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Mimolette, a French cheese criticized as “hard and shriveled” by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in a hot fray over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s threat to dissolve the House of Representatives, is catching on with curious consumers.

Since the spherical cheese got into the news after Mori complained to the media Aug. 6 that he “was given shriveled cheese that is so hard to bite away,” public curiosity grew so strong that some food shops ran out of their Mimolette stocks.

At a parley in Koizumi’s official residence, during which the cheese, canned beer and salmon was served, Mori pleaded with Koizumi to back away from his threat to call a snap election if the bills to privatize Japan Post failed to pass. Mori is a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Two days after their chat, the House of Councilors voted down the bills 125 to 108.

The ritzy cheese, whose name derives from “mi-mou” meaning “half-soft,” is usually matured for several months.

The color is a vivid orange when first made. With aging it slowly hardens and dries, turning orange-brown.

A clerk at one of the food shops that made handsome gains due to the publicity commended the cheese, saying, “The harder it becomes, the richer flavor it gets.”

When it is matured for more than 12 months, it develops a conspicuous hardness. The maturation process involves storing it in cellars.

Department store operator Takashimaya Co. says it sells 18-month-old Mimolette for 550 yen per 100 grams and 24-month-old Mimolette for 880 yen.

After some television networks gave high-profile coverage to the cheese, the number of buyers skyrocketed from around mid-August, according to the department store’s outlet in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.

The outlet’s Mimolette sales in August were three times more than average.

The Takashimaya store, which ran out of the most coveted 24-month-old Mimolette, said it is dying to get more.

Some observers say the two politicians eventually “reconciled” and Koizumi has invited Mori to a posh restaurant that serves Mimolette after the Sept. 11 election.

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