5.30am. Last time I work up this early was to dance and chant with the Hari Krishnas I hung out with at university. No less of an ideology but with a little less saffron and waving incense, my incentive this morning is CHEESE.
Boots, hair nets and aprons on, we are greeted by 1,200 litres of warming milk. Dutch cheese farm Boerderij Hoekelum (www.hoekelum.nl) is producing Gouda with truffle and herbs this morning.
I'm surprised to find myself in Holland at all. As part of a small film team (www.whattookyousolong.org) traveling the world in search of camel cheese (yes, camel cheese) I don't bat an eyelid at being in Mongolia, Somalia or Uzbekistan. But the Netherlands?
From the first day we heard about Frank Smits we knew he was something special. A young dutch farmer battling government legislation and animal activists, pioneering the scientific research, inventing the machinery and importing the first camels to see Dutch soil, perhaps ever.
My hand-drawn instructions are a sublime piece of art. Metro lines, directions, changes, rue by rue and the same in reverse. All this so I can achieve cheese Nirvana in Paris without having to speak to a single French person. Well, ok, I may have to say something at the fromagerie, the Laurent Dubois Fromagerie on Rue Sant-Germain, but here's to hoping.
Two weeks after being in Paris my French language skills remain that of a zygote. Sure, I could ask for some cheese, "avez vous de fromage?" But that would sound awfully stupid in a fromagerie. Ok, so I could say "avez vous de brie?" to be brief and specific. But what unholy concoction of words could comprise the reply to this simple question? "A Brie de Meaux madame? Would you prefer the double cream or the triple? How would you care to try some of this special little artisan goat's cheese made on my grandmother's farm in Normandy?"