My first experience with French cheese was as a young adult, traveling in The Netherlands for work. I had taken the train to a tiny little town called Delft on a free weekend to take a gander at the pottery, and in the basement snack shop of the cobblestoned town's museum, they were serving a thin slice of hot brie on toast. I went back to the counter twice, and then later that afternoon, before catching my train back to Rotterdam. To this day, I remember nothing of the pottery, but I do have a clear image in my mind of the Brie dripping off that oval of toast onto crinkly paper, and the sky in Delft.
Years later, I met a very interesting man and found love hurling me quickly to France. In order to save money I had taken a cheap flight to London and was sleeping on the floor of a flat that belonged to a woman he knew before continuing my journey to see him in his own country for the first time. She and I talked that night and after plying me with a small glass of Grey Goose, she asked me what my vice was. I told her it was cheese. In my mind, this was NY State Cheddar ideally eaten while standing in muddy cleats by the light of an open refrigerator door.
She was sitting very straight up in a cross legged position and she twisted her curly black hair with her actrice's finger and gave out a throaty laugh. "Well, you're going to like France, then". At that moment my hot brie in Delft came back to me. And that was all. I imagined shops filled from floor to ceiling with toasts dripping with Dutch museum snackbar brie with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower in the background.
After we ran into each others arms in slow motion along the platform at the Gare in Paris and then found ourselves in his little love nest near the Canal St. Martin, I told him I wanted to go to a cheese shop, immediately.
We got dressed and he took me to La Maison du Fromage. I was deep in a state of shock and was unable to articulate any reaction to what was facing me at the counter that seemed to go on and on. What did I want, anyway? He took the lead and picked out three cheeses. A munster, Brie, at my request, and an herb encrusted goat's cheese from Corsica called "Brin d'Amour". We took them to his little studio with a baguette and had them on a card table. Let me tell you, at that moment, I knew. This was the man I was going to marry.