If this Bollenoise* façade was jam-colored, what flavor would that be? What is your favorite jam or spread (Nutella, chestnut purée... or just plain ol' beurre?) for your morning toast? Leave your answers in the comments box. *from the southern French town of Bollène.
la confiture (kohn-fee-tyur) noun, feminine
Audio File: Hear the French word confiture in the following example sentence:
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La culture, c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale
Culture is like jam, the less you have, the more you spread it.
More on French pronunciation, here.
(Note: This story was written and posted in the summer of 2005)
I walk into the kitchen to find my husband kissing a bottle of vanilla extract. He'd been searching for this key ingredient and, in finding "her" (French vanilla is undeniably feminine), was overcome with emotion.
The cupboards are wide-open, baring their spiced, sugared and cereal-boxed souls. The sink is full and the countertops have disappeared under a bumpy rug of lemons, figs, odd jars and cooking utensils. A toy helicopter, some binoculars and a map of the French Alps figure into this chaotic scene, inviting the question, "What's wrong with this picture?" On the stove top four casseroles quiver and spit.
If real French men make confiture* they don't seem to wear aprons. Mine's got on a bright orange T-shirt which reads "Châteauneuf-du-Pape" and which does not coordinate with his two-tone swim trunks in teal and gris.*
My eyes dart back to the storm of ingredients and imposters scattered across the counter. "Do you know what you are doing?" I say, concerned.
"Non," Jean-Marc answers, casually, and with a smile. With that, he picks up a carton of sugar and swirls the downpour over the bubbling, frothing fruit.
If I were the one making jam, I'd have scoured the sink, cleared and disinfected the countertops, scrubbed the figs. I'd have worn a shower cap, a stopwatch and a furrowed brow. I'd have taken the phone off the hook and lined up all the needed utensils by order of appearance before hyperventilating over a well lit, perfectly propped open cookbook. But then, I would never get around to putting together such a perfect environment in which to make perfect jam. That's why Jean-Marc is le confiturier* around here: he gets things done.
I look around our imperfect kitchen, to the messy counter, where my eyes focus on the cookbook which has been tossed aside, landing face down. Jean-Marc is not even consulting the recipe. There is not a scale, a measuring cup or spoon in sight. He is cooking au pif* again, guessing his way through the jam-making process. But will the result be any good? It will if last year's batch is any indication and besides--quelle* question! I have lived the answer...
...by crowding the cupboards in anticipation--collecting odd jars and their matching lids (after speed-eating through the contents). In addition, I have crawled out from beneath our fig tree, my legs en compote*, my hair a nest of fig droppings (the tree's branches having teased it to heights and gnarls no fine-tooth comb could achieve), my knees scratched, my skin aflame (itching would follow), to arrange the harvest in a two-tiered basket at the feet of our Maître* Confiturier. Ah, the things a sous-chef does for lovely confiture!
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--always appreciated. Share them in the comments box, for all of us to enjoy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~Enrich your French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la confiture (f) = jam; gris = grey; le confiturier (la confiturière) = jam maker; au pif = by guesswork; quelle = what a; en compote = tired (legs); le maître (la maîtresse) = master
Expressions: faire des confitures = to make jam
donner de la confiture aux cochons = to throw pearls before swine
La vérité n'est pas faite pour consoler comme une tartine de confitures qu'on donne aux enfants qui pleurent. Il faut la rechercher, voilà tout, et écarter de soi ce qui n'est pas elle. Truth is not made to console like the buttered bread with jam that we give to children who cry. You have to look for it, that's all, and distance from yourself all that is not (truth). --Gustave Flaubert
"Porte Costerouze" (photo taken in February 2009, in Tulette).
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi