Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Smells like the Feet of Angels...

My employer just returned tanned and rested from a two-week sailing excursion around Corsica, Nice, Monaco and other lovely European places surrounded by impossibly-blue water. Along with all the pictures and postcard-souveniers, she also brought a round-wooden box that contained a cheese-sampler from France.

Anxiously, several of us stood around while she removed the plastic shrink-wrap that sealed in the freshness - and to some of our revulsion and horror - SMELL inside.

The French have long been known - and occasionally ridiculed - for their attraction bordering on obsession with stinky cheese. Our delicate american noses frequently turn up and away with watering eyes from the outhouse-on-an-asparagus-farm odors that emanate from some of their more popular frommages.

My Aikido instructor has been enjoying an interest in fine cheeses lately himself, and recently brought a sack into the dojo for refrigeration until classes were over and he could go home and share them with his wife. Peering into the sack at the end of the day's training, I staggered back, eyes watering from the smell. My eyes told me that he had two portions of cheese in the white sack, but my nostrils would have had me believe that I'd just stuck my face into a sack of dirty diapers. "Hard to imagine it's edible, isn't it?" he asked, smiling at my obvious discomfort.

Considering how very involved the nose is in the processing of taste, I find it very hard to imagine the mindset of the first person who decided that edible curd and the smell of raw sewage were somehow not inconsistent.

I have some friends who are quite the gourmands and bon vivants of high caliber, and they, too are attracted to the juxtaposition of the French curd, and are quite well versed on the topic. One related to me an experience while at a meal in France, of observing a woman delightedly taking in all the pungent odors at a cheese buffet. Selecting her favorite, she proclaimed the effluvia "Smells like the feet of angels."

Judging by the smell in the company break-room right now, Heaven could use a foot-bath.


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