May 9, 2015

What Taboo?: Crottin de Brebis Affiné


About to send her youngest child off to university, my friend recently went in for a job interview here in Paris. "How old are you?," the interviewer asked. Explicitly. And you can't tell me he was too ignorant to know this is a taboo question because he was a lawyer, interviewing a lawyer, for a job as a lawyer.

Her response was classy, and not at all snarky, seeing as how she wanted the job. "What I think you want to know is how long I plan to work, and I can tell you I plan to work about 10-15 years before retiring." And, yes, she was also asked about her children.

Teachers regularly give out information about children to the entire class: their grades, test scores, placement in class, acceptances to or rejections from schools. My daughters can (and do) tell me the exact ranking order of each student, and their notable scores, both of which have been publicly announced and discussed.

Having needed to talk to, on the odd occasion, a school administrator about a student, or teacher, I am simply agog at the things they tell me: I've heard second-hand, from those in professional positions, about mental illness, specific medications, behavior disorders, learning difference diagnoses, marital problems, academic records, you name it.

I suspect there are laws protecting privacy in place, but, if so, it seems to me that they are, culturally, almost completely ignored.

And by now, most of you are probably baffled with my choice of photos, wondering, "Why on Earth is she illustrating this story with avocados?!" And the answer is that in French, the word for "lawyer" is exactly the same as the word for "avocado": "avocat" (same root as our word "advocate"). As it turns out, you really don't want an avocado that's too old and well past its prime, but, frankly, I think you've got more leeway with a lawyer.

THE CHEESE: Crottin de Brebis Affiné

A Crottin de Brebis Affiné, which means something like "Aged Little Sheep's Turd", is a raw sheeps' milk cheese produced through lactic fermentation. When served fresh and young, it's drained for as little as 24 hours, and the resulting cheese is lemony, soft, and grainy.

However, when it's affiné, or aged, it will then sit around hardening, collecting white mold, and ripening for up to a couple weeks. At that point, it's semi-dry, a combination of crumbly with a hint of creamy. The flavor is much more intensely sheepy, with an almost spicy pepper kick to it. It's a tiny nubbin, the size of a golf ball and nearly as hard. The thick, moldy crust is the texture of velvet, but edible: velvet that melts in your mouth.
Sheep turds can be found, of course, throughout the country, or, at least, wherever there are sheep. And the same is true for these turd-shaped little cheeses. Certainly, just about any dairy farm with a little extra sheep milk here and there is churning out some Crottins.


This is an aged cheese, and one that wears the fact that it's aged quite proudly right in the name. You don't need to delve too deep to know it's not a fresh, young thing. So, in this way, it's a perfect cheese to be interviewed for a place on a French platter.

Also, the fact that interviewers in France still ask this sort of question, and that teachers spill so much information about their students and the family's private lives, is, to an American, who's used to strict confidentiality and privacy on such matters, a messy pile of crap -- that is, a "crottin" -- that would best be avoided.


Post a Comment

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Customized by Mihai