PERSONALLY, I wouldn’t put the live fretting chickens, roosters and rabbits next to the cheese display. I would think the ‘aroma’ of one would influence the sale of the other. But no one asked me, the FDA was nowhere in sight and this is the way it’s been done for hundreds of years…voilà.
Welcome to the weekly frenetic Friday market in Ganges, France where the streets are closed to cars for the day and fresh, homegrown and homemade EVERYTHING is on offer.
But we needed cheese. And the best cheesemonger was, indeed, right across from the rabbits.
Best and busiest…so you had to know exactly what you wanted…quickly…and in French.
We saw our chance and seized it…no one at the counter.
Bonjour Madame…Bonjour! Yes, can I help you?
Ok, we remember the name of the cheese. Oui, s’il vous plaît. Tomme de vache…yes, she’s going right for it…we got the name right! Uh-oh, people are gathering…a little pressure. Combien monsieur? How much would you like?
(Now here is where all these years of shopping at Costco have trained our North American minds that more is better)
The people in line know if they want 100 grams or 150 grams and they know which of the 250 cheeses on display they would like.
We just know…about that big. Put your 2 hands together to form a wedge…it’s very precise. Comme ça? she asks. Like this?
Say smaller, say smaller, say smaller says the little voice in my head…’Oui, comme ça’ is what comes out of my mouth instead.
There are 8 families of French cheese…Fresh, soft with natural rind, soft with washed rind, pressed, pressed and cooked, goat, blue, processed. Then within each family you can have different types of milk…cow, sheep, goat. This creates between 350 to 400 different varieties of French cheese. With lots of variation within each kind, that amounts to about 1000 different sorts of cheese. Phew! ok, now which one do you want and how much can I get you?
Cheddar, Kraft singles, processed,bagged, shredded mozzarella…there, we have pretty much covered what is found in an American grocery store.
The woman was, in all honesty, very helpful and actually let us taste a couple varieties…until the crowd started to gather around us. At that point tasting was over and it was down to ordering. The 100 grams method to be sure, is a more accurate way of ordering than making a wedge with your two hands. The wedge method gets you enough cheese for the neighborhood, which is what we had when we walked away.
The chickens, roosters, rabbits and pigeons were still there, fretting, cackling and cooing, less concerned about my French ordering skills than they were about their immediate future.
And, it is amazing how quickly one can acclimate to the ‘aroma’ in an outdoor market.