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Oct 4, 2014

Have a Drink, Kid: Bouchon de Brebis

THE STORY:

I've been asked the legal drinking age here in France by more than one visitor -- usually of the teenaged kind. The funny thing is, each time I've asked around to my local French friends, none of them know the answer. And that's because there is no drinking age. Only a purchasing age.


I have an American friend who lives in Paris, married to a Frenchman. A couple years ago, she was on a trip in the US with her then-16 year old daughter, who ordered a glass of wine at a restaurant. The waiter told her she had to be 21, so her mother said, "OK, I'll order it then." And they wouldn't/ couldn't sell it to the mother, knowing she was going to pass it to her daughter.
 
Lest you think that makes French kids alcoholics or even big drinkers, that same girl then went to Duke for a prospective freshman weekend at Duke University. Her initial impression was the American high school and college students were crazy party-binge drinkers. She had never seen anything like that level of abuse of alcohol. She's there now, happy, and has found plenty of non-crazy, non-party, non-binge drinkers.
 
Officially, French kids can drink at any age, legally, but they cannot buy alcohol until age 18, raised from age 16 in 2009 (which means that kids that were legally buying wine in France 5 years ago are finally just legal to buy liquor in the US). At grocery and wine stores, the 18 year limit is generally respected. One friend recently sent her 14-year old to go buy a bottle for dinner, and he was turned away, for example. At a restaurant or bar, it depends mostly on who else is there and what kind of restaurant or bar it is, but often older teenagers are served anyway. And parents can certainly buy a glass of wine (or any alcohol, frankly) for their under-aged children.
 
And since you've asked (well, some of you have), we let our own kids taste any alcohol they want at our table. Mostly they sniff it and declare it disgusting, though Gigi, at age 11, occasionally thinks a sweeter white is, well, sort of not so disgusting. The criticism, I realize, is that we're teaching our children how to drink alcohol. Well, we've seen the American model and the French model, and in my mind that's exactly right: we're teaching our children how to drink alcohol.
 
THE CHEESE: Bouchon de Brebis
 
Bouchon de Brebis, which literally means "Sheep Cheese Cork", is, of course, a wine cork-shaped and roughly cork-sized plug of raw sheeps' milk cheese. It comes from Tarn, a department in the south of France, in the Midi-Pyrénées region. There are wines in this region, but it's no Burgundy, Champagne, or Bordeaux -- meaning not that the wines are necessarily bad, just that the region is certainly not famous for its wine-making.
 
 
The cheese is a bite-sized, firm, thick and creamy chunk of sheep. But being somewhere between a soft sheep cheese (usually more strongly farm-tasting) and a dry sheep cheese (usually more salty and nutty), it's not too sheepy and has a nice salty tang to it.
 
THE CONNECTION:
 
A Bouchon de Brebis is named after, and looks like, a wine cork. But even the under 21s, under 18s, and under 16s are allowed to enjoy the cheese version (although, I suppose, more literally, nobody of any age actually consumes the real wine cork itself).

1 comments :

  1. What a wonderful selection of cheese in all its glory! I found you through the P'ton alumni magazine and hope that you will write back to me under my regular e-mail: susgaert at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete

 
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