Jul 13, 2020

The Frenchest Thing I Saw on this Day: Sarrieton


On this, the Frenchest of days (Happy Bastille Day!), I thought I'd show you some of the Frenchest things I saw one recent summer day strolling through Paris (you know, pre-pandemic when Americans were still allowed to enter and stroll around France). It makes me happy that even a San Franciscan can find Paris quirky and weird.

Allez les Bleus! It's an éclair and it's a pro-soccer edible treat!

Continuing the edible (or in this case, semi-edible) theme: O'Tacos, the "Original French Tacos" with a pseudo-Irish name. Not only do they not sound French, they also don't taste French. Or Irish. Or Mexican. Or even Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex American, for that matter. They taste freakin' awful. The whole family agrees that they are revolting and an embarrassment to the much-esteemed taco. Super cheap, and maybe aimed at college students, but truly horrid.

Even better than the awfulness of the taste and name of the store is the name of the current special offering, the O'Bama. It's made up of pastrami, honey mustard, cheddar, ground beef, and caramelized onions. As you can clearly see in the picture, these owners have mistaken the concept of a hot pocket for a taco:

Not to be outdone in the fast food department: McFirst Poulet, McFirst Poisson, and McFirst Beouf. I mock McDonald's in France (called McDo by the French) because of their constant use of absolutely mangled franglais. Nothing will ever stop me from giggling when I think of the McWrap (say it out loud, fast, and you'll see why). But they're the ones with the last laugh -- all the way to the bank. France's McDo is the second highest revenue earning McDo in the world:

Getting away -- as quickly as possible -- from fast food, we have fashion, shopping, and a motorized scooter. Before the motorized scooter craze, not only kids but also adults rode kick scooters around the city simply to get from point A to point B. For the adults, at least, the motorized scooters do look a little less silly and also keep a person less sweaty:

Instagram-y fashion shoot on a bridge over the Seine. The more I look at this picture, the more I think this photographer looks like he's been decapitated by the bridge in the distance:

Another awesomely French bridge scene: I love how they pull out full-size pianos for busking:

This looks like another guy on the streets with a full piano. It's not, but it's related. It's an old-timey organ wagon for busking:

This quirky day walking around Paris was, genuinely, a Super Day (here our French Superheroes are offering Super Free Hugs):

I poked my head into a little courtyard, filled with grenouilles, frogs, just for the fun of it.

And, of course, I passed by walls of low-brow graffitti and rather beautiful street art:

I passed by history, of course, because it's Paris. Here's a random plaque on a random building that just happens to lead me down the information rabbit hole toward Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais, a Catholic priest, philosopher, political theorist, and liberal Catholic who was influential in the post-revolution Restoration of early 19th century France:

And caught a peek through the massive gates of a convent built in 1790 -- Couvent de la Merci -- at 45 rue des Archives (near the National Archives) which reveals quite a glimpse back through time. This antique sundial faces south-west to capture the morning sun and has the Latin motto "Vtere dvm lyceat" inscribed on it, which I am told translates to "Profite tant qu'il est possible" which, in turn, translates to "Take advantage while you can" or "Seize the day" or -- making the full circle back to Latin --"Carpe Diem".

And given that's it's Bastille Day today as I publish this -- and just after Bastille Day when I take this little stroll around Paris -- I feels its appropriate to say that I see my fair share of patriotism. Here the tricolor, or the color of the revolution, flies at the Panthéon:

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité -- the motto of the revolution:

Le monument à la République, or the Statue of the Republic by Léopold Morice, created in 1883, on the Place de la République -- the symbol of the revolution:

And in between all the wackiness, the history, the patriotism, the fashion, the food, the art, the architecture, and the quirkiness, there are some lovely sights that let me know I'm in Paris, all right:

And finally, voilà! Those are the Frenchest things I saw on that day. But wait, there's one more photo. I must admit that I encounter Monsieur on a different day. But I simply cannot resist including his absolute French-ness in this post because it's the kind of sight that delights me walking around Paris at any time:

THE CHEESE: Sarrieton

Sarrieton is a delightful little button of a cheese made from raw goats' milk in the department of Ardèche, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southwestern France.

The cheese's name comes from sarriette, which is the herb we call "savory" that you see coating the entire outside of the goat nubbin. It's one of the dried herbs often used in the Herbes de Provence mixture (along with tarragon, rosemary, marjoram, sage, and oregano). This is not surprising given that this region abuts Provence. The resulting Sarrieton ends up a unique combination of the tangy, lemony goat cheese and intensely herbaceous savory coating. The cheese tastes a lot like summer sunshine.

It's a creamy, spreadable cheese smaller than a mini-muffin. And normally it would be gone in a flash. But interestingly, I buy it with a whole bunch of cheeses and we don't get around to finishing it before we head out on a small vacation. When we come back to Paris, we find this desiccated, crumbly cheese sliver buried in the refrigerator.  It has changed texture -- and color -- entirely. It doesn't become just crumbly, it's downright crunchy. We actually have to bite off little pieces and let them warm up in our mouths for several minutes. Honestly, we miss the creamy texture, but it's still delicious even when it's difficult to eat.


On the same July day that I take all of the above photos (except for the last lone Monsieur in the beret photo that I could not resist including), I also see this lovely little cheese shop, La Crèmerie  at 41 rue de Lancry in the 10th arrondissement where I find this delicious nubbin of cheese. As French things go that I see on this day in Paris, this slightly stinky, aromatic, creamy cheese is one of the Frenchest.


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