Nov 15, 2014

There's No Substitute: Vieille Tomme de Chèvre


Remember how your class tortured, disrespected, or generally ignored the substitute teachers? No need for that in France, because in general the kids don't have substitute teachers. No teacher? No class.

This is only true for middle and high school kids, who have multiple subjects and teachers per day. The primary school kids are still given substitutes. But the older kids simply miss out. Gigi missed nearly three weeks of math so far this year, alone, which is not ideal, but you won't hear her complaining.

If the teacher missing comes from the beginning or end of day, and there's any way to foresee it (missing due to a known commitment, teacher conference, etc.), then a message is sent home to parents: If we sign our approval, our child can simply come into school later or leave earlier. Math is Gigi's first class on many days: a 9:30am start mean lots of sleeping in.

If the class is in the middle of the day, or if there's not enough advance warning for parental permission (or if your child doesn't get the required signature for approval), the children go to "permanence", commonly called "perm", and meaning something like what Americans would call "study hall" (a supervised free period, that is). Or, if they're older, they go out for a smoke.

This is not just at my daughter's school. I've asked around. It's a common thing. The reason, I'm told, is that there just aren't enough substitute teachers, and it's too difficult to get just the right person qualified in specific subject matter for particular grade levels.

So Gigi's math suffers. But she's very, very well rested.

THE CHEESE: Vieille Tomme de Chèvre

Tomme de Chèvre? Pfft. It's nothing if it's not a Vieille Tomme de Chèvre -- an Old Goat Cheese. Unlike most goat cheeses, an old tomme is super dry and crumbly. It's very much like Parmesan, in all the best ways: salty, sweet, nutty, with a flavor explosion.

Many of these Vieilles Tommes are farmhouse cheeses, generally from the mountain regions, and always made with raw goats' milk. They can be aged as much as two years -- and they taste like it. This is so delicious, I am actually disappointed that my outdoor market cheese guy gives me a sample of it, because now I have no official need to buy it. Which means that all I get is the one taste.


Vieille Tomme de Chèvre is a delicious cheese, and I could say that there's no substitute for it. But, in fact, there is. It makes an almost perfect substitute for any of your fresh Parmesan needs, and conversely I think a nice hunk of Parmesan would substitute quite well if you're in the mood for a salty, nutty, tangy Vieille Tomme de Chèvre but can't find any. In fact, the next time I need some fresh Parmesan in the house, I'm going to buy a wedge of this instead (and then proceed to wolf it all down with the girls and Anthony and then, presumably, need to go out and buy more).


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