The camembert that went to the movies

The current strikes in Paris lead to strange things, but I never dreamed that taking a camembert to the movies would be one of them.

But first: Do you know what a really good, ripe, raw milk camembert, as opposed to one of those pasteurised plaster-like fellows you find in supermarkets, smells like? Well, of course it smells like the cow milk it’s made of and if it’s ripe, as mine was, it smells like old socks or unwashed underwear – and that’s being kind. (But not ammoniac – if that’s what you’re getting, toss it.)

An odorous cheese is definitely not something you would want to inflict on fellow passengers in a bus or a metro or even put in the backseat of your car for longer than five minutes – let alone take to the movies.

Unfortunately, that’s what I ended up doing last night. The movie, by the way, was Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, the fictionalised story of a real life Austrian soldier, Franz Jägerstätter, who was executed in 1943 for refusing to swear to a required oath of loyalty to Hitler and the Third Reich.

Already at the beginning of this film which was already starting to feel as long as WWII, I thought I saw people looking in my direction, probably to ascertain where the smell of an unwashed person or thing was coming from. I fished around in the dark for my grocery bag, felt the wooden box in which the cheese was stored and taking care not to drop it, slipped it into the zipper compartment of my purse, hoping to diminish or extinguish the “fragrance” that was now threatening to engulf the entire movie theatre.

No such luck.

The next move was to wrap up the entire purse in my long wool scarf – and pray.

It still reeked to high heaven.

I sank further down into my seat waiting for the endless movie to end.

It finally did and my pungent cheese and I made our getaway as fast as we could. Once back home, I threw it in a supposedly odor killing cheese box and went to bed. The next morning I opened the fridge for milk and was almost bowled over by the ferocious fumes that blew out of it. I grabbed the box, opened the door to the terrace, and slammed the reeking offender down on the outside table. Better to stink up the entire neighbourhood than my entire apartment!

Ah, but I love my cheese. By the time we had finished the main course of our lunch, I was itching to taste it. And am here to tell you that this evil-smelling fromage was absolutely delicious, perfect, with a beautiful pale yellow colour, a creamy texture and a mild, yes, mild taste.

I am sure you are wondering why I took the camembert to a movie with me.

Easy. I had just bought it and was dreaming of slicing into it as I fumbled around in my purse for my keys. They weren’t there. I was locked out! My husband was all the way across town attending a conference at the Sorbonne. Our son, who has an extra set, was even farther away. And because of the strike, there were no metros and hardly any buses. I would have to wait until my husband walked back home. I figured that would be 11 pm at the earliest. Fortunately I had money and my cell phone. I bought a bunch of magazines and newspapers, repaired to a local cafe where I drank a glass of delicious St. Amour, then feasted on a crepe in a little restaurant I had recently discovered and went to the movies.

And every place I went, the camembert went as well.

Is there a moral to this story? Sure! Never buy a stinky cheese before making sure you’re close to home and have your keys!

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