My French friend told me a story about cheese. After skiing with some friends in the Alps, they discovered a small chalet in Switzerland. Warming themselves up from the cold, they sat down at a quaint table. His face lit up when he spied what was sitting on the counter:
“It was the most beautiful cheese”, he told me excitedly, “it had an inch of hair growing all over it!”
Not exactly how Americans view beautiful cheese. The French relate to cheese as alive, where as American’s relate to cheese as dead (as in pasteurized, wrapped in plastic and stored in a cold, dark place). I wrote about this a long time ago in a post on “The Culture Code” which discussed how different cultures relate to a lot of different products.
He went on to tell me another story. Apparently, the Belgian’s also prefer their cheese more on the dead side and the French make fun of the Belgians which makes this story funnier. My friend’s dad collected a number of very nice, gourmet cheeses from the cheese shop to send to a business colleague in Belgium as a gift. The Belgian received the gift quite well and thanked my friend’s father gratefully, but was sad to report that many of the cheeses had started growing mold in transit and so they unfortunately had to throw them out! Of course, the mold is what made them gourmet in the first place. Needless to say this did not help rectify the jokes already made by the French about the Belgians.
These stories are why I love international travel and relationships. We all see the world so differently and yet until we share our experience, we don’t know how. Something we hold as garbage, may be precious to someone else.
All this to say, we really should try experiencing more moldy cheeses.