It seems that Pick n Pay Constantia have imported some fancy French cheese. And now they’re going to have to try and sell it. The cheese in question is La Tradition‘s version of Époisses. I looked up some more information about it.
This odious cow’s milk cheese is produced in the village Époisses, in the eastern part of France. It’s rinsed in Marc de Bourgogne brandy until it starts to waft the smell of sour milk, making it the stinkiest cheese on this list [6000 note: There were only three cheeses on the list]. In fact, the stench is so potent that French law has officially banned it from the Parisian public transport system. It’s a legal offense to carry it on your person.
I have no evidence for their claim of Époisses-related Parisian public transport system ban, although there is a general RATP rule on carrying nasty things on their system, which might fit:
Le transport de tous produits dangereux ou entrainant la gêne des autres usagers est interdit.
(It is forbidden to transport any products dangerous or bothersome to other passengers).
But wait, there’s more:
The cheese is packed full of bacterial organisms of the listeria group, making it one of the most dangerous foodstuffs of the earth. It’s been held culprit for spreading serious diseases that are sometimes fatal. As a result, Époisses is only allowed to be imported into the United States if it has been aged not more than 49 days.
I have no evidence for their claim of Époisses-related fatalities, but the microbiology might fit in some cases, should the cheese not have been manufactured in optimally hygienic conditions.
All this cheesy detail wasn’t what I noticed first, though.
What I noticed first was the price:
That’s about £18.31, €21.52 or $24.27 for 250g of really schmelly cheese. Pricy.
But wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting that decided to set the retail price at that exact level?
[Pick n Pay pricing meeting, back office, Constantia store]
[Three shirt wearing men are sitting at a table]
Middle management man in shirt: “Right, next on the agenda… Mmm. The cheese department have brought in some Époisses. It is a top end product and we are a flagship supermarket, even though a lot of the stuff we sell is past its use by date. I was thinking that we should go for something around the R300 mark.”
Boss man in shirt: “Are you mad? We’ll just lose money. This stuff cost a lot to get over here and it’s a world leading product. R350, minimum.”
Junior man in shirt: “Er… boss: if we go for R350, we’re still only just breaking even, and that’s only if the customer then goes and buys some expensive bread from our expensive bread department. Which they will, because they clearly have money to burn, even in this fragile and uncertain economy.”
Boss man in shirt: “Good point, Junior man in shirt. OK, R355 then. Any higher and we risk it not getting sold.”
Middle management man in shirt: “R355 is way too high. No-one is going to pay that. I suggest R351 – and not a cent more.”
Boss man in shirt: [pulling rank just for the sake of it] “Point taken, but no: we have 40 units to sell and we need to make an extra 40 cents overall. I’m setting the price at R351.01. Print the signs and put them up amongst some much cheaper local cheeses just to confuse the customers.”
Junior man in shirt: “Great plan, boss. I’ll print the easter-themed headed sheet of A4 right now.”
[Middle management man in shirt seethes quietly]
I’m not buying any Époisses. Not at that price and, given its reputation for getting a bit iffy with age, certainly not at that supermarket. Nor will I be sponsoring anyone else to get any.
But if you do happen to be a connoisseur, and you do happen to have a lot of money, and you do happen to go and buy some Époisses from Pick n Pay in Constantia, please do send me a review to publish before you pop your clogs.