Feb 11, 2016

Making Love, the French Way: Coeur de Cocagne


One time I asked my then-95 year old grandfather how he ended up marrying my grandmother, and he told me, "Right after I met her, I started to make love to her a lot..."

Argh! My ears! My ears! But then, of course, he went on to tell me about how he made love to her...by bringing her flowers, holding her hand, taking her on walks. Ah, so "making love" had a very different connotation in his day, and in our modern era, he just was getting the lingo wrong. Well, living in France, I now have a lot of sympathy for how out-of-date he was. After over four years here, I still can't correctly "make love" the French way.

For example, I know that "bisous" -- also sometimes called "bises" -- are the harmless, innocent kisses you give not just to family and close friends but also to business acquaintances, and even people you've just met. The word is derived from baiser, which is listed in every dictionary I can find as meaning "to kiss". That's logical, except that, in practice, "baiser" means to have sex, but in more vulgar terms. It means "f***ing", plain and simple, though it's not f***ing plain and simple to figure out. I know because I've said it wrong, quite awkwardly, several times ("I'm getting used to kissing/"baiser" two or three times in a row with my French friends...").

It's not f***ing simple. Why French? Why do you do this to me? "Je t'aime" means "I love you," so why doesn't "Je t'aime bien" (literally "I love you well") mean "I love you so much?" In fact, "aimer" is "to love", whereas "aimer bien" is "to really like strongly".

You know what I strongly like? When I know how to say what I mean, without embarrassing myself. You know how you're not supposed to say "I'm embarrassed" translated into Spanish ("Soy embarassada") because it actually means you're pregnant? Well, in French "embarrassé" actually does mean "embarrassed". But I'm embarrassed to tell you that "embrasser" which is only a couple letters off, and which I always thought meant "embrace" -- in the huggiest, most innocent way -- can also be used to mean "making out". There are nuances here that I haven't yet mastered: My friends sign off e-mails to me "je t'embrasse très fort" (essentially "Sending you big hugs"), yet I know none of them mean to imply they would "embrasser" me in the "making out" sense.

"Galocher" -- what we call French kissing -- is not just interesting because it means "embrasser" with tongue but also because it's a new word, only accepted as a part of the French language as of the 2014 edition of the dictionary. I'm assuming the French French kissed before that, but what did they call it?
And while I'm showing pictures of people kissing on the Love Locks Bridge by Notre Dame, let me tell you that the de-lockification process has begun (on one side so far). That doesn't mean you can't make love, er, make out on the bridge anymore, just that you can't make it permanent with a padlock.

Ah, l'amour. Lucky for me, "faire l'amour" (literally "to make love") means pretty much just what you'd expect. For now. I can only imagine what kind of words and euphemisms my grandchildren will be using (in English or French) and how hopelessly out-of-date I will sound to them. Especially given the number of gaffes I've made so far.


I love the French, and I love the French language, but sometimes I'm just not sure how to love it without being either much more, or much less, vulgar than I intend.

THE CHEESE: Coeur de Cocagne

Having covered Lingot de Cocagne, I can only assume that the Coeur de Cocagne is essentially the same thing, in heart-shaped form. The Coeur de Cocagne is a raw sheep's milk cheese made in the Tarn region at the Teoski farm, one of the premier cheese affineur Laurent Dubois' favorites. And with good reason. They have the real Midas touch when it comes to cheese.

I say "Teoski" farm, because that's how both Dubois and the Androuet cheese shops, two of the nation's premier shops, spell it. The farm itself spells it Teotski, however, so I feel like my language, spelling, and labeling woes are far from over.

So is it a Lingot de Cocagne in heart form? Not exactly. It has its own character. The Coeur de Cocagne is a delicious cheese that's easy to love: soft, delicate, mousse-y, and creamy, with a light flavor laced with the sweetness of the milk and flowers the sheep graze on. The particular Lingot de Cocagne specimen I tried, on the other hand, was quite aged, nearly hard, and significantly stronger and saltier. Of course that could just be a coincidence: that my heart is tender while the slab was hard. It may be I just happened upon a fresher heart and older brick.


Like all the heart cheeses, the shape is mostly a gimmick to make the cheese cuter and more saleable. Especially around Valentine's Day, it's a trick that works well. You may love this cheese, as I do pretty much all soft, raw goat and sheep cheeses, but when speaking about it in French, just make sure you express your love for it in the proper way.


  1. dear Kazz, thanks for loving us, and the cheeses alltogether ! Concerning the language, do not worry, it's charming most of the time to hear the mistakes around those terrible french "nuances de la langue" (and this can also be a tricky thing to say !) Laurence of Paris

    1. Thank goodness you're forgiving. If mistakes are charming, then I must be very charming indeed! Merci, et bisous (ha! see what I did there?).

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