How to Make Your Own Cheese in France

It took a few days before either of us acknowledged what had been coming out of the kitchen. It started out as a faint nuisance—a reminder perhaps that a good scrub-down of the trash can or toaster oven was in order. But within a couple of days it grew into something too significant to ignore, and being that our apartment is of the cozy “studio” variety, it didn’t take long for the kitchen smell to become the office smell and then the bathroom smell and then the bedroom/living room/everything-we’ve-ever-owned smell.

The reluctant confrontation of this truth was further precipitated by the fact that Charlotte has a college intern that comes daily to work in our home. Thank God for social stigma because without the potential shame of trapping an innocent young girl in our stinky web of denial and get-to-it-tomorrow attitude, innocent lives may have been lost. At this point it smelled like something had died, fermented, been jellied, spread on burnt toast, deep-fried, and then pickled. It was clear to the three of us—me, Charlotte, and our young P.O.W.—that we couldn’t wait any longer to take care of it.

We waited a couple more days.

I mean, maybe it was just some cheese gone bad. We’re in France after all, where funky fromage was invented, and while we didn’t have any particularly pungent varieties in the fridge maybe some of Charlotte’s gruyère had slid past its expiration date? Surely it could wait until one of us wasn’t working or sending emails or watching Project Runway clips.

In truth we’re not sloppy people at all; we were just delaying what we knew was an inevitable head-to-toe, snout-to-tail cleaning of la cuisine, which everyone knows is a weekend sort of gig. So while Charlotte was out on Sunday I decided it was time to man up, to tackle the problem head on and regain some dignity for Pete’s sake. And nothing screams “I’m a real man” like getting down on all fours and sniffing the cracks and crevasses of your kitchen.

I slowly schnoz’ed my way to the culprit: it was the fridge’s motor. But why did it smell so bad? A bit of poking around revealed that on top of it sits some sort of plastic pan, apparently to catch water that might leak out from inside the unit. Inside this pan was a crusted sediment of some yellowish substance that almost seemed like fried cheese. But how could a slice of cheese find its way down a tiny drainage hole?

That’s when the ghost of Christmas Past swooped in.

In a flash of light we whizzed around and landed back in my kitchen, where we watched a previous Corey two weeks earlier cursing at a milk bottle that had spilled over the top shelf and whitewashed half the food beneath it. Then we watched him meticulously clean it up, seemingly aware that anything left behind would become unpleasant later. What he couldn’t see was all the milk that had drained down into this pan above the motor, a motor that seems to have no other function than to turn on every fifteen minutes and get hot. Hot enough to turn milk—given enough emails and Project Runway clips—into wonderfully nasty unwanted homemade French cheese. Bon appétit!

Ugh, does it get any grosser than that? (dramatic pause…)

The answer is yes of course it does, if you’ve ever lived in New York. That’s the great thing about being an ex-New Yorker—no matter how gross a story is you can always out-gross it. If you’re squeamish I’ll spare you the details but let’s say…um…one day long ago Mickey visited our apartment and decided to go to Disney heaven next to the big fan of our fridge’s motor, which turned on repeatedly each day and blew Mickey’s essence throughout the room turning our kitchen into quite the magic kingdom for a few days. Poor guy—if only I’d perfected my fridge-motor cheese recipe earlier he could’ve had some sustenance back there…damn you Fate! Damn you Destiny!

Not you, Christmas Past—we still cool.

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4 comments

    • Thanks a lot Laura! Yeah pretty nasty stuff. I see you visited Reims recently—how great is that cathedral? (The bubbly aint bad either)

    • Thanks a lot Virginia. I figured Mickey was a lighter, gentler way to handle the retelling; I know a lot of my US readers visit this blog during breakfast time. Thanks for reading!

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