It's produced in the Ossau valley, home of Ossau Iraty, the more famous local hard sheep's cheese. Laruns is also a medium-strength sheep cheese with not only a mouth-watering, mild saltiness but also a definite flavor of mountain herbs and nuts. The texture is crumbly, dry, and vaguely reminiscent of an aged Parmesan. Of course, this is more true when it's been aged up to 6 months. The cheese and crust are less hard and crumbly when young, closer to 2 months.
As with the Ossau Iraty, you can never go wrong pairing this cheese with a black cherry jam or fruit gel. At that point, it's less a cheese-course than a full dessert, in my mind. 
Laruns is, in just about every way, a doppelgänger for Ossau Iraty. It looks, smells, and even tastes very similar. 


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