Jan 21, 2015

Currents of Air: Le Roumé


My friend Nancy is an American who's lived her nearly all of her adult life in France and has been married to a Frenchman for over 20 years. Yet she laughs and rolls her eyes when talking about the French and their fear of "the courants d'air [air currents, or breezes]. They're all so afraid of the dreaded courant d'air. They're so convinced you catch a cold from a courant d'air, they won't even sleep with windows open. In the summer."

Perhaps it's because of their history: for example, when Louis XV died of smallpox in 1774, Versailles became practically a ghost-town for a while. Now in the case of smallpox, in the 18th century, perhaps this wasn't so bête (stupid), although it turns out smallpox is not transmitted via courants d'air but rather by direct contact with the fluids from rashes and pustules.

The French don't generally walk around with the white surgical masks you see on the streets of Asia during cold and flu season. They do sometimes opt for the sensible warning at the time of greeting, "I can't kiss you; I've got a cold." Fair enough, since nobody wants to do the double cheek kiss on somebody with snot running down their face.

But it's hard to place the origin, or rationale, for the fear of the courant d'air. It's not an ill-wind that bears bad tidings, mes amis; it's just a breeze. Maybe this helps explain the national scarf fetish.


Le Roumé is made from organic, raw, goats' milk and comes in both plain and ashed varieties as well as log-shaped. I buy the ashed variety because, let's face it, it looks a little more interesting and photogenic.

It is made in the Centre region of France, normally from April through December, and is a farmhouse cheese made on a goat farm that's been birthing, grazing, and raising its herd on-site since 1972. It's not aged long, which means it's soft and spreadable, like a good fresh goat cheese should be. The flavor is salty and sweet, with just a small goat tang.


It's a jeu de mots, a play on words: I choose un Roumé to talk about French people's fear of getting enrhumé (sick with a cold) because they are near homonyms (both pronounced, roughly, un-roo-MAY).


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