Oct 15, 2014

My Big Backyard: Bray aux Graines de Lin


This past summer, we spent a lot of time at our friends' country homes. This sounds very frou-frou and chi-chi, like we only hang out with rich people. Actually, many Parisians -- even many in the straight-up middle-class -- have country homes. Often they are family homes, handed down. Other times they are purchased, because while people many can't afford to buy their place in Paris, it's a lot easier to afford something out in the hinterlands.

But Parisians don't just summer in their country homes, which is why I call them "country homes" and not just "summer homes". Because of the excellent train system, and the fact that real countryside can be found just an hour or two outside of Paris even by car, Parisians often spend their weekends, year-round at these homes.

At first, blindly in love with Paris, we can't figure out why everybody wants to haul themselves away so many weekends and all their school holidays. Now, of course, we get it: once in a while you just need a break from the city. And our conclusion is that Parisians basically use their country homes like their backyards.

Sometimes, you just need to play lawn croquet or badminton.


The kids need a place to play, to try balancing on a slack line, to craft a home-made zip-line of questionable safety (for the record, the adults present all think of stopping them, then shrug and say, "Eh, whatever").

At least two of the houses we visit have trampolines set up.

One even has a full pinball game (called "flipper" in French) in the shed. Gigi is the only of us who figures out how to break the 20 million point mark; the rest of us consider it a great game when we hit 7 or 8 million.

We call Gigi not only the pinball wizard, but also the resident donkey-whisperer, who can call the donkey on the farm next door over to the fence for a salt lick. After a couple days, whenever the donkey brays, Gigi runs to get some salt and meets him at the fence, at which point I realize it's not the donkey that's been trained, but rather Gigi.
A country home means a place to read outside and to store bikes for a ride.
And, of course, everybody knows that food tastes better when eaten outdoors.

Indeed, having a big backyard -- or really any backyard at all -- feels like a true luxury when living in Paris.

The only danger, of course, is that your neighbor may be a real ass.

THE CHEESE: Bray aux Graines de Lin

Bray aux Graines de Lin is a modern cheese, a cheese of the times, and not just because it was invented in 2004, based on a more traditional Bray cheese, in Picardie, not too far north of Paris. No, it's a cheese of the times because it's a Bray with Flax Seeds touting that it's "Naturally rich in Omega 3s!" Yes, because that's how I choose my cheeses: by their healthful properties.

A farmhouse cheese made from raw cows' milk, it also has grilled flax seeds added into the creamy center. The seeds add a little chew in there, but surprisingly don't change the texture as much as you'd expect; it remains oozy, mousse-y, and light. It's hard to know how much of the taste is the cheese, and whether it's been affected by the seeds, but it's got character.

The one I buy happens to be on the more aged side, and it's a while till we get to opening and eating it, so it's really quite pungent with an acidic tang to it. But not an unpleasant tang: all the tasters keep going back, partly drawn by the silky texture, and find that it's got a nice salty-herbal balance. But we do think a younger version might be even better. When younger, it's supposed to be more buttery

In Paris, I find my cheese in my backyard: on Ile St. Louis, at a small shop at 38 rue St. Louis en L'Ile. I believe that's the only place in Paris you can find it. I recommend it if you're low on Omega 3s, or just in the neighborhood and in the mood for a unique cow cheese.


Not only is this a relatively "wholesome", grainy, outdoorsy kind of cheese (rich in Omega-3s!) made in a place easily reached for a quick weekend away from Paris, it's also a "Bray", just like the ass of a neighbor at our friend's country home is a bray-er.


  1. Shame on me !
    I was actually brought up in Picardie, in the Oise departement (n° 60), so as I decipher the label of your cheese today, I feel I should know it (or at least of it) .
    Alas, not !
    Too bad, for it looks delicious, even if I toowould prefer it a tad younger …



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