November 3, 2014

A trip to Seine-et-Marne

Alexander Lobrano's description of a trip to a cheesemaking region in France stopped me in my tracks.

Two summers ago, in a village outside Coulommiers, an old market town an hour east of Paris, an old love affair of mine came back to life. On my way to a borrowed house for a few weeks, my partner, Bruno, and I had stopped at a farm for eggs, cream and produce — including a cheese in a round wooden box. I lifted the lid and poked it; it yielded easily to the touch. When we ended a barbecue under the walnut tree in the garden that night, this locally made raw-milk beauty — runny and pleasantly tangy with a suave, complex taste of mossy wells and toasted hazelnuts — shot me back through time to a snowy Saturday in Connecticut when I was 11.

With just a few words, he uses sight, smell, and taste to connect the present to a memory distant in time but not memory. The vividness of that memory and the hold of the experience on him is evident in a later sentence—

The all-cheese lunch we had when we got home began an obsession with French dairy that was a major reason I moved to Paris years later.

I wish I could think of a memory that holds me so strongly, that has become such a passion, or that has prompted later action. As compensation, I've already checked the catalog of my local cheese shop for coulommiers and expect to make my trip as soon as I can.