Nov 28, 2014

Refridge You Later: Petit Moyonnais


Like a puzzle, or a game of Tetris, I try to find a way to put all of my groceries in the fridge after each shopping trip. This is difficult, because I shop like an American (infrequently and in great bulk), but my refrigerator is very French (i.e. petit).

When we were still living in San Francisco, we had French friends come to visit. One morning we walked into the kitchen and found them not just photographing but actually video-taping our refrigerator. The wife stood by it, to give it scale, then opened it on camera, showing both the width and depth.

That seems silly, until you see French fridges, "les frigos". Ours is by most French standards, especially Parisian apartment standards, actually a pretty big one. To give you perspective for the picture: I'm only 4'11" (150cm).


It's a real challenge, and the freezer is no better, and no -- my American friends who live in the suburbs -- we don't have an "extra" fridge/freezer in the basement or garage that we can use.

When a high school friend and his family visit us from Seattle, they generously bring along some Pike Place fresh-frozen fish. This is a pretty hard gift to bring by airplane and, as it turns out, would be an even harder one for us to store till we're ready to cook it. Thank goodness they visit during a cold spell over Thanksgiving, and we are able to store the fish, along with a bottle of opened wine and a bag full of gourmet cheese, in the spare "nature freezer" -- that is to say, out on our balcony -- until there's room in the freezer, then fridge, then ultimately our stomachs (thanks, it was all delicious).

A French writer living in the US recently commented that Thanksgiving was the one day when Americans finally, actually took advantage of the capacity of their enormous refrigerators and ovens and six-burner stoves and so on. Since Thanksgiving is not a French holiday, and the date for us here in Paris is therefore flexible anyway, this year we do our Thanksgiving early so that I can cook pre-surgery. This means I am done stuffing myself with leftovers before the rest of my American friends and family are even starting to make their stuffing.

Our stove here is not American-size and, therefore, not big enough for a whole turkey, of course, but I have discovered over the years in Paris that buying turkey parts and cooking them already cut up works just as well, if not better. Cooking time is much less, and I can take out white meat before it dries out. This year there is no white meat on the day I'm shopping for my turkey, so everybody gets dark meat.

I feel like I actually took full advantage of my enormous American appliances while I had them in San Francisco, but I don't know if I ever fully appreciated them until 3 years worth of near-weekly 45 minute sessions spent struggling to find a place in my French fridge for milk bottles (balanced on their sides), fruits (apples balanced in little pyramids on the shelves), all the opened jars, eggs, and every other perishable item from my grocery run, and tubs full of Thanksgiving (and other) leftovers.

THE CHEESE: Petit Moyonnais

Petit Moyonnais is an unusual cheese in that it's a goat cheese from cow country. This raw goats' milk cheese hails from Moyon (hence the name) in Normandy. It's even more of an anomaly in that the goats being raised here in the rolling coastal lands are Alpines.

So while most of the local cheese look like the triangular one on the right -- buttery interior with a whitish-orange crust -- this one is a dark, ashed goat log.

The resulting cheese is creamy, thick, and very mild. I get the impression they're playing it safe with the taste of this one, not too salty, not too goaty, not too gamy, to fit in with the local tastes, which are either geared towards the sweet, creamy, buttery cow cheeses or else super-stinky, powerful, orange-rind cow cheeses that are a different kind of strong altogether.


You can tell we're in France because not only is my refrigerator petit, so is my Moyonnais cheese. Like a goat cheese in cow country, an enormous Thanksgiving turkey dinner -- with all the trimmings and tons of extra cooked on purpose -- is also a cultural anomaly in France, so French people aren't used to designing their frigos to accommodate the leftovers.


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