A native of Arizona I never imaged I'd one day live at the beach. Walking down the promenade, I saw this beautiful scene. Farther down, there was a shop selling bathing suits, beach towels, and giant rafts--one of them, bright green in the shape of a saguaro cactus, caught my eye.... I had an urge to drag it home and lie on it in the garden, on the gravel beneath the two towering palm trees. Looking up to the sky, through the palm fronds to the blazing sun, it might be Phoenix.
l'appétit vient en mangeant
: appetite comes with eating
: the more you have the more you want
Listen to today's phrase: Download it here
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
I was going to give you a rundown on all the trees in our garden here in the French town we ended up in, until I considered how ennuyeux the topic would be to some! So I'll share, instead, a popular French phrase I overheard last night (and take just a moment to say that in addition to two palm trees, a magnificent faux-poivrier, a cypress, a cedar and an olive tree--we learned we also have a laurier sauce (bay leaf tree) and a néflier which produces a fruit that ressembles an apricot--if only it tasted as good (I plan to acquire the taste asap). It was exciting to discover these trees which produce edible crops.
The wooden shed had to come down. It was on its last leg! Today's Mistral might've done the work for us...I wonder, now, if it will blow down our house? Meantime, not a pesky mosquito in sight! They must dread the wind as much as we do.
Last night, after demolishing the old wooden shed beside our front steps (we will plant a just-bought fig tree, "Madeleine" variety (ficus carica produces sumptuous green fruit with a raspberry red interior), we were rewarded with dinner at our neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant.
Jean-Marc wasn't that hungry so he only ordered an entrée: nems aux crevettes, or shrimp egg rolls. When you order egg rolls at an Asian restaurant in France, they come with large lettuce leaves in which to roll them, and mint. A delicious, further crispy detail! After your nems are rolled up in the lettuce and mint, you dunk them in the rice vinegar-based sauce pour nems, all the while keeping one eye on the remaining three nems or else your table-mate will get your share!
I wasn't any hungrier than Jean-Marc - especially after the fried nems, but a good customer orders more than an appetizer, n'est-ce pas? So I asked for le canard "aux amandes". It is not on the menu but the waiter, who so far did not smile, didn't growl either.
Regarding the waiter sans sourire, I wondered if it was something we said--or maybe the way we looked? After all, we humans are mirrors reflecting the mood of the other. Did we look mad? Serious? Impatient? Stuffy or snobby?
When the waiter returned I thanked him profusely with a tooth-full smile. Jean-Marc, who was not aware of my inner turmoil, bluntly asked for, "encore de la laitue, s'il vous plaît. More lettuce, please."
I quickly let it go, but could not help but notice when the same waiter smiled warmly and toothfully at the other clients. And then it dawned on me, we were new. Les inconnus. Unknown. As the young man served the other tables, I pictured us at one of them, on the receiving end of a warm sunny smile. One day in the future we would be! Such a familiar greeting would extend out from the Vietnamese restaurant--throughout our neighborhood. A nod by this neighbor, a comment ça va by that one. In the meantime, we would rely on those citizens who make no distinction between locals and strangers (like the restaurant owner, who was bubbly with everyone he encountered, or the woman I walked past this morning, on the way to the market. Her eye contact, nod, and smile was enlivening.)
After the nems my canard aux amandes arrived. I noticed Jean-Marc perked right up. "Je partage!" I'll share, I said. My husband accepted, citing a popular French phrase, one I will leave you with:
L'appétit vient en mangeant. Appetite comes with eating.
(This, by the way, would also explain how two not-so-hungry strangers ended up at the ice cream truck across the street, after eating all those egg rolls and some duck :-)
l'appétit vient en mangeant = appetite comes with eating
ennuyeux = boring
faux-poivrier (schinus molle) = peppercorn tree
laurier-sauce = bay leaf tree
néflier = loquat tree or Japanese medlar
une entrée = appetizer, starter
le nem = egg roll
le canard = duck
aux amandes = with almonds
le sourire = smile
One year ago today we enjoyed our very last wine harvest. Read about it in the story "Something The French don't Eat"
Speaking of trees in our La Ciotat garden, this one is endearing.... On the eve of our move from the vineyard, my neighbor Annie stopped by. We were having iced tea together when Jean-Marc returned from the back parcel, exhausted from having uprooted a lemon tree, a mandarin and a kumquat. "What about the mulberry tree?" Annie said, unknowingly voicing a wish of mine. I didn't dare ask my husband to pull that up. Next thing you know Jean-Marc, Annie, and I were heaving and straining to get that weeping tree out of the ground (the future owners are putting a pool in that area and offered to let us have the trees). Struggling to get that tree out of the ground, Annie fell on me once and all three of us nearly ended up in a pile (the tree on top) after the mulberry let go of its grip on the land. I can certainly relate to its attachment! So here we are now, in a new little garden--all together now (except Annie. But she promises to visit soon).
Read about Margaret's idea for a cadeau de pendaison de crémaillère or housewarming gift.
HOUSEWARMING IDEA BY MARGARET
Beneath the willowy peppercorn tree there's a tiled bassin that was in use once upon a time. We would like to get it operating again--adding a fountain feature and some fish (my father suggested koi...). Margaret, who reads this journal from her home in Yorkshire, wrote in suggesting readers pitch in to help bring this petit bassin back to life. Margaret writes:
Meanwhile, I'd been wracking my brains for a house-warming gift for you, one everyone can share if they want and with no strings. I'd like to start a fund to help restore the pond and the water feature. If for any reason that proves impractical, then you can use it to install any other calming and wished for feature in the garden.
Thank you Margaret for the lovely idea! For those who would like to participate in this housewarming gift, click here. Please leave a message along with your contribution so I will know who to thank for this sentimental cadeau de pendaison de crémaillère.
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