The Big Cheese Thing

photo: cafe daguerre, sunday

On Sunday Parisians took off their winter duds and
took on some vitamin D's.

Pre-Autumn Winter Short

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 30. September 2002:- This week has a surprise waiting for diligent readers and possible visitors in the form of a perfect autumn weather forecast, and it is my pleasure to write it instead of the usual moan.

Beginning yesterday, Paris skies have been full of nothing but solid blue - and this is supposed to continue all week, and include next weekend with its all-night 'Nuit Blanche.'

I actually remember the press conference held on Tuesday, 18. June when Christophe Girard said that soothsayers predicted that 'Indian Summer' would be happening next weekend, but I didn't believe it then. We had just about finished 'no spring' and were about to begin 'no summer.'

Normally I will whine if the temperatures are no higher than 24, but with today's sun blazing I am willing to admit that 21 or 22 can be pretty good too.

Okay, you get the usual 'early morning fog' cop-out even if it isn't a major part of the forecast. Sundayphoto: domed cheese cooler night's TV-weather news showed all of France covered in blue, spotted with fuzzy sunballs. As the week continues, the blue will get bluer and the sunballs will be fewer, until there is just one big, unfuzzy one.

France sets new record with 1000 cheeses.

I had forgotten that the server-lady was to take her first sailing lesson on the weekend. I expected her to report the usual channel 'report' - mucky with bad sledding - but instead she said it was brilliant and dead calm.

If I understood her report correctly, she spent a lot of time learning to tie knots instead hauling on ropes, without a lot of bailing and no dodging of swinging booms or getting anxious from being constantly keeled over. Good thing she didn't do it the previous 'winter' weekend.

Late TV-weather update:- forget half of all the above, because western France will soon be invaded by miserable clouds, and the future beyond Thursday is now nonexistent. The coming 'Nuit Blanche' may be a bit 'gris.' Do not blame TV-weather news for this terrible reversal. It tends to be fickle.

Café Life

1000 Cheeses

It was, again, the alert server-lady who tipped me to a story in Le Parisien last Tuesday, about the '1000 Cheeses Fête' being held in a tent in the Tuileries. After doing the magazine I usually skip Tuesday's paper - and there were no other warnings I saw about this event.

After its title, 'La France aux 1000 Fromages,' the subhead for the show was 'Paris - Capitale des Fromages!' I assume this is so, simply because so many eaters of cheese are concentrated here.

Without luck, I have been trying to track down the comment about how can anyone expect France to be governable when it has 350? or 400? cheeses. Was it Churchill as many claim, or was it De Gaulle who had greater first-hand experience?

In either case, during 2001 another 47 cheeses were launched in France. Since I hadn't read Le Parisien's story, the server-lady asked me if I knew the name of the favorite French cheese.

My guess of Emmental was based on the endless hand-cut slabs of it ready to be sold by one of the cheese merchants in Rue Daguerre, and I was not too surprised that this is correct - making it sort of France's cheddar.

But Emmental alone isn't going to satisfy a cheese-crazy populace that consumes 24.5 kilos per head of the stuff, and which increased its consumption by 1.2 percent during 2001.

As they say, cheese is doing okay in France. The associated producers of milk products hardly needsphoto: caprice des dieux, vosges to set up a 1400 square-metre tent in the Tuileries to flog a failure - so I consider that it was a thoughtful thing for them to do - between patrimony weekend and the Fête des Jardins.

Brand-name cheeses were on display too.

Under a cool and grey sky on Wednesday I joined a fairly long line to get into the cheese tent. The entry of two euros got me a pair of tickets for a sample of cheese and a glass of wine. Inside the long tent, fair-sized flying-saucer affairs displayed dozens of cheeses, each named on a little flag with the origin.

In all there are eight cheese families, made from three types of milk, from 19 regions, but all made basically the same way. And just so nobody tries any copycat stuff, there are 43 official 'AOC' cheeses for France, plus a 'AOP' label for authentic European cheeses such as Gorgonzola or Hervé.

The guide said I was to look at the cheeses first, but the line for the closest samples was short, so I started with this. I exchanged one ticket for a plate of cheeses from Normandy. The clear-plastic-topped plate was big and the cheeses looked small, but they were bigger than they looked.

Getting rid of the wine ticket wasn't as easy as I thought it should be. It wasn't easy to pass it up, but there was free water too.

With 1000 cheeses on display it was a good thing they were under cover, or it might have been an extra-sensory overload situation - like it was with all the information about cheese. The last quarter of the tent was a cheese shop for take-aways, and visitors were buying it by kilos.

Cheeses made, or distributed, by the food biggies were mixed in with the hand-made cheeses, so it was democratic. The third favorite cheese in France is Babybel, partly because its marketing is similar to candy - with small packages for little people. The similar Vache Qui Rit type is seventh on the popularity list.

Emmental's popularity is partly due to half of it being sold grated - to be melted on the top of croque-monsieurs I suppose. Camembert doesn't take to grating, and is the second most popular type in France. It amounts to 10 percent of sales, of which 80 percent is pasteurized. The unpasteurized rest becomes one of the 'AOC' names.

In France a meal is not complete without cheese, and it is also possible to have meals entirely of cheese. Well, you have to have bread too, and every sample cheese plate came with a tasty piece of this too. For two euros I got to skip lunch and have my cheese too.

'Au Bistro' Column Change

An updated 'Scene' column is absent from this issue for reasons having to do with personal shelter, and because it is a couple of days too soon to get October and November 'futures.' This is, if they do become available.

Next weekend is the occasion of Paris' firstphoto: france cheese, tasters, wines 'Nuit Blanche.' Normally this would be crammed into the 'Scene' column, but since this isn't with us this week, I have placed some elements of the 'Nuit Blanche' program in the 'Au Bistro' column.

Cheese and wine tasters at the cheese salon.

Oh - another thing - this week's photos are mostly about cheese and cars, cars and cheese. Normally these are not two interchangeable items, but I have no other photos because I got these just before 'autumn' started, and this is what we're stuck with. Please excuse these bits of editorial fiddle.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

'Ed,' or the club's secretary, will appreciate it if you get up-to-date with your club's 'news' right now by hitting this link to the "A Geezer Meeting" report, even if you are not interested in 'geezers,' and I'm not saying there were any at last week's meeting if you are.

Virtual readers who want to become real club members can skim the scant details concerning this free club in thirty-nine seconds or less by reading the fine-sized large-print on the 'About the Club' page, and maybe scratching the virtual membership card right off the screen.

Joining the club - your own club after all! - is almost as easy. All you have to do is be in Parisphoto: avenue gen leclerc, sunday on a Thursday. Any one will do.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 3. October. The club's 'Saints' Day of the Week' next Thursday is Saint- Gérard, possibly for the first time if there aren't two Saint- Gérards.

Sunday on the avenue in autumn, after Paris' early winter.

Save 'Metropole Paris' as one of your all-time favorite bookmarks to avoid mistyping its overly-long name every time you feel like reading a club report, or a regular edition like this one.

Metropole's Affiliates

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This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.40 - 1. Oct 2001 - The Café Metropole column began a slim issue with a 'Poor Excuse for 'Café Life.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'Euro News of the Week' - for a change of geography. This issue had no features of any kind, good, boring or bad. The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 4. October was called 'A Really New 'First!' report for a good reason that I can't remember. The week's 'Scene' column was headlined 'Fall Events Nearlyphoto: sign, peupeot h2o badge Complete.' The four 'Posters of the Week' were featured once again and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' had the caption, 'Rare, Antique Camera.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.40 - 2. Oct 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled 'Countdown To Heat On.' This year's heat appeared last Thursday. The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'Tape! Who's Got the Tape?' There was one feature, titled 'Paradise On Rubber - Auto Salon 2000.' The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 5. October, was called the 'Birthday Party of the Week' report. This was accompanied by a club feature, 'Your Club Turns Two.' The 'Scene' column's headline was 'More Cuts Than Additions.' The usual four 'Posters of the Week' were on view too and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'No New Car!'

Count-Down Ends Suddenly

The last two weeks were 'desperate' because one of the magazine's most astute readers suggested that a count-down be staged, until the date that I find a new apartment.

According to my magic past-present-future calendar and taking my last return from New York as a starting date, the search went on in a semi-desperate way for 172 days.

Reader John Motta guessed that I would have had 67 more days of search left to go, if I had not signedphoto: sign, entry ticket, auto salon a lease last Wednesday. Actually it was last Tuesday, but one more piece of paper was required and this was delivered on Wednesday.

The total search time of 232 days is now invalid. The next best guess added 18 days to the total, leaving no time for Christmas shopping for lightbulbs and towel racks.

A truly suitable first prize will be going to John Motta, who played Metropole's 'count-down' game and has won it handily with his best guess. I am a winner too, because I get out of here and get to get in there 67 days earlier than the 'best guess.'

All I have to do now is two things. Go and get John's prize and pack up this editorial office and move it this week. This may result in some disruption of Metropole's production, so stay tuned to find out how this comes out.

To all who participated in this contest, thank you for your 'best guesses' and other assorted good wishes. You all helped.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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