The basic principle of shopping in a market

Expecting everyone in the file d’attente behind me to be groaning at my idiocy in not being prepared to pay, I dug out my wallet and started digging through it frantically.  “Relax, it’s Sunday,” said the nice lady behind the counter. 

The basic principle of shopping in a marché (market) is this: look for the longest line, and get in that one.  If there are lots of little old ladies in it: all the better.

So, it’s my turn at the chosen fromagier’s kiosk, and madame is weighing my little Vacherin.  Because there are tons of people in line behind me, I’ve got my money right there in my hand, waiting to pay as soon as I have the goods in hand.  Seulement voilà (the thing is), when the fromagière tells me the price, it turns out to be twice what I thought I remembered from last year.  Expecting everyone in the file d’attente behind me to be groaning at my idiocy in not being prepared to pay, I dug out my wallet and started digging through it frantically.  Relax, it’s Sunday, said the nice lady behind the counter.  (If it’s in italics, in happened in French.  But, this gentleman in line behind me, this lady–I don’t want to inconvenience them.  

Oh, no–madame is right, it’s Sunday.  No one is in a hurry, said the gentleman.  He smiled.  The lady behind him smiled.  The fromagière smiled.  even smiled.  I got my Vacherin, said au revoir to everyone, and walked away.  Have a good Sunday, said the fromagière.

Explain to me again why you think that French people are rude??

The reason that I hadn’t boughten a Vacherin for a year: it’s a winter cheese.  (Boughten discussed in the English notes below.) Yes, cheeses have seasons, and this one shows up around the time that the days start to get depressingly short and you wonder whether or not you can find last year’s gloves.  According to my copy of Marie-Anne Cantin’s Guide de l’amateur de fromagesIl est de nos jours un des rare fromages saisonniers.  (The kid at the fromagerie that I usually go to–it’s about a 20-second walk from where the firing squads used to do their thing up against the wall of the Fermiers généraux, as recently as 1871–told me one day about some of the tricks that are now used to get sheep to produce milk outside of the lambing season.  It’s not cruel, but not exactly appetizing, either.)

Picture source:

Also known as Mont d’or, I think it’s hyper-bon, and apparently a lot of other people do, too, because at this time of year, it’s stocked more heavily than anything else.  As you can see in the photo (taken on my kitchen table), it comes in a box (and it must come in a box), and the box is made of épicéa (spruce) (and it must be made of épicéa).  Cantin says that it’s from the spruce that the unusual taste of a Vacherin comes.

As you can see from the picture, a good Mont d’or has undulations on the surface–des vagues (waves), Cantin calls them.  It’s a very soft cheese, to the point that if you a buy a larger one, it typically comes with a wooden spoon–indeed, you can just scoop it out, and it spreads easier than butter.  (One of my friends insists that the only way to eat a Mont d’or is to pour some white wine on top, put it in the oven for a bit, and then pour the melted cheese over boiled potatoes.  Cantin sees it my way, though, and what my friend doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.)

In the time that it’s taken me to write this post, I’ve eaten approximately 25% of my Vacherin, and you know what?  I don’t care.  The other day I calculated how many more weekends I have to live: 680.  Probably sounds morbid, but it inspired me to work not more than, say, 30 minutes all of this weekend, which happens, like, never–did you calculate how many weekends you have left yesterday, and if not, what did you do this weekend?  Carpe diem, baby!

French notes

l’épicéa (n.m.) : spruce.

le vacher : cowherd.  Le vacherin était autrefois le fromage des vachers.  As Cantin explains this: back in the days, comte was made in the mountains while the cows did their summer grazing.  In the winter, the cows would be back in the stables, and the milk quantity and quality decreased.  Additionally, the roads could impassable.  So, rather than taking the milk to a cheese-maker, the farmers made their own cheese out of it–hence Vacherin being a vacher’s cheese.

English notes

boughten: yes, boughten is English.  More commonly, it’s bought, but you will run into the boughten form in some dialects–the Midwest and the Northeast, mostly, I think, although I couldn’t swear to that.

Picture source:
Picture source:


16 thoughts on “The basic principle of shopping in a market”

  1. Yum. Yum!

    And why haven’t you “boughten” two? And shipped one? We’re waiting!

    You pay a price for introducing your friends to such delights. 😉

    Actually, I notice that Murray’s ships Mont d’Or in the US for only $50, and there are Murray’s cheese outlets at many Kings Soopers here. sells them for 18€ each plus 24€ shipping. I would expect Whole Paycheck to have it, but they don’t even know what it is at Pearl Street. Or Cheese Importers in Longmont.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that Whole Paycheck is where I asked about a cheese that they had labeled as “Affineur,” which I guess they had found written somewhere on the package. That clearly wasn’t the name of the cheese, so I asked the human on duty what kind of cheese it was. “Affineur,” he replied. “Affineur” means someone who ages cheeses to the proper degree of ripeness, so I just sighed and counted the days until my return to France…


  2. Another note about US availability… The Mont d’Or sold by Murray’s and is Swiss. Officially, the French version of the same is called “Vacherin du Haut-Doubs” or is marked “Fromage du Mont d’Or” although photos that I’ve seen in my searches have both this appellation and “Vacherin du Mont d’Or”.

    But the best stuff can’t be imported into the US. As reported a year ago by, ‘the best stuff is made with raw milk, which makes it illegal to import (the U.S. bans the importation of cheese made with raw milk that’s been aged less than 60 days). As of now, the cheese is on “FDA import alert with automatic detention,” which Moskowitz explains is “the polite way of saying the cheese cannot enter the Unites States.’ So, the Swiss Vacherin is “thermalized”, sort of a mild version of pasteurization that allows it to be imported, but no doubt kills off some of the yummy bugs.

    So, Zip, even if you wanted to buy 2 and send 1, it would never get here. ;-(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The situation may get worse–the last I heard, the FDA was still thinking about upping the limit from 60 days to 75, which I’m told would crush the artisanal cheese industry (if “industry” is the right word for anything artisanal–doesn’t seem quite right) in the US. This was a few months back, so it may already have been decided in favor of 60 days, if that’s the number that you’re finding–let’s hope so…


  3. Vacherin de Mont d’Or is my favourite of so many favourite cheeses (in fact the only way I can define my taste in cheese is to list the handful I am not quite so fond of – the other list would take a life-time to compile). There are many other Vacherins from the mountains but Mont d’Or tends to be the most popular. It is the ring of spruce that it is forced into as a youngster that causes the wonderful waves on the surface. Being a purist I would never pour wine into it and I wouldn’t bake it either but I would greedily Hoover up a whole one in no time flat and I see no reason to be repentent …. after all, calculating my number of breath-drawing weekends left is the maximum – the minimum could be none at all 😉 By the way, the US policy comes from the time of the 1990 listeriosis crisis which was traced to a Swiss Vacherin – the US and the UK governments outlawed raw milk cheeses – my father-in -law was integral in getting the point across that a) the instances had all been in pasteurized Vacherins and that b) it is the acidity of the cheese that allows or disallows growth of the lethal bacteria … Vacherin has low acidity along with all other soft cheeses whereas their hard brothers like Cantal or Cheddar or Salers are high acidity and the process for making gruyère and emmenthal and that family involves boiling the curds which kills the harmful bugs. So pregnant women, for example should not eat any Vacherin or Camembert or Brie de Melun whether they be pasteurisés or not. Neither the USA nor the UK ever fully understood but I think the UK did relent in the face of his mono-glassed beadyness and eventually allowed the import of the real McCoy again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My everything is in storage at the moment (post later today to explain) and has been for a while but if you are still without when I eventually get it liberated, I will pass you a copy. I have a few left but not many so it would be the greatest of gifts 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As a born and bred midwesterner, I’ll say that I’m not sure that “boughten” is English. I mean, it parses and all, but… meh. I’ve been trying to sneak it into grammaticality by placing it in my thoughts when I’ve been talking to myself: ‘You’ve been to the store, but you haven’t boughten any more beer….’ It doesn’t fit there; I can’t make it.

    Have you ever used it aloud?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me, the problem is to PREVENT myself from using it aloud! Actually, I’m surprised that you don’t run into it, as I remember looking it up around 1990-1991 (yes, I remember when I look words up) and seeing it labelled in Webster’s 3rd as mostly being mid-Western.

      Mind you, I don’t remember when my next flight is…


  5. Tu entailles un peu cette fabuleuse croûte, tu verses un petit verre de vin de Jura et tu glisses ton vacherin / Mont d’or au four …. Dégusté à même la boite, avec du pain frais, des pommes de terre, c’est un délice.

    Liked by 1 person

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