Jul 15, 2015

The Blue, White, and Red: Le Vieux Berger


In America, July 4th is all about the Red, White, and Blue. But in France, July 14th is all about the Blue, White, and Red. It's different. Well, sort of.


Just as it sounds completely backwards in English to say "blue" first, if you try to talk about the red, white, and blue in French, they will usually stop with a slightly confused look on their faces and correct you. It just sounds so very wrong.

Depending on which way the wind blows (literally), you might be reading your French flag from left to right, or right to left.

Or, even, I suppose, top to bottom.

This mind-bending flag display in Deauville shows a whole lot of red, white, and blue; blue, white, and red; red and white, but all up the flagpole sideways. And, they haven't just take regular flags and hoisted them sideways, they've actually had special flags printed (check out the American and Canadian flags to see what I mean) to display them vertically.

It turns out, saying it correctly doesn't just indicate your language skills; it also says something about your cultural knowledge.

Pippa has a kid in her class who did an end-of-year presentation on the United States. When Pippa tells us about it, she says he was talking about baseball and he even brought in a bat. Given that he's a kid with impulse control issues, I am surprised the teacher allowed this: "a bat?!"

She modeled her hands into a ball and pretended to throw. "You know, the thing..."

"The baseball?"

"No." At this point, she mimes catching a thrown ball. "The rugby...."

"Ah, you mean the mitt?" Even with as little as I know about baseball, I know the word "mitt". I also know that my daughter, who has largely been raised in France, is in danger of becoming downright un-American.


"He also talked about the first President of the United States," she continues.

I'm afraid to ask, but I have to: "Do you know who that was?"

"George.....something or other."

Even Gigi, who loves history and can tell you the name of French Renaissance King's mistresses, can only pinpoint the American Revolution to the general half-century ("1763? 1767? 1776?" Ah, finally).

"What is the full name of the country where you were born?" Gigi knows this one, but Pippa ventures, "America? North America?" Ugh. I'm afraid to ask, but I have to...how many states are there? Pippa has no idea. It's time to break out our puzzle, where we can learn so many useful facts, like the official state motto of Virginia: "Thus always to tyrants" and Michigan, who went for a somewhat less lofty tone: "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you" or Utah, who aimed to be succinct: "Industry."


This is pathetic. Their American history and culture education seems to have come to a screeching halt when they were little girls (yes, that's them below, ages almost 2 and 4!) and we moved to Paris.

We need to do a little homework here so that they know at least the basic facts about the good ole' Red, White, and Blue, along with what they're learning about the good ole' Blue, White, and Red.

THE CHEESE: Le Vieux Berger

Also a Roquefort, but sold as Le Vieux Berger even by the manufacturer, an artisanal version of a Roquefort, but perhaps one not conforming exactly to the AOP regulations and, therefore, Le Vieux Berger. Same thing, by a different name, really.

It's made by the Maison Combes, which has been around since 1923. So of course the cheese couldn't have always conformed to AOP regulations, seeing as how Roquefort was the first cheese ever protected by French regulation, and that wasn't until 1925.

The artisanal cheese is made from the raw milk of 13 sheep farms, and the entire process is done by hand. This includes the three to five times per day that the cheese must be turned by hand in the draining process, and the sea salt that is rubbed over each wheel during the aging process.

The result is something that is, clearly, very much a Roquefort, even if the makers want to call is A Vieux Berger (Old Shepherd). It's a little more crumbly and slightly less salty than many Roqueforts, with a powerful tang, which makes it nearly perfect in my mind. It's an absolutely heavenly blue cheese.


Just as le Vieux Berger is really the same as a Roquefort, but under another name, the colors of the French and American flags are the same, but just named in a different order. And one of those colors -- either the first (if you're French) or the last (if you're American) is "blue" as in...blue cheese.


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