Why Parisians Poke Their Camembert

The French can be reserved, but at the farmers market, all bets are off. Exactly what is happening here? The cheese man on Place Baudoyer is letting his prospective customer poke the camembert...

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Unlike the brie pictured above, which is almost always cut so that you can see exactly how ripe it is, a camembert is more mysterious, covered up in its rind. There is nothing sadder than cutting open a camembert before its time. And the only way to know if it's ripe is by poking it. (Madame here poked three camembert before nodding her approval.)

You don't just see this kind of behavior at the farmers market. I love nothing more than catching a man in the supermarket cheese aisle ripping the lids off of round camembert boxes and poking until he finds one that's fit for lunch. Why does anyone buy the inferior, industrially produced and generally not less expensive cheese at the supermarket in France? Maybe because they don't have to ask permission before poking the camembert.

More scenes from the cheese stand below:

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(Images: Kristin Hohenadel)

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