Quotes

Dec 8, 2014

Above and Below: T'chiot Biloute

THE STORY:

The one thing I do in French that drives my girls crazy, and embarrasses them too, is occasionally say "oo" when I should say "u" and vice versa. Most of the time, it's easy enough to figure out my meaning by context, even if I say the wrong sound: "Ile Saint Lui" is obviously "Ile Saint Louis" and "tout" ("all") and "tu" ("you") or "vous" ("you") and "vu" ("seen") are different parts of speech. But nowhere does it make more of a difference than when saying "dessus" ("over") and "dessous" ("under").

 
If you don't speak French, you might not even be able to hear or make the difference in sounds. Think of it this way: "ou" is pronounced "oo" as in "boot" or "tooth". The letter "u" is best created by making the "ee" sound inside your mouth while shaping your lips like "oo". It ends up sounding more like the letter "u" in "cute".
 
But what's not so cute is when my girls roll their eyes and say, in exasperation, "But Mom, you can make the 'oo' sound. It's 'loo-ee' not 'lu-ee'." That's true (or troo), but when I'm speaking quickly, sometimes the wrong sound just comes out. Especially when the two sounds are near each other, at which point I'm just completely "foutu", correctly pronounced "foo-tu" and meaning "screwed up" (and since that's English, you can say it "scrood up" or "scrude up" without screwing up).
 
Because "dessus" ("over") and "dessous" ("under") are the exact same part of speech, used in the exact same contexts, it's sometimes impossible even for a very, very fluent French speaker (me) to hear or speak the sounds quickly enough. It's extra agony when they're right next to each other: the phrase "sens dessus dessous", which dates to at least the 15th century, means roughly "topsy turvy" or "backwards/upside down", which is how my tongue gets when it tries to say "sens dessus dessous".
 
Which sadistic idiot (I'm talking to you, Mr. Ancient Latin speaker), approximately a thousand years ago, decided on these two words? If I could, I would travel back in time and drop a very heavy frying pan under his head. Rather, over his head. You see? It's an important distinction.
 
But I guess there's nothing I can do about it now, except try to get under (I mean over) my mental block. But if not, it's all just water over (I mean under) the bridge.
 
 
THE CHEESE: T'chiot Biloute
 
T'chiot Biloute -- an oddly named cheese -- is a farmhouse cheese made from raw cows' milk in Saint Aubin, in the Nord (North) department in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The farm, Du Pont des Loups" has been making cheese since 1991.
 
 
It's aged by washing it with beer, which strikes me as something a northern cheese, one made right next to the Belgian border, would do. This gives is the crust its orange-ish color, which is then coated with beautiful fuzzy grayish green molds.
 
 
The location also explains the language of the name of the cheese, and the instructions on the package: it's mixed with hints of the traditional local dialect. The package says "Sors le de l'frigo 2 heures avant de l'met dans t'bouc c'est toudis meilleur", which roughly means "Take it out of the fridge 2 hours before putting it in your mouth so it's much better" and only partly reads like modern French.
 
 
It has a firm, rubbery consistency and a taste that's much milder than you would expect, given the beer wash. It comes from Maroilles country, but it's a much softer, mellower cheese, one whose stink hits you over the head like a pillow, not a cast iron frying pan.
 
THE CONNECTION:
 
It's important to correctly differentiate your "u" and "ou" in order to say both the name of the cheese -- "Biloute" -- and the name of the farm "Loup" properly. "Loup" means "wolf" whereas "lu" means "read". Also, "Biloute" sounds like "below", just like "dessus" sounds like "dessous".
 

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