Well, in Part II, Emma and Charles have a new home. Due to Emma’s melancholy, Charles looks for a new place to reside and decides on Yonnville-l’Abbaye. While at first glance it looks picturesque (see Chapter 1 of Part II), perhaps Emma has reason to beware.
Flaubert calls the region “a bastard land” – what exactly does that mean? I’m assuming a negative connotation, but “bastard?” Apparently, the landscape is “without character.” Also, they make the “worst Neufchatel cheeses of all the region.” When I read “Neufchatel,” I immediately thought of those silvery packages of cream cheese at the grocery store. I had to do extensive research (Wiki) to determine that:
Neufchâtel is a soft, slightly crumbly, mould-ripened cheese made in the French region of Normandy. One of the oldest cheeses in France, its production is believed to date back to the 6th century. It looks similar to Camembert, with a dry, white, edible rind, but the taste is saltier and sharper. It has the aroma and taste of mushrooms. Unlike other soft-white-rinded cheeses, Neufchâtel has a grainy texture. It is most usually sold in heart shapes but is also produced in other forms, such as logs. It is typically matured for 8–10 weeks.
In 1872, William Lawrence, a New York dairyman of the township of Chester, created the first American cream cheese as the result of an attempt to create a batch of Neufchâtel. This American Neufchâtel is softer than regular cream cheese due to its approximately 33% lower fat and higher moisture content. Due to this reduced fat content, it is found in most grocery stores as a reduced-fat option to cream cheese. In the United States, this Neufchâtel is sometimes called farmers’ cheese.
But, none of that matters in Yonville, because they are known for their terrible Neufchatel. Too bad. I’m glad we got it right in America. What would dips be without Neufchatel? (And how DO you pronounce that anyway? I don’t want to sound like an idiot.)
Also, apparently farming is costly in Yonville, because “so much manure is needed to enrich this friable soil full of sand and flints. Watch where you are walking in those pretty gowns, Mme!
So, welcome to Yonville. Home Sweet Home. (Do the stinky cheese and stinky soils forecast stinky relationships as well? Only time will tell.)