“IF YOU’RE AFRAID OF BUTTER, USE CREAM”
I myself could have uttered these famous words attributed to Julia Child, who brought France to the tastebuds of America. Now, Germanic genetics have often been blamed for my own love of high-fat dairy products, but Julia’s quote makes me suspect that untraced Gallic blood might run in my veins.
I recently found a local supplier of 52% BF cream, which is almost too thick to pour. I use it in moderation (smirk); it’s possibly the reason my doctor has put me on cholesterol medication. But when it comes to food, the French are never wrong.
Two decades ago, my daughters and I spent a few months in the Rhône-Alpes area of eastern France—my first extended visit to that country. We tucked ourselves into a furnished flat set on the shores of Lac du Bourget (not too far from Mont Blanc and the Swiss border) and attempted to fit in with the locals—especially gastronomically.
We breakfasted on yoghurt that came in little glass jars, produced at a family-run plant just down the road. We lunched on heavenly fondue savoyarde, dipping pieces of baguette into melted Comté, Beaufort, and Gruyère perfumed with regional white wine and a whiff of garlic. We gorged on traditional Reblochon and ancient Tomme de Savoie. We learned the terms chantilly (whipped cream) and crème fraîche (slightly fermented cream fabulous in coffee). And we couldn’t wait for the Saturday market, where local farmers laid out pucks of chèvre—goat cheese dusted with ash, marbled with mould.
A century ago, Englishman G.K. Chesterton observed,
Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese [but] Cheese is the very soul of song.
Sigh. Writing this post has made my mouth water, but France has brought more to my heart than to my lips (or hips!). I’ve felt a metaphysical connection since the first time I visited Paris in 1989, where I finally understood why people eat Roquefort (long before I was introduced to that heavenly crème fraîche). Over the years and through my travels, I’ve made several sound friendships with French women whom I consider my soulmates partly because, I admit, of their love for high-fat foods.
So now, at the risk of spiking my cholesterol reading, I’m going to brew a cup of coffee and add a dollop of my 52% cream. It’s the only thing that will stop me from drowning in saliva and tears of yearning.