Sep 29, 2014

It's Normal: Meule Excellence Fruitée


"C'est normal." You'll hear this phrase constantly -- constantly! -- in circumstances that don't seem, well, "normal" at all. That's because despite what it looks like, "C'est normal" does not mean "That's normal." It means "That's as it should be" which is a very different thing indeed.

Take, for example, these two scenarios:
You get to your appointment late. You apologize by saying the bus was late. The person you are meeting nods sympathetically: "That's normal."
You get to your appointment early. You say it's because the bus was right on time. The person you are meeting, wondering why you didn't just take a later bus, shrugs and comments, "C'est normal."
C'est normal that the website functions the way it's supposed to, that your tax refund arrives on the specific day, that the medicine makes your symptoms go away. Even if the website usually does not function the way it's supposed to, and your tax refunds usually arrives late, and the medicine usually is useless.

There's an old song called "C'est Normal" performed by Brigitte Fontaine, a singer often described as a very unusual, "hors-norm" (outside the norm), alternative singer. She was born in 1939 and is still alive today. Though she's a writer and actress (among other things), her heyday was as a jazz singer in the 1960s. There is nothing normal -- in the English sense -- about her, her music, or her song "C'est Normal". The video I've linked to is not a video, and the song is only worth listening to if you a) speak French and/or b) like fairly weird sixties-style spoken jazz.

And, finally, one last word on "normal", and its feminine version "normale": An "ecole normale" is traditionally a school (university) for the formation and training of teachers. The Ecole Normale Supérieure is a very famous and well-respected place of higher learning which traditionally trained and formed higher-level professors and researchers. This Superior Normal School has been housed here since 1847 based on the first Ecole Normale initially built in 1794.

THE CHEESE: Meule Excellence Fruitée

Meule Excellence Fruitée is a raw cows' milk cheese from the mountains around Alsace. It's a big wheel of a cheese (hence, "meule") in the tradition of a Comté. In fact, it seems to want to be a Comté, with the "Fruitée" there in the title. It does indeed have hints of sweetness, like a Comté, but it lacks the strength, tanginess, nuttiness, and real firmness of a Comté.

For a hard cheese, its texture is creamier than I expect. I feel that it either needs to be aged another year or just be a different cheese in order for me to love it and want to buy any.


A meule is normal enough, it's just a big wheel of cheese. And in fact, this meule is normal enough -- not a strong or unique flavor, just a fine cows' milk mountain cheese. And c'est normal -- that's as it should be. Yet, just as the Ecole Normale is also Supérieure, so is this a Meule of Excellence.


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