Mar 31, 2015

The Miss List: Petit Séverin


There are the things I expected to miss, the things I initially missed, and, almost four years later, the things I really miss. Then there are the things I'm going to miss. The biggest problem with living in new places is that you realize, at some point, that there are people and things in each place that you love with all your heart, but it's impossible to assemble them all in one place.

Things I miss that I didn't expect to:
  • Cheap, delicious, plentiful, spicy ethnic food -- Asian and Mexican
  • Colorful houses and clothes. Bright crazy colors in general
  • Being able to compost garbage (through the municipal garbage, in San Francisco)
  • Dryer. Actually, Anthony's the one who misses this. Who knew he had this strong a preference for non-crunchy clothes? An American friend spending the year here misses, with this same intensity, the garbage disposal in her kitchen sink
  • Trader Joe's candied nuts and steel cut oats
Things I initially missed, but got over:
  • Non-sugary, whole-grain, crunchy breakfast cereals, specifically Barbara's Shredded Oats. But we've since found some muesli and not-too-sweet granolas we like.
  • Large tubs, instead of individual cups, of European-style plain yogurt (and I'm in Europe. Go figure)
  • The occasional summery day in the middle of winter
  • My Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. Different electrical outlets, so I didn't bring one from the US, and we don't have the space here anyway. So I just hand-mix. It works, and I get exercise.
  • Good girls' soccer programs, though I've heard one finally started up, but too late for us, as we've moved on to other activities
  • Having a car, but just occasionally, for massive shopping trips. Then I discovered that even my local grocery store delivers. For free
  • Lock lid leftover storage containers
  • Salsa and soft corn tortillas
Things I miss that I knew I'd miss:
  • Golden Gate Park and being allowed to play on large expanses of grass. Nature in general. This is probably Anthony's #1 life-style thing he misses: going out our door and mountain biking, or playing in the ocean, or running through the forest
  • Having more than one toilet in the house

Things I thought I'd miss that I don't:
  • My big, beautiful house in San Francisco. Still love it, but it's not going anywhere...
  • Inexpensive, super-stocked second-hand clothing stores. I may love the occasional Goodwill haul, but it turns out I also love twice-a-year Soldes and great neighborhood-wide garage sales.
  • Dryer. For me, it turns out I don't so much mind hanging laundry or having crunchy clothes.

Things I do not miss at all, and knew I wouldn't:
  • Driving, parking, maintaining a car
  • Paying private school tuition in San Francisco (about 20 times higher than what we pay in Paris for elementary school, and about 10 times higher at the middle school level)
  • Foggy summers. Foggy days. Fog in general

Things I will not miss when I leave Paris:
  • People smoking. Everywhere. All the time. So much smoking (on top of air pollution)

Things I already know I will miss when I leave Paris:
  • Four distinct seasons, fall leaves on the ground
  • Using and hearing French all the time
  • The sounds of church bells ringing, not just Sunday morning, but anywhere, anytime
  • Some of what's available at the fresh produce markets, certain types of fruits and vegetables
  • Cheap, great boulangeries and pâtisseries almost everywhere
  • Those great signs on country roads so that you can drive around without a GPS, or even a map

  • Not having to pack a school lunch every day for the girls. Hooray for cafeterias! (But I think this is uniquely a problem of our San Francisco private school)
  • Walking by Notre Dame, medieval streets, the bridges over the Seine, and Paris architecture as part of daily life. Rich history, everywhere
  • Gymnastics. The gym where the girls work out here is a much better facility than the one they had in San Francisco. They have excellent coaches, and Pippa in particular is part of a team that has that magical combination of focus, determination, skill, kindness, and fun. When we go back, not only will we lose her place on this team, we'll also have much worse facilities and a horrible schedule and commute to boot.
  • Walking or going by metro or bus (but never driving) the girls to school and activities and friends. Better yet, having them walk or metro or bus themselves
  • Quick access to limitless different countries, languages, cultures, and travel destinations
  • The cheese -- the unpasteurized, oozy, young, illegal-in-the-US kind

And what I miss most of all...
...is dear friends and family. The other day, I showed Gigi a photo of her adorable 2-year old cousin in San Francisco, and she actually got tears in her eyes as she said, "I miss her. I've never even met her, but I love her so much." Yup, that's how we all feel. We want to be there to see our little niece growing up, to support our friend going through chemo, and to meet our baby nephew. We miss being at the birthday parties, on the weekend trips, going on hikes, and sharing dinners.
But that also means we'll miss dear friends when we leave Paris. Even though I'm still here, I sometimes already feel nostalgic about the walks I take with my friend along the Seine. We walk in nearly all weather and end up searching for her dog, who runs off one time out of three, but that's OK, because it gives us more time to talk (and we always find the dog, eventually). The one saving grace about leaving our friends here will be that we expect many of them to take us up on our offer to come to the States. We expect a lot of exchange students when the kids are older and want to practice their English.
The beauty of being an ex-pat is feeling at home in two places. But the downside is always having your heart just a little bit torn in two.
THE CHEESE: Petit Séverin

Petit Séverin is a nubbin of raw sheeps' milk cheese made by Berger des Dombes, a farm in Civrieux, in the department of Ain, in the region of Rhônes-Alpes. The farm does just two things, but does them right: artisanal sheep cheeses and chickens (not chicken cheese, mind you -- just chickens).

It's a cheese with character: salty and flavorful, with a slight gaminess. It's a little umami bomb. Thanks to the grazing land of the sheep, it's also got hints of peppers and vegetable. It's small enough that it's fairly hard without being aged very long, with a nice thick crust.


It's a story about severin' ties a little, and a cheese that's a Little Séverin. Plus, Petit Séverin is a lovely little cheese that I won't be able to get once I'm back in the US -- not just because it's a small-batch, hard-to-find cheese even here in France, but also because it's illegal in the States by virtue of being unpasteurized and aged less than 60 days. Boo-hoo.


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