Quotes

Nov 25, 2016

Little Smokers: P'tit Fumé

THE STORY:

I've complained about the smoking in Paris, and throughout France, before. But I haven't told you just how deep -- and young -- the problem goes. Gigi recently told us that "the kids who smoked secretly last year now smoke openly in front of the school." And we're talking about kids who were mostly 13 last year and are now 14. When it comes to smoking, France sends kids a mixed message at best.


Not only is Gigi horrified that some 14 year olds are smoking openly, in front of teachers (also outside for smoke breaks), she's also horrified by how many of them smoke. She reports that roughly a third of her grade (of 150 kids) now smokes. Even if that number is slightly exaggerated -- perhaps it's a quarter? or 20%? -- that's still an awful lot of kids smoking. And these are kids from good families, who've tested into a competitive private school.

I decided to research this question and get some hard numbers, and they seem to back Gigi's claim up perfectly: as of a study in 2011, the average age to "experiment with tobacco" (and that must be almost entirely by lighting up a cigarette, as I've never seen a French person do anything else with tobacco) is 13.5. The report also states that 29% of  French students smoke. I'm assuming here they mean middle/high school students, but who knows. If they mean all students, that would put the number of middle/high school students much higher in order to bring that average up.

That number is 9% higher than in Great Britain and 17% higher than in Germany. The overall rate for smoking in California is something like 15%, about half that of France overall, and anecdotally, for high school kids (especially good students at competitive schools), the number is much, much lower than that. And no, I'm not talking about smoking of anything other than regular tobacco.

 

I'm sure the French would see us as draconian: California recently passed a law making the legal age to buy cigarettes 21. But in France, they seem to have gone the opposite way. Last year, after the terrorist attacks, the country put in place a set of "vigipirate" (state of emergency) rules and guidelines. Understandably, the schools weren't supposed to let large groups of students loiter outside the school walls, on the sidewalks. You would think that meant the kids who went out to smoke would be out of luck.

But this is France: our children's K-12 school invited all the children to smoke inside the courtyard, in the presence of the other children, including sometimes elementary school kids. That means my non-smoking kids regularly breathe in the second-hand smoke of their classmates -- their 13 year old classmates. What an example to set to anybody. I'm just so appalled by this, I can't even pretend to be  neutral. There are some cultural differences that I try to respect, but this one is just plain stupid and wrong.

Here's a street scene that makes my blood boil. The French see me as just too American. I have three doctor friends (two of whom smoke) who've told me the French doctors recommend that smokers NOT stop smoking when they are pregnant, because they feel the nicotine withdrawals would be bad for the fetus. I'm dying here. Not to mention how the fetus is feeling.

 

This elementary school kid pictured below is smoking a fake cigarette as part of a costume. But I can tell you that, sadly, it's not so far off reality.


THE CHEESE: P'tit Fumé

P'tit Fumé is another little gem in the crown of Le Pere Bafien, who makes other ultra high-end, crazy delicious goat cheeses, including their eponymous cheese previously described. This one is a little nubbin of a cheese, about the size of an individual yogurt cup. As delicious as a yogurt cup is, I'd much rather have the P'tit Fumé.


Made of raw goats' milk in the Haute-Vienne, which is the department around the city of Limoges in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine (formerly called the region of Poitou-Charentes, but that's a subject for a different blog post). This to me, is the area that produces the best goat cheese in France, which in turn produces the best goat cheese in the world. And given that this is one of the best goat cheese producers in the Poitou-Charentes/ Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, that's really saying something about it.

Le P'tit Fumé is unusual in that it's a little nubbin of a smoked cheese, which makes sense given the name: "petit" means "little" and "fumé" means "smoked". This is not to say that you should smoke it. Rather, it's been aged in smoky conditions, and the cheese is absolutely permeated with the smoke of a wood fire. It's beyond dreamy and delicious, if you like the smell of a campfire in your cheese. The smell is strong enough that it's isolated from the other cheese and kept in glass containers wherever it's sold (in this photo, at the Quatrehomme fromagerie). Its texture is thick and densely creamy.


Le P'tit Fumé is a perfect little cheese -- unusual yet classic.

THE CONNECTION:

A cheese and a story can hardly be linked more literally than this one: P'tit Fumé (Little Smoke) for a story on little smokers. That being said, one I loathe, the other I love. I detest the smoking in France and especially when it's done by or around children (and fetuses!). I hate the smell of the cigarette smoke, and the fact that even my children are bombarded with unhealthy second-hand smoke. Even at school. On the other hand, I absolutely adore this smoky little cheese -- the campfire aroma in a creamy, cheesy nubbin.

Nov 18, 2016

Having a Ball: Crottin Fermier de Cocumont

THE STORY:

Oh, how I wish we could turn back time, before the leader-elect of my country was a power-hungry egomaniac, to the days when the elected leader of France was a power-hungry egomaniac. The Second Empire may have been a bad time politically in the history of this democracy, but it turns out it was a fabulous time economically, artistically, and culturally. And it turns out I can turn back time, for a one day visit to the Second Empire at the Musée d'Orsay.



Nov 11, 2016

To Bad-Ass Women: Tome Nature

THE STORY:

This one portrait, painted by Léon Cogniet and hanging at the Château de Brissac contains two of the baddest-ass French women in history we encounter in all our time in France. The older lady sitting on the chair is the Widow Clicquot; you might recognize her better if I say it in French -- Veuve Clicquot. And the girl at her feet is her great-granddaughter, the Duchesse d'Uzès, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who grows up to become the first French woman to have a driver's license (and the first to get a speeding ticket).


Nov 4, 2016

The Power of Cheese (Literally): Abbaye de Tamié

THE STORY:

The hills are alive, with the sound of cheese whey being turned into biogas. For example, the Abbaye de Tamié monastary in Savoie processes 4,000 liters of milk per day (around 1,000 gallons), making 400kg of cheese, with 4 cubic meters of whey and 8 of white water as byproducts.

 
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