Coming from Wisconsin, I didn’t think I could meet a group of people who were any more obsessed with cheese.
And shit, was I completely wrong.
After nine months of living in France, I am still blown away by French people’s love and devotion to this dairy product. Seriously. It’s insane. Even working class French people have given me 20-minute lectures on the art of camembert. Sometimes I like to think I’m mildly sophisticated but I honestly can’t even tell most of them apart.
Luckily, I have a wonderful experience this year which I believe can demonstrate a sliver of that obsession.
Two weeks into moving here, I had started to date a French guy named Emmanuel (he has since become my boyfriend) and things were going really well. One night when he was over, he was rummaging through my fridge when found a €1 bag of shredded Emmental. He paused.
“What… Is this?” He asked in a disgusted voice.
“Uhmm… Cheese?” I replied, clearly unaware of my deadly sin.
“Why do you have it?” He asked like he’d just found a dead body in my fridge.
“I don’t know. To eat?” I said.
Needless to say, Emmanuel then lost it at me. Not in an actual way where he got angry and yelled at me. More of a passive-aggressive “I’m disappointed but willing to give this barbaric American another try because she doesn’t know any better” type of way. He was definitely upset, but he was kind of kidding.
Just not really.
This incident alone would have been funny enough. However, several weeks later, my French ex-lover named Pierre had re-emerged with a plan to win my love over again.* I already had my heart decided on Emmanuel, but Pierre had been offering a platonic meetup and free wine. So I begrudgingly agreed. For context, it is important to know a bit about Pierre. He inevitably will be mentioned in many of my stories, but for this one, you just need to know one thing. More specifically, that he is and remains the most stereotypically French man I have ever met. On our first date alone in London, he gave me a 20-minute lecture on red wine and bemoaned the city’s lack of good bread. At the end of the date, he kissed my hand goodbye and leaned me back for a long and passionate kiss.
I’ve yet to confirm that he is a real person.
On this particular night when he was unsuccessfully flirting with me, I tried to find a way to ~casually~ bring up my new man. So I told the story of how Emmanuel my new boo, criticized me for having Emmental in my fridge.
Blowing a mini-raspberry, Pierre looks one way and snarls:
“Well… It was nice of him to even call it cheese.”
And that, my dear friends, is the ultimate example of how much the French love their cheese. Because my ex-man was making fun of my new one, not for his car, not for his job, or even his looks.
Pierre was making fun of Emmanuel for a comment he made about cheese.
*I dare you to a write a sentence more cliche than this one.