Raclette involves cheese. Not just your average cheesy masterpiece, but massive amounts of gooey hot stinky delicious cheese. I first experienced raclette 2 years ago when my brother was visiting me in Austria. We traveled across the border to meet up with one of his college friends who lives in Switzerland. After a vigorous day of skiing, his friend insisted that we eat raclette for dinner. He lifted out this very odd looking grill apparatus that you had to plug in. There was also a lot of space between the grill part and the stand. He looked at our baffled faces and explained while laughing that you grill meet and veggies on top and below you melt your raclette cheese in these nifty trays. It was glorious!
Since then I have partaken in many more delicious and obviously nutritious (actually far from it!) raclette evenings. Last year the couple below us has a raclette machine, so for special occasions such as new years, we got everyone together and had a wonderful cheesy dinner. This year is different. The French not only enjoy raclette, they embrace it like it is a long lost cousin. It is a staple of food in this mountain town of Briançon and they eat it with fervor. The first time I experience racletted de francaise was rather different. We had a french couple over that brought their wonderful raclette set and 2 bottles of white wine, not just any white wine, but sweet, sparkling white wine. We were incredibly confused as all of us have always thought that you drink red wine with cheese, naturally. According to the French, red wine is only for dessert cheeses. White wine is what you drink while eating raclette and fondue. Hmm..... They then put the spread on the table of cold cuts, raclette cheese in every flavor possible(they even had white wine flavored raclette cheese?!?!), and potatoes. The French girl beside me attacked the cheese like she hadn't eaten in days. With military preciseness she cut her potato, cold cuts, and cheese into tiny bits that were eaten with perfected French skill. I felt weak beside her and inexperienced. So I attacked my cheese as well. I ate so much that I was miserable, aching with with a cheese filled belly all night long. The next time I had raclette was at another French girl's house. The guys were away that night playing. So we had a little girls night that involved raclette. Again we had cold cuts, potatoes, and a variety of raclette cheeses. The French girl attacked the cheese and even had two trays of cheese going at once under the grill! I was thoroughly impressed. I simply could not compete with her. I knew the French loved their cheese, but this was going above and beyond!
Then last night we had raclette again, but it was a different kind of raclette. It was raclette Montreal style. We had some cheese, but we also had beef, chicken, shrimp, peppers, onions, etc. all to cook on the grill above where you melt you cheese. It was delicious and filling and I did not feel like a disgusting glutton. The French, when told about this sort of raclette, exclaimed to us that this is not real raclette. They were literally disgusted that we would think to put cheese on our shrimp. I had to laugh when I saw the expression on their faces. It was like you might as well put raclette cheese on dog poop, they were literally that disgusted with us. Now I do think the french have one up on us in a lot of their cooking methods and dishes, but I think they are incredibly behind in their raclette techniques. So in conclusion I can say that the French do speak way better French than the French Canadians (don't tell my roommates!), but they really do need to come off their high brie horses for one minute and take note of the way the French Canadians do raclette.