Monday, March 2, 2009

Saumur...c'est trop fort!

Just so you know (it kind of ruins the joke to have to explain it, but since very few people who read this blog speak French I feel obliged), "c'est trop fort!" is an expression that means something like "that's too cool!" It's just a funny little phrase that my friends and I use when we're being facetious. But really, Saumur was pretty fabulous. In fact, I think I preferred it to Nantes.

For one thing, the day was beautiful. I've gotten in the habit of wearing layers every day because the weather can be a little erratic, and I never know if I'll be too cold or too warm. Well, I ended up ditching my coat and my jacket in Saumur. The temp had to be in the low 70s, and it was amazing. We spent a large chunk of our afternoon laying in a field. It's been a long time since I've been able to soak up the vitamin D. If you know me, you will know that I am naturally very pale. Well, I don't know if I've gotten paler than usual, but lately people have been remarking on it incessantly. I went to a boulangerie the other day to buy one of their fabulous tarts (framboise et pistache--raspberry and pistachio, mmmmm), and the woman behind the counter said something like, "You're so pale! Is that your natural skin color?" as if I were pulling a Michael Jackson or something. Yes, this is my natural skin color. In short, it was nice to feel the sun on my skin for a change (beneath a layer of spf 40 sunblock).

The chateau de Saumur was, unfortunately, closed for the winter, but you could still walk around it and benefit from the amazing view of the Loire River. In any case, I will be going back to Saumur for sure, so I'll probably have a chance to visit the chateau again. Saumur is famous for its mushroom caves, wine, and horseback-riding school (nice combination). I really wanted to see the caves, but I don't know exactly how to get there a pied (on foot) since I think they're a little ways outside the main part of town.

I did, however, find a nice bottle of sweet, white wine produced in Saumur and some fromage. When it comes to cheese I'm really hopeless. I always, always have to go in any fromageries that I find even though I know they're probably pretty similar. But the smell...oh, how I love the smell of stinky cheese, and the colors--bright blue spots and veins in the bleu cheeses (of which there are always no fewer than 5 varieties, making it impossible to choose between them), orange mimolette, pure white goat cheeses, grey bloomy cheeses coated in ash. If you've never paid any attention to the rinds of cheeses, I urge you to do so because it's really fascinating. And I'm not talking about the waxed cheeses. Don't get me wrong, wax is a great preservative for cheeses, but a sign of a cheese that has been babied is a beautiful natural rind. One of my favorites is the tomme de Savoie--a sort of soft brown colored rind. This time I bought a sheep's milk variety that tastes a lot like the liesel we make at the farm--subtly pungent with a little stinging sensation on the back of the tongue after you swallow it.

Another interesting thing I've noticed here are the promotional posters for careers in farming. The one above says "Agriculture. Jobs (metier implies "life calling" or "passion") that are in style." I've seeon others around, but this was the first time I've had my camera available to snap a photo. There's probably some sort of promotional campaign in the States for farming, although I haven't seen it. If not, there should be. Encouraging the next generation to go back to the land is important for any culture, particularly in the States, where more and more food is being (usually unsustainably) imported. One thing that France rightly prides itself on is its domestic food production. Most of the veggies and fruits, even at the supermarket, come from France (although at market this weekend I did see some grapefruits from Florida).

Here's another one. Oh, by the way, there were strawberries at market this week! Strawberries! And they were amazing. Perfectly ripe and red. I felt like a new person after eating them. Amazing how really good fruit can do that to you.
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Fiona said...

Oo! We've been to Saumur and loved it. The Chateau was closed then, too, for repairs. Boo. Hiss.

Yesterday, at the local cheese shop, I saw something labeled "My Old Kentucky Tomme" and laughed out loud. I thought you'd appreciate that..

meg said...

Ha! What a wonderful name! I can't tell you how long we've labored to come up with regionally appropriate names for our hard cheeses. That's such a good one.

meg said...

Ha! What a wonderful name! I can't tell you how long we've labored to come up with regionally appropriate names for our hard cheeses. That's such a good one.

Tartelette said...

This is so cool that you are traveling and discovering so much!
The whole region is just gorgeous!