Sep 8, 2014

Lentils in My Eye: Crémeux de Puy


Given that I've just talked about how many people wear glasses here, I figure it's time to talk about putting lentils in your eye. Lentilles, that is. Which is indeed the word for delicious lentils. And also the word for contact lenses. You would think that this would mean contact lenses:

And it does. Although this is the name for a nearby bistro. But they -- the lenses, not the bistros -- can also just as accurately and officially be called lentilles de contact or, more commonly, lentilles.

So there is no difference between the words "lentille" and "lentille" -- lentils and lenses. In fact, the lenses are named after the convex shape that they share with the humble little bean.

The most famous French lentils are the lentilles vertes du Puy ("green lentils of Puy") often just called "lentilles du Puy". Since 1996, they've even been protected by an AOC, much like certain cheeses, and by the AOP designation since 2008. These lentils are grown in 88 communities, towns, and villages in the department of the Haute-Loire.

Meanwhile, it may sound perfectly normal to the French, but it seems quite funny to me when Gigi, who needed to wear contact lenses for her performance in The King & I, mixes up her languages and says to me, "I've got to go put lentils in my eyes."

THE CHEESE: Crémeux de Puy

Crémeux de Puy is a round disk that looks, well, something like a huge lentil -- dark and rough. Inside, however, the Crémeux de Puy lives up to its name and is very creamy, indeed. The Puy part comes from the most famous of the puys, or volcanic mountains, Le Puy-en-Velay, located in the Haute-Loire department of the Auvergne region.

The cheese is made from raw cows' milk with an ashed crust. The result is a mildly stinky, somewhat oozy cheese with a hint of lemon tang. It's subtle, pretty, aged, elegant, and French, sort of like the Catherine Deneuve of cheeses.

People from Le Puy-en-Velay are called Ponots and Ponotes, our Aniciens and Aniciennes, which has nothing to do with the cheese, but I just like the sound of it.


The most famous of the lentils -- the kind you eat, not the kind you stick in your eye -- are the Green Lentils de Puy. This Crémeux de Puy, which I would not recommend sticking in your eye and which will in no way improve your vision, may or may not come from the exact same puy, or volcanic mountain, but it certainly comes from the same general region.


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