Adventures in the Mountains Surrounding Annecy, France
September 21 – 29, 2016
I love cows. The cows in the Haute Savoie region are the most contented cows I have ever seen. And when I see fat, happy cows grazing on verdant pastureland, I develop an overwhelming desire for cheese. This desire led Martin and I to several adventures, which may evoke for you both a compulsion for cheese, and a cure.
First on the shopping list was Roblechon, a delightful, mild cheese produced only in the mountains of Col de Forclaz. On the lush slopes surrounding La Ferme in Montmin, cows graze leisurely, each cow with a different sized bell, contributing to the alpine orchestra. I purchased two Roblechon rounds, plus a Chevrotin for good measure.
Next, we drove up to Semnoz, which is the highest mountain surrounding the lake. We wound our way through drifting, thick clouds. Near the top, the road ended and our hike began. Dense clouds were descending. We could see only a few feet ahead of us on the gravel road . We knew, by their bells, that there were cows on both sides of us, so close we could hear them breathing in the fog, but they were invisible. Cows in the clouds.
Slowly, a farmhouse appeared in the mist, with a sign promising local Tome cheese for sale. Entering the farmyard, there appeared a tall man with a straw hat and a pipe, toting a gun. He didn’t move. A chained dog growled. An unchained dog barked vigorously. Venturing closer, it became evident that the man was a giant wooden statue. Emboldened, I rang the doorbell. A frowning farmwife answered and waved us in to the anteroom of the house, where off to the side, presses were slowly squeezing liquid from huge rounds of cheese . I was able to summon enough French vocabulary to initiate a purchase, but had no idea of how much cheese we were talking about. She brought me a whopping four-pound round of this locally produced treasure.
I had now acquired an impressively large sample of every cheese of the Haute Savoie region. The only challenge now was consumption. After one dinner composed almost entirely of cheese (with wine and bread, of course), less that one-eighth of one round of cheese was consumed, and we could not even look at cheese for days. We did, however, smell cheese every time we opened the refrigerator door. Our trove remained enshrined on the top shelf of the refrigerator.
The day of reckoning finally came; we were to leave for Denmark the next day. I could not abandon the goods. I decided to bring he precious load with us, to present to our hosts, Lizzy and Flemming as a grand gastronomic contribution to the coming week’s stay at the summer house. Taking a whiff, Martin was skeptical. Nevertheless, I wrapped the aromatic rounds in layer upon layer of plastic, and surreptitiously slid the goods into the outer zipper of my suitcase.
Twelve hours and two flights later, I drew out the precious cargo. I carefully wrapped it in towels, hoping it would stay cool and praying that the ripe aroma that was quickly filling the hotel room would not seep under the door and down the hotel hallway.
Next morning, the cheese had ripened into a full-blown stench. As I approached the smothered lump, doubts stirred. I was torn between loyalty to my beloved cheese, and concern that after a week of hosting us and our cheese, our hosts might never speak to us again.
It was clear that drastic measures were required. But how to dispose of the corpus? We could not deposit it anywhere in the hotel. Surely it would be tracked and linked to those Americans with the guilty eyes. We must get it out of the hotel. Opening the door a crack to see if anyone was within smelling distance, we quickly exited the room. We dodged into the elevator, lugging the lumpy, reeking sack. Anyone immediately entering the elevator would surely suspect foul play of some sort. We had to get out fast. We emerged from the elevator in a cloud of fumes and strode across the lobby. The door opened with a welcome blast of frigid Danish wind. We dashed across the street to the sweet little Aalborg airport. Without breaking stride, I deftly deposited the remains in a trash bin near the airport arrivals door. The dastardly deed was done.
Within an hour, Lizzy and Flemming had picked us up and hoisted our bags into the car. They seemed not to notice any lingering evidence of our cheesy exploits. Soon we were on the road to the Blokhus summer house. First stop along the way was — yes — the cheese store.