The big deal about Brie

Cardboard boxes and hints of forgotten things, these are often full of the most mysterious things.

Newsweek Magazine December 31, 1985 THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE

Newsweek Magazine December 31, 1984 THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE

Last week I moved a bunch of boxes out of storage and into my studio. The resulting chaos is a pile of cardboard boxes full of things I barely recall packing. As I go through them and try to somehow assimilate them into my very finite space, I am finding all manner of thoughts and artifacts.

“What Yuppies have discovered is nothing less than a new plane of consciousness, a state of Transcendental Acquisition, in which the perfection of their possessions enables them to rise above the messy turmoil of their emotional lives. They know that Beauty is Truth, and Truth is Beauty, which is why their most eloquent symbol is the Rolex watch, which has both.”

A lot of the boxes were packed back in 2002 when I moved out of my Hewitt Street apartment in Roslindale – just one of many an apartment in the Boston area – in preparation for a move of hilariously epic proportions for its Odyssian foolishness, and which, something like 18 states later, landed me here. I think a lot of these boxes were never unpacked at that apartment; the contents seem to hint at being packed when I was 17 and packed to move to my first apartment.

Among these things are journals with entries about getting on stage with a band at Sheehan’s and playing the maroccas (Evidently on October 12, 1985; wonder who the band was. I have no recollection of this, and likely had no recollection the very next morning), and articles and pictures scissored out of magazines, clothing, random framed pictures and adornments from past, decorated, apartments, and this intriguing issue of Newsweek Magazine from December 31 of 1984. Evidently 1984 was THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE.

"It is on the move again - that restless vanguard of the baby-boom generation, continually reinventing itself as it conquers the undefended decades of the 20th century." - Newsweek, December 31, 1984

Isn’t it funny – the phenomenon that was the yuppies – that it merited a special Gary Trudeau illustration and the cover of Newsweek? Funnier even that people posed for the photographs inside as bona fide yuppies and proud of it, because apparently they didn’t know the article would not entirely make them look good. I love the pics of yuppies restoring their gentrified townhouse in outfits that seem to never have seen a dirty moment. I was not a yuppie in the 80s. I was too busy getting perms and shoulder pads. But the article makes for great soundbites, especially when removed from context…

“In unruly ranks assembled, its members marched through the 60s, then dispersed into a million solitary joggers, riding the crests of their own alpha waves, and now there they go again, barely looking up from the massed gray columns of the Wall Street Journal as they speed toward the airport, advancing on the 1980s in the back seat of a limousine.”

The region in France that gave its name to this cheese (Brie) is, in the French language, feminine: La Brie, but French products take the gender of their general category; in this case cheese (Le fromage) is masculine, and so Brie is also masculine, Le Brie.

Yumpie or Yuppie? Read on...

Yumpie or Yuppie? Read on...

Despite the variety of Bries, the French Atlantic government officially certifies only two types of Brie to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun.

“‘Yumpies’: For most practical purposes, though, that distinction is absurdly narrow; a group so small, while it may be real, is of little value in political or marketing terms. … Midwestern pollster Wayne Youngquist prefers the term ‘Yumpies’, for ‘young upwardly mobile professionals. This definition has the advantage of calling attention to the distinction between a Yuppie and a Preppy; a preppy, having been born at the top, is in no need of upward mobility.”

The Brie de Meaux, manufactured outside of Paris since the 8th century, was originally known as the “King’s Cheese” (later, following the French Revolution, the “King of Cheeses”) and was enjoyed by the peasantry and nobility alike.

“Unfortunately, the glamour of this group obscures a more significant trend toward downward mobility among their peers.”

It was granted the protection of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status in 1980, and is produced primarily in the eastern part of the Parisian basin.

“All of this, of course, gives the lie to the facile notion occasionally expressed that Yuppies have merely resurrected the corporate-zombie culture of their fathers.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the Brie….

“Yet for all their sometimes frenzied consumption, Yuppies can display a certain emotional austerity that keeps them from slipping on the jogging path of life.”

I just wrote a song called ‘the jogging path of life’…

“Of course, some Yuppies prefer to worship money in more traditional ways…”

If left to mature for longer, typically several months to a year, the cheese becomes stronger in flavour and taste, the pâté drier and darker, and the rind also darker and crumbly, and is called Brie Noir (Fr: Black Brie).

“Mobility: Even secular Yuppies frequently describe a kind of epiphany, a sudden realization that poverty might never live up to it’s romantic promise. “

Over-ripe brie contains an unpleasant, excessive amount of ammonia, which is produced by the same micro-organisms required for ripening.

“Yuppies have created a whole new pastime of ‘competitive eating,’ which is not about quantity or speed, but status.”

Around the Île-de-France, where Brie is made, people enjoy soaking this in Café au lait and eating it for breakfast.

“They’ll build brick barbecues as big as houses and sizzle steaks as big as hubcaps. Every so often they will sit back on their patios with a nice highball, and think back to those crazy 80s, and wonder: what really was the big deal about Brie, anyway?

Brie is a soft cows’ cheese named after Brie, the French province in which it originated (roughly corresponding to the modern département of Seine-et-Marne). It is pale in colour with a slight greyish tinge under crusty white mould; very soft and savoury with a hint of ammonia.

6 Responses to “The big deal about Brie”

  1. I was around when the yuppies invented sex;
    I was around when the yuppies invented consumerism;
    I was around when the yuppies invented mid-life crisis.
    I watch as the yuppies are inventing lumbago;
    I intend to observe as the yuppies invent false teeth and hemorrhoids.

  2. Hey I really enjoyed this. Any way I can get a copy of that Newsweek article? Perhaps you have it scanned somewhere? I tried finding it online but no luck.

    • Gosh, I can look around. The images on this post are all downloadable and click through to their high res version — just click on them to open the full high res version in a new window and then right-click and “save as” on a PC, or on a mac use the doohickey button.

      It looks like I scanned all but the second page so if I find that I will scan and post that too. But I just looked in the box where I had found it and it’s not there. As I have no understanding of my “filing system” I am not sure if it will turn up or not. If it does, I will message you here, assuming you clicked the box to be notified of follow-up comments.


      • Hello Mo,

        Great read. I was wondering if you were able to collect all the pages from this article. Not sure how many additional pages there were in the article. I’m working on getting a copy of the issue, but anything you can do in the meantime would be great.


      • hey Smith!

        I think this is all there was but I will check the original issue to be sure.



  3. I think the moment Generation X began can be traced to this article. I was in college at the time and I can vividly remember the repulsion I and many of my friends had at reading about these shallow, self absorbed baby boomers who once stood for social rebellion now diving head first into the system they once held is disdain.

    There is more to the article. I remember it having side bars with profiles are different yuppies and I recall one being a woman talking about how she struggled in trying to decide if she should vote “her interests” by voting for Reagan, or vote “her conscious” by voting for Mondale and how it all ended up perfect for her because she ended up voting “her conscious” and she still came out ahead!

    I found this site because I was looking for that full article to see if it still appalled me they way it did me and my friends all those years ago.

    On a side note, another thing I remember about that issue was the contrast of the cover article with a separate article about a then up and coming band from Ireland named U2 who was starting to make waves with a song about Martin Luther King called “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Self absorbed baby boomers selling out vs. music with a social conscious. Gotta love the irony.

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