Sep 22, 2015

The Most Dangerous Produce: Cru des Alpes


You may look at this photo and see three delicious vegetables, but to the French, it's fraught with danger. Oh no! Peppers! Run for your lives! And don't even get me started on the cucumber skin.

There are bell peppers on sale everywhere -- grocery stores, fresh outdoor markets. And yet most French people I know have never bought, or tasted, a raw red pepper. My friend asks me, "What do you do with them?" Most people simply say, "They're too spicy for me." Of course, that just shows that they don't know the difference between a bell pepper and a chili pepper. Yes, they're red, mes amis, but they're not spicy!
I've had more than one French friend tell me they didn't think raw peppers were edible, even if they're not spicy, because they're too hard to digest. Um, no more than any other veggie, really. And many of them also will not eat cucumber skin. Or raw zucchini. One of my friend tells the tale of being served raw zucchini on a veggie platter in the US much like I tell the tale of being served a live fish in Japan.

Cru des Alpes is a raw cows' milk cheese from the Alpes, as the name suggests ("cru" means "raw"). It's a hard cheese, in the tradition of classic mountain cheeses: the holes, the big wheel, the rough crust, the sweet-nutty flavor. You can almost taste the raw vegetables, herbs, and flowers that the cows have munched on in the fields where they graze. 

The cheese is somewhere between dry-crumbly and creamy. But not the crust. It's just rough, bumpy, dry, and hard. It's a crust to avoid. Not because it's technically inedible, but because it's practically inedible.


The word "cru" in the name of the cheese means "raw" -- in this case, raw milk.

It's funny to me that in the US, people are afraid of raw milk and afraid of raw milk cheese, and happily chomp down their raw veggies, whereas in France it's just the reverse. The French have no problem eating the moldiest, stinkiest raw milk cheese, but, God forbid they should eat a pepper, zucchini, or cucumber peel! It seems the only time you'll see a red pepper on the same table as French cheese and baguette in a French home is when our (American) family comes to visit.


  1. Paris isn’t France. In the south, we heat a lot of raw vegetables in salad with the skin.

    1. Thank goodness for that! It's coming on raw vegetable season: Enjoy your southern salads and vitamin-filled veggie skins!


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