Jan 5, 2015

A Windmill of Words: Tomme de Brebis Artisanale du Comminges


To know Pippa is to know that anything that could be said in five words can also be told as a half-hour story, complete with choreography, props, and the occasional burst of song. But mostly words. Words and more words. I would say she's a chatterbox, but I like the French expression much better: she's a moulin à paroles -- a "windmill of words", which implies not only volume but unnecessary volume.

I like the image of the windmill blades turning and scattering word after word. That's what it feels like to be blasted by Pippa's stories. A friend carpools her home from gymnastics and laughs that, in the half hour commute, she never seems to stop for breath. So we coach her on the art of asking questions and listening. The next time he brings her home, I ask her if she let him talk: Her response is "I think so," but it takes about 400 more words than that to say it. I ask my friend to confirm, and he laughs again, "Nope! I didn't get in a word."

Some of Pippa's words aren't even real words. There are the tongue-twisters, when she was a wee tike:

pajologize = apologize
I'm wasting the lessissisity = electricity
Perseffer Plum = Professor Plum (in the dining room, with the candlestick)
Are you a professional fartist? = artist (but perhaps one who stinks?)

She's been making words up since she learned to speak:

magatizement = catalog
glassicle = clear icicle
drubbling = bouncing a tennis ball down the court
parawell = skiing downhill skillfully
cartographer = photographer (confusing, since cartographer is a real word, meaning something else)
eyebrain = migraine (my personally favorite, as that is exactly where my migraines hit me)

When I say since she's been making them up since she learned to speak, I'm not exaggerating. Once, while changing her diaper (which she stopped wearing by age 2, so that gives you some idea of age), she would not stop squirming, and I asked "Are you going to cooperate?" She responded, loud and clear, "No-operate!"

Some are a mixture of French and English, or at least show a clear French influence:

I t'aime = I love you
I'm going to mix and mélange = I'm going to mix and...mix.
Will you explique it to me? = Will you explain it to me?
I was conjugating really hard! = concentrating
"I did the erection of the day" = "I was the kid who put things up today" (at school)
You disconsoncentrated me! = ruined my concentration

For this last one, I think perhaps "disconcentrate" is the word she's looking for, then wonder if I'm starting to lose my English due to living in France. Is that a word? Or not? I look it up in various dictionaries and find this on the wordnik website: "'Disconcentrated’ has been looked up 217 times, is no one's favorite word yet, has been added to 1 list, has no comments yet, and is not a valid Scrabble word." So there we have it.

And then there are simply Pippa classics:

Age 4: "Why weren't you scared of the dragon in my dream?" "Because he was in your dream, so I couldn't see him." "Couldn't see him?! But he was so big!"
Age 5: "When I was born, was I naked and covered with blood and vomit?"
Age 6: "Can you may please give me the pear, please?" (Well, at least it's polite)
Age 7: Sulking under the table: "Don't talk to me. I'm not here. I'm in the other room."
Age 7: In genuine exasperation, while playing a game, after a brutal move by her sister: "You mean I just cheated for nothing?!"
Age 8: Leans over while watching an opera for children and asks, "Is she ever going to stop singing?!"

Ironically, while she doesn't understand why characters in musicals or operas constantly burst into unprovoked song in which they relate their feelings or simply describe what they're doing in too many words, she lives her life like a musical, constantly bursting into unprovoked song to relate her feelings or, more often, simply describe what she's doing in too many words.

Pippa doesn't hold back, and she takes no prisoners. Around age 5: "If you don't give me that, I will kill Tinkerbell."

Even more than the made up words, the mixed-up languages, and the funny one-liners, it's the sheer volume and speed that make Pippa's speech an endless, exhausting, but generally entertaining windmill of words. I cannot say for sure where Pippa learned to cast her words to the wind like this, but, as a person who's written (so far) about 400 essays on life in France and French cheese and taken over 700 words to explique the phrase "moulin à paroles", I admit I have my suspicions.

THE CHEESE: Tomme de Brebis Artisanale du Comminges

Other than telling you the milk is raw, it's hard to think of much I can tell you about this cheese that's not painfully obvious from the name. It's a tomme -- a large wheel of hard cheese, that is. It's made from the milk of brebis (sheep). It's an artisanale cheese. And it comes from the Comminges, which is located in southern France, in the department of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrénées region. Actually, the full name of the town is really Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges but I suppose the person writing the cheese label thought that Tomme de Brebis Artisanale de Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges would give them hand cramps.

Related in taste, texture, terroire, and manufacturing methodology to Napoleon, Ossau Iraty, and other Pyrénées sheep cheeses, this one does not disappoint. The rought, powdery, cratered crust is, in my mind, more like candy than a nuisance, though I could see some feeling it's too dry to eat. And the cheese is just at the edge of crumbly and creamy, with strong floral hints and a sweet-nuttiness of a great sheep cheese.


Why say in one word (Brebis) what can be said with six words (Tomme de Brebis Artisanale du Comminges) or nine (Tomme de Brebis Artisanale de Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges )? That's Pippa's motto -- and the motto of any true moulin à paroles.


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