One of the more baffling aspects of life in France is the disproportionate importance attached to cows. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the French have a disturbing obsession with cows. Admittedly we do live out in the sticks here – maybe in Paris it’s entirely different and matters bovine never arise, but somehow I doubt it.
This ruminant preoccupation is firmly embedded in the language. I continue to speak French comme une vache Espagnole, though I’m assured that it’s getting better. ‘Oh la vache!’, I might say upon dropping something heavy on a foot (though I’m still more likely to say ‘oh bollocks!’, to be honest). Slugabeds may be reminded that la vache la première au pré, lèche toute la rosée, early birds not being impressive enough, presumably. And I have to report that it continues to rain comme une vache qui pisse despite the fact that it is now the middle of May, for God’s sake.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Skiers negotiating crowded pistes in peak season are likely to be accosted by a purple cow on skis, dishing out chocolates – as if there wasn’t enough to worry about, what with small children impersonating unguided missiles and behelmeted Brits pretending to be Alberto Tomba. JC almost ran it over one year. La Vache Qui Rit chortles down at you from vintage advertising prints and giggles along supermarket shelves knee deep in cheese spread triangles. The crise de la vache folle prompted bans on British beef and British blood donors, and an avalanche of silly internet cow jokes. Try your hand at the José Bové game for a start – eliminate the mad cows (handily identifiable by the fact that they are wearing blue funnels on their heads) then go on to demolish a McDonalds and throw custard pies at the riot police.
The internet is a treasure trove of things vache related. LaVache. com acts as a kind of portal site for a host of bovine goodies. A whole page devoted to flying cows, for example. Or a ‘library of moos’, which is pretty much exactly what it says it is. Though my personal favourite is probably this:
Cows pop up all over more traditional media as well. Holiday postcards are covered in cattle, both live and cartoon versions, usually with a caption which I presume is hilariously funny as long as you’re French. I’ve only ever come across one which I both understood and found amusing.
It’s all vachement folle, if you ask me.
*Thanks to polymerchicken on Flickr for the Milka cow