Elections are different in France.
A few years ago my wife and I were there during the election for seats in the European Parliament. About a dozen political parties had slates of candidates running.
A few days before the election, the conservative party had a televised rally to fire up the troops and get out the vote. We decided to watch it, figuring it would give us insight into the important political issues of the day. Plus it would be good for our French.
Most of the speeches were boring, with the usual applause lines. There were shout-outs to dignitaries in the audience, potshots at the competition, promises to lead France boldly into the future. The crowd clapped politely but there wasn’t a lot of real enthusiasm.
Then things got exciting.
The final speaker was wrapping up his speech and wanted to go out on a high note. “We will work together with the European Union on initiatives like the electric car,” he thundered, “but we will defend ourselves against those bureaucrats in Brussels when it comes to important French interests like”…(dramatic pause)…”RAW MILK CHEESE!”
Suddenly, the crowd went wild, cheering and stamping their feet, throwing things in the air. It was like Charles de Gaulle had just liberated Paris from the Nazis or something.
My wife turned to me. “Did he really say raw milk cheese?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”
The next day we asked some French friends about this. It’s true, they said, and they were outraged. They explained that there was a move afoot to force cheese makers across Europe to pasteurize their milk. “This will make the cheese tasteless!” they cried. “Tasteless food – the English must be behind it! “
Sometimes it is in the most unlikely places that you find what really moves French hearts.
A few days later the results came in and the conservative party was the big winner. They far outperformed the pre-election polls.
Never underestimate the power of cheese.