Sep 27, 2014

The Art of the Shath: Le Brebiou


You know you're really French when you have fully mastered the art of the shath -- the inexplicably difficult squatting shower. It turns out, I am not really French.

A shath is a shower-bath. It's a bath, because it's a big bath tub. That part's clear. But there's a shower head and nozzle. So perhaps it's a shower. But there is no enclosure around it. So perhaps it's a bath. No! It's a shath. Or is it a bower? In French, I suppose, it would be either a "dain" or maybe a "bainche" -- that is, a "douche-bain" ("shower-bath") or "bain-douche".

The problem, as you can plainly see with your shower-taking, non-French eyeballs, is that any time you swivel the shower head around to shower yourself with water, you inevitably water the entire bathroom. Even if you are an advanced-level shather and do what the French do, which is sit down in the tub, there is still that tricky problem of trying to use one hand to keep water pouring over yourself while soaping up or lathering with the other, coupled with the additional challenge of trying not send the water directly horizontal as you swivel the shower head around.

The shower head is meant to be swiveled; otherwise, they would have fixed it to the wall. Yet there is no curtain. I'm befuddled (but clean), and my friend's bathroom is bepuddled (and a mess).

THE CHEESE: Le Brebiou

Le Brebiou is a sheeps' milk cheese made at the Jurançon fromagerie in the Aquitaine department of the Pyrénées-Atlantique where it is aged a quick 2 weeks to form a light, white bloom, moldy crust (like a Camembert) and a soft, oozy interior. The taste is sweet and salty, lactic, and a little bit mushroomy.

Given that description and the photo, you have a certain impression of this cheese already. Let me just add that the sheep's milk is pasteurized, and that the entire fromagerie is part of the conglomerate Bongrain, which launched this cheese in 1994. There, now you have a slightly different impression, don't you? But honestly, for a grocery-store, mass-produced, industrial cheese, it's really not bad; in fact, it might very well have been the best thing on many a cheese plate I ate before I ever moved to Paris.

You can buy a wedge of it from the deli aisle at the grocery store. You can buy it in a little wooden container, with a less moldy crust. Or you can buy it in a low-fat version. But you shouldn't, because you should never buy reduced fat cheeses, because they're pointless. If you're worried about the fat, eat the good stuff, just less of it.


Le Brebiou sounds like a cheese name that's been invented by combining two words. The first one is clearly "brebis", meaning "sheep" and also "sheep cheese". But where's the "ou" from? (Yes, that's a pun for the French speakers, since "" means "where".) Our favorite family guesses include the words: "toutou" ("doggie"), "trou" ("hole"), and "flou" ("blurry"), none of which make any sense. Le Brebiou is a combination cheese in many ways: part creamy, part melty, and one that feels like a high-end, raw artisanal cheese, though it's pasteurized and made by a huge industrial manufacturer. And I like the fact that for a water-themed posting, I have a cheese from Aquitaine in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.


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