Mar 26, 2015

Down the Toilet: Massipou


This blog is really going down the crapper, because I'm going to talk about toilets -- again! When I first moved here and was chaperoning at the swimming pool, I offered to help a little girl get to "la toilette". She cocked her head, quizzically: "It's 'les toilettes'," she corrected me. "I'm 6 years old, and I know that. Why don't you?!"

Well, because I don't see why toilets is plural, even when you're just going to use one toilet. We have one toilet, in our one bathroom, in our one apartment in Paris. Yet it's still called "les toilettes".

"La toilette", on the other hand, means more the toileting ablutions you do in the shower, at the sink, in front of the vanity -- basically every part of the bathroom except the toilet.

I am told that in Belgium, they do, more logically, refer to the crapper as "la toilette". And I am told they have a joke up there to explain the difference in language usage: In Belgium, it's in the singular, because you only need to go find one toilet. In France, it's in the plural, because you need to visit a bunch of them before you find one clean enough to use.


How true, how true. I know I'm showing you historic toilets in the photos above, from Le Petit Trianon and Vaux-le-Vicomte, respectively. But believe me, you'd rather use these than most public French toilets.

THE CHEESE: Massipou

Massipou is made with either raw or pasteurized sheep's milk in Ariège in the Midi-Pyrénées. Though the milk in the sample I buy is pasteurized, either way it is considered a non-cooked cheese, meaning the milk is not heated in order to curdle it. Rather, it's pressed to eliminate the liquid and turn it into a semi-hard, surprisingly creamy cheese.

It's aged at least 14 weeks on pine planks, which infuses the cheese with a rustic sweetness. By that time, the crust has turned out an orange-tinted brown, and the cheese is firm, but not dry or crumbly. It melts in the mouth, with a disctinctly sweet, and slightly floral flavor.

By this point, I have a bias against pasteurized cheeses, but even after tasting several raw milk hard cheeses, this is the one I choose to buy. It's surprisingly flavorful with a wonderful texture.


Really, it's the most immature connection imaginable, but as soon as I read the name "Massipou" (pronounced, roughly "messy-POO"), I know this is the cheese to accompany this story idea, especially given the Belgian opinion of French bathrooms.


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