Apr 6, 2015

A Little Love, A Little Death, A Little Confusion: Coeur de Touraine


Love is eternal. But so is death. So when somebody says "l'amour" (love) or "la mort" (death) is eternal, I'm not always sure which one we're talking about. My children tell me the last vowel in the words are different, and when spoken slowly and clearly, I can hear it. La-MORE vs. La-MOOR.

But when spoken at normal speed in a normal conversation, I sometimes miss the mark: "Wait, what are we talking about here?!" My French friends are sometimes very amused, but the resulting conversation can be mortifying, and I'm not using that word by accident. "Mortify" of course comes from the same Latin root as "la mort"; that means my children are not so far off of correct when they use it to mean "Mom, you're embarrassing me so much I literally might die."

I'm not embarrassing them on purpose. At least, not all the time. I'm mischievous, not evil; I'm no Voldemort. And while I haven't asked J.K. Rowling if it was done on purpose, or only because it sounds good, I strongly suspect that the name of Harry Potter's nemesis has some French/Latin roots and that it's not an accident that "mort" ("death") is right there in his name: "Vol-de-mort" would loosely mean "Stealing from death" in French, which given Voldemort's untiring quest for immortality, cannot possibly be a coincidence.

Neither is the fact that "immortality" has the root "mort" in it. You know this root that means "death": You've seen it in mortuaries with morticians, and even in the word mortgage (which sometimes feel like it will, indeed, be the death of us, or at least until we die).

Another "mort" trivia for artist lovers: Whereas in English, we call a painting of a bowl of pears and oranges and eggs (there may be a trumpet and a dead pheasant in there, too) a "still life", in French, they call it "nature morte" ("dead nature").

In the end, it's not just me that confuses death and love: Interestingly, "la petite morte" -- which literally means, "the little death" -- is a French euphemism for an orgasm.

THE CHEESE: Coeur de Touraine

As part of the Selles-sur-Cher family of cheeses, this artisanal heart-shaped cheese is made from raw goats' milk. It's a gorgeously ashed specimen, coated with edible pulverized wood ash. The cheese is then aged for a minimum of three weeks, at which point the mold also takes on a blue-gray tint.

It's got a lightly acidy, lemony tang to it, and that characteristic thick and creamy texture shared by the great chèvres. Other cheeses in the family include a Couronne Lochoise (also known as a Couronne de Touraine) or Saint-Maure-de-Touraine but in heart form.

It hails from the area of Touraine, historically a province of France, but since political reorganization in 1790, just after the French revolution, a historical reference to the current regions of Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, and Indre.


Sometimes the cheese connections fall right in my lap. At other times, I'm just kicking myself that I've already used up a cheese. For instance, the cheese I really want to use here is Morbier -- because it starts with the same "MORE" sound and because it's got ashes in it (a nice death reference). Damn you, stinky toilet story, for which I already used Morbier! Or perhaps I would have chosen Brin d'Amour, since it has the word "amour" conveniently in the name.

But instead, I am reduced (how mortifying) to using a heart-shaped, ashed cheese in order to reference both l'amour and la mort.


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