December 7, 2008

Can You Smell it From There?

Stinky cheese.

It's a great pleasure in my life, and one that's been missing almost entirely since I moved away from Paris. My friend Mary brought me a very ripe Camembert when she visited, and Paul and I cracked it open the other night.

Oh boy.

It was incredibly stinky. Stinkier than any cheese I've eaten (and certainly smelled) in a good long while. And it was delicious. And sharp. Really ripe.

You forget, I think, what a true, raw-milk cheese can be like. Two years out of Paris I eat mostly cheddar. At least when I'm in California; in Hong Kong, there's not much cheese at the local grocery store that doesn't come in slices, individually wrapped in plastic. And there certainly is no artisanal Camembert at my local Wellcome.

My family likes raclette, which we get at Trader Joe's and which is different from French raclette. In France, raclette is a cheese that's good for melting on potatoes but I don't recall it being particularly strong. It's not mild, but it's not strong. The one we get in SoCal, though, we call "stinky feet cheese." It's that nasty. But it tastes good, absolutely.

This Camembert beats any raclette by a mile. It arrived vacuum-packed and when I opened the plastic I had to take a step backward. When I opened the wooden container it was worse. And then the wax covering. Phew! But after that first creamy, sharp bite I was in heaven. I didn't mind that my clothes were stinky, that the apartment was stinky, I just relished the cheese.

We have to finish it tonight, since we move in the morning. And by the time the owner of the apartment returns on Tuesday he will never know what he missed.

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