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Grignoter & Cochonnerie: What it really means when your family says, "There's nothing to eat in this fridge!"

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Today's Word: cochonnerie

    : junk food
    : mess, crap, rubbish, junk

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:

Les bonbons, les restaurants de nourriture rapide, les boissons sucrées sont souvent des cochonneries.
Candy, fast-food restaurants, soda pop...are often junk food.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse


The fishmonger listens. She will come out from behind her stand and, before a table of 100 glazed-over eyes as our witness (fresh-caught sea bass, langoustines...), she will listen to your heart, your troubles big and small.
 
My Mom is here now, ” I began.
 
“I know,” the fishmonger said, her long yellow braid glistening like so many metallic cords on an old-fashioned switchboard.
 
"You know? Well..." I continued, "I found my mom standing in front of the frigo last night at midnight. 'There’s nothing to eat in here'...she said." 
 
Rien à manger? The words rattled me, as they do when my adolescents (now kidults) used to say them. After 21 years of making sure there was something to eat, I can no longer take this pressure. What's more, I'm supposed to be an empty-nester now. But recently, everyone--including my own mom, has flown home... And the pressure is on again! 
 
Shaking with frustration, I stood there, the moonlight shining into the kitchen window as I enlightened mom, who had a case of the Midnight Munchies.

"Mom, look! There's a roasted chicken. And there, over there--an omelet I made for you earlier today... And there is some mozzarella. You could slice it to go with the giant heirloom tomatoes right there on the counter... And I see three yogurts, two packages of Emmental, some jambon de Parme (admittedly a bit dubious in appearance...how many weeks old could it be? But then dried ham is immortel, isn't it?)
 
After I'd pointed out so much evidence of the bounty that was ours if only we would open our eyes, Mom looked as though she'd just been dragged through our garde-manger by the ear! (I admit I can be pretty intense when trying to get my point across! But Mom's next words softened my perspective...). 

"Honey, I can't see very well..." 
 
*    *    *
"Still, I just don’t understand," I said to the fishmonger, "why, after I’ve brought home 150 worth of groceries does my family still insist, "Il n'y a rien à manger"? 
 
The fishmonger shook her head in commiseration. 
 
"My daughter enlightened me," I continued, the fishmonger's attention ever rapt. "My daughter said, 'Mom, when we tell you there’s nothing to eat, what we mean is there’s nothing to grignoter. No ham, no surimi (artificial crabsticks!), no sliced bread, no chocolate pudding...'"
 
The fishmonger shook her head, summing things up. "What they’re saying is: Il n'y a pas de cochonneries a manger! (There's no junk food to eat!)
 
As if on cue, from behind the fish stand where he sat on a stool facing the portable fan on this sweltering day in July, the fishmonger's husband, cried out:
 
"Chérie, can you go next door to the supérette and get me some rum raisin ice cream?"
 
With that, my confidant and I burst out laughing, and kissed each other goodbye--I, on my way to buy cochonneries, and she, headed out for the same goal: simplement de faire plaisir à ce qui on aime, simply to please those we love, whether we agree or not with their tastes.
 
--
Post Note: As I read the rough draft of this story to Mom, she wanted to clarify something: "You know that "mozzarella"? Well, I didn't know what it was. When I picked up that package it felt really really creepy--like a body part, a breast or something!

I think Mom is referring to the way the ball of mozza floats in a sack of water. They don't sell it that way back in Mexico.... I leave you with a video of my Mom. (click on the arrow in the Instagram photo, below) You'll see some more news....

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le frigo = fridge
rien à manger = nothing to eat
grignoter = to snack
le garde-manger = pantry
jambon de Parme = Parma ham, dried ham
immortel = eternal, undying
cochonneries = junk food

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 
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