Sep 1, 2014

Baby Talk: Poutou Périgourdin


Not only are our daughters foufou for toutous, or "crazy for doggies", the word "toutou" was one of Gigi's first words. Any dog is appealing, but both girls have special soft spots for the cute little toutous that look like doudous, or stuffed animals.

These toutous, on the other hand, actually are doudous.

So you know, the word toutou may sound like a ballerina's tutu to you, but the sound is as different in French as is the meaning.
Here are some other doudous, although a doudou could also be a blankie. It basically is something soft that you cuddle with for comfort, especially when you're going dodo.

Dodo, which is the first syllable of the word "dormir" repeated, means something like "nighty-night" or "sleep". Therefore, "fais dodo" is how you command a child (in words or in lullabies) to fall asleep.
Among any group of doudous for going dodo, you'll often find a nounours. In our case, it's a pancake flat, green nounours Gigi was given on the very first day of her life from my friend Jen.

A nounou is, of course, a nanny who'll put your kid to dodo with his nounours and toutous and other doudous.
The chouchou, or teacher's pet, never needs to redouble, as they say in French, or repeat the school year. But the word is redoubled, as are all the words in this category of baby talk: Cute little nicknames are formed by taking the first syllable or letter and repeating it: hence a French name like Gigi. Thank goodness my other daughter isn't named Fifi, or it would sound like we owned two poodle toutous.

THE CHEESE: Poutou Périgourdin

A Poutou is a funny name for a cheese. The word is a local term for a kiss in the Midi, Southern France, of which the Périgord (also known as the Dordogne) is a part. Think more "give me a kissy-poo" and less "hey, baby...". Also the word is sometimes used as an interjection interchangeable with "coucou", which is, in turn, both the childish word for "peek-a-boo" and a more grown-up -- but still cute -- word for "hello". My good friend Beatrice gives me a "coucou" each time she sees me, and -- if we are being French at the time -- a poutou on each cheek, too.

So why is this cheese called a Poutou? Nobody knows. Or, perhaps the only people that do know are the ones at the Ferme de Teinteillac, in the Périgord, where it is made. Poutou Périgourdin is a raw goats' milk cheese  and is not only a strictly farmhouse cheese, it's strictly from this one farmhouse.
It smells something like ammonia, which does not give me much hope for the taste of it. But lo an behold, it doesn't taste like ammonia. The smell is strong, the taste is rather goaty and intense, and it's got a thick texture that's somewhere between rubbery and creamy. So I am also not holding out much hope that the kids will like it, and then -- second lo and behold -- Gigi picks it as her favorite cheese of the 8 on the platter.

At first, I don't have a cheese to pair with this story. Then we walk in the Laurent Dubois cheese shop and see this cheese on the shelf, and Gigi immediately starts giggling and saying, in a baby voice, "Poutou! Poutou!" It does sound exactly like a French baby-talk word and is, in fact, awfully close to Gigi's first French baby-word "toutou!"


  1. Hi! I'm curious about your comment that the ammonia scent is not a good omen. Doesn't camembert often smell ammoniacal?

    1. Yes, Camembert is sometimes described as having an ammonia smell (though I personally find the smell of good Camembert more earthy than ammonia-y). But there's ammonia and then there's AMMONIA. When the odor of a cheese actually burns my nostrils in a chemically way, I generally find it's gone too far. It probably won't kill me, but I find it will either be too old and past its prime or simply too strong.


Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Customized by Mihai