un cadeau
la racine

la crotte

Les arcs 010
Crotte makers in the southern French town of Tarradeau (Var).



noun, feminine


The first time we dined together, she remarked that I was stuffy. Specifically, she said she had the impression that she had spent the evening with "la Reine." Her remarks struck me as ironic, for it was this woman and her upper-class status which had so affected me.

So when it was my turn to invite my neighbor and her husband for le déjeuner, I took care to appear more relaxed, even though I was twice as nervous, given her previous impression of me.

Stuffy? Perhaps my nerves were to blame, for we were dining at the home of a local personality. Yes, I must have been a little bit crisp as I carefully sat down on an elegant sofa and began to take in my surroundings. The home was filled with romantic statues and modern-art paintings; fresh flowers dressed every table.

I thought about what I had worn that evening: did my attire lead her to classify me as coincée? I'd worn a long skirt and a button-down chemise under a cardigan. She had worn leopard and those glittery stiletto heels....

This time I wore all black, mindful to défaire one more button on my blouse. Though I had upped my efforts to be cool, relaxed, and very un-reine-like, my neighbor (now wearing sequins for our lunch date) had another agenda.

From the kitchen, where I was serving up steaming bowls of pumpkin-and-chestnut soup (soup, a.k.a. "the peasants' meal"... no queen would serve that!), I heard the laughter. Maybe it had something to do with my cooking? I had been so nervous at the idea of serving my neighbor's husband, a renowned chef!

When I went out to see what was so amusing, I found my husband and the invités standing, their eyes watering, their sides splitting.

"What? What is so funny?"

My eyes scanned the living room for any "laughable" objects strewn about, bricoles or bibelots I had looked at so often that the novelty had worn off. I saw nothing ridicule. Next, I checked my clothes to see whether something had gone wrong during the dressing stage. That is when I noticed my blouse, which was tucked into my underwear.

My fashion gaffe wasn't in tucking a shirt into a culotte (people do this all the time—don't they?), but in wearing low-waisted pants. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

The good news was that I was looking as down-to-earth as ever! Just how much more relaxed could one get? Such a get-up might de-throne this so-called "queen" once and for all, or at the very least earn a few "graceless" points with the neighbor who thinks me so stuffy, so reine-like.

I soon realized that no one was looking at my underwear. All eyes were fixed to the floor. Curious, I followed my guests' gazes. That's when I saw IT. So dull. So deflated, So dégoûtante! A caramel-toned coil lying atop the tiled floor right next to the dining table.

Une crotte!

I stood staring at it. Stunned. Une crotte de chien? But we don't have a dog....

Elbowed by the woman standing beside him, my husband began: "Kristi—what is that?" I looked to the others for an explanation. The blank looks I received only intensified my embarrassment. What happened next was the French version of The Twilight Zone.

Jean-Marc went over and picked up that crotte! Next, he handed it to my sequined guest, who then put it in her pocket....

That is when I realized I had been tricked—fooled by fake dog-doo, no less! 

But how to react? As dumbstruck as I was, I did not want to lose my new "unstuffy" status! I had worked so hard to dash any misconceptions! And I did not want my delayed response to condemn my neighbor, who I sensed did not mean any harm, but had found in that classic gag what she felt to be a friendly icebreaker.

"Where can I get one of those?" I ventured, walking my stiletto-heeled guest to the door after lunch.

"Here. You can have it. It's yours!" my neighbor winked, patting me on the shoulder, as pals do. It seemed I had somehow passed the test and, I hoped, found a new friend thanks to an old jest.


French Vocabulary

la reine = the queen
le déjeuner = lunch
coincé(e) = uptight
la chemise = shirt
 = to undo
un(e) invité(e) = a guest
une bricole = trinket
le bibelot = knickknack
ridicule = laughable
la culotte = underwear
dégoûtant(e) = disgusting
la crotte de chien = dog mess


Your Edits here, Please!

Did you spot any typos? Are the vocab words in order (any missing, any extras?) Thank you for submitting your corrections in the comments box.

Terms & Expressions:

Crotte! = Damn!
Je te dis crotte! = Get lost!
C'est de la crotte = It isn't worth a thing
ma crotte = my darling, my little sausage (probably best to stick to "ma cherie" or "mon cheri" :-)
crottes en chocolat = Christmas chocolates
une crotte de chien =  a dog dropping ; une crotte de nez = a booger

French Proverb:

Chantez pour une bourrique / Sing for a donkey
Elle vous donnera des crottes. / and she'll give you droppings.


On the island of Porquerolles: a Peugeot motobécane -- perfect for island cruising!

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Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Enid Wilson

My children had great fun with a fake crotte when they were small - this brought back happy memories of their glee!

Jules Greer



I think your neighbor is wierd. Why do you invite her over?

Betty Gleason

Be true to yourself. If earthy is not your style, leave it to the neighbors. If you need to relax more, undo a few more buttons, or the old standby of having a drink before the party to loosen up, then do, but always be yourself. As we all know, you're a hoot!


I wanted to say pfft when you talked about your neighbor's attitude. Never have liked practical jokes. You handled this one very well.

L. M. Davies

Hmmmm....maybe I'm a bit à côté de ses pompes, but I never think it's funny to laugh at someone else. Laughing WITH someone else, I adore. I'd like to think that perhaps your colorful neighbor was just inviting you to relax. I'm with Betty - just be yourself. You're wonderful just as you are, kiddo.

Jules Greer

Hi Honey,

I don't know how I ever missed this hilarious post from the past....what a great story.

Oh Yes, I see now, 2-24-05 - I did not have my computer - so I was riding the bus downtown to read your post's.

You have written about so many priceless moments in your past - this is one of your best.



Joel Renard

The crotte de chien is an old French trick. Another is the left hand corkscrew. The spiral goes the opposite way of a normal corkscrew. As a result you can turn the corkscrew from now until doomsday, but it won't bite into the cork. It's quite frustrating for someone who considers themselves knowledgeable. Tradition dictates that you pass the corkscrew on to the person who is the butt of the joke.

Cheryl Anderson

Your neighbor's quite judgemental attitude very off-putting to me. Maybe it makes her feel superior and fills a void in her life. You are much the bigger person to have let her have her sad fun. That said, she would have been really taken aback if you had shellaced it and made it into jewelry like we did in Alaska with Moose crottes and at a later date given it to her a a gift. True story. A friend and I did just that years ago. In town one could buy keychains, earrings and necklaces of Moose crottes.
I like the picture of you in the pjs. Very contemplative and given your current journey, timely. Looking ahead with great resolve.
Take care.


Your neighbor is jealous of you. You're actually quite modest, and self-deprecating. And, you dress beautifully and ARE beautiful, whereas sequins at noon are (hmmm)... questionable taste?

This neighbor is a mean-spirited woman. And I'm not charmed by your husband joining in "the joke on you." This is really a crass level of humor.

The most telling metaphor is that she gave the crotte to you. How lovely of her.

I'd pick the photo of you in frog pajamas OR the one in the white shirt, but not the more recent one of you in the hat, since the photo is not close-up enough.

I would not include this story in the collection, unless you rewrote it. I think your deeper wisdom knows exactly who the neighbor is, and you're not really revealing in this story what you feel about her. So it comes off as not quite candid. Whereas your honesty is so endearing in most of your stories.

But I may be way off. This is how it strikes me on first reading.

Good luck on finishing and publishing!


Cheryl Anderson

Well said Kaaren. You said in depth and more fully my feelings about the "joke".

Jules Greer

Regarding French women, the are all so delightfully real in Kristi's writing. I like the fact that women the world over reside in distinct categories in their country and perceived "place in life' ladder of position."

This woman is a prime example of 'noveau rich French' that are caught up with the latest of everything new in style etc...or even more a woman with her own shouting style which is just the opposite of Kristi's. What is so wonderful about this story, besides being true for Kristi's preservation of their life, is that this woman is the type of person that helps us all grow and learn to laugh at ourselves, even if it did seem like JM and she were picking on Kristi. These past moments have all helped in teaching Kristi how to 'lighten up.' This story helped make her into the person she is today and is valuable,although I did find it a little rough in places. Needs a little clean up.

This particular woman and her family influenced all of us with their powerful personalities and success... they happen to own a very well-known and 'chic' restaurant/land-mark hotel in Provence.



Kristin Espinasse

Thank you all for your thoughts, which will help me as I go back in and clear up some of the rough edges, as I think my Mom pointed out! P.S. It is a wonderful feeling to be looked out for!  

Mom, youre going to get me sued--now shhhh!!! That said, your words are so true. Every experience is a growing one! And not all life in France is la vie en rose. (And, oh no! This story needs a clean-up? Back to work!...)

Lorrie Kazan

Hi Kristin: I usually drive people crazy with my unasked for but needed copyediting (which I wish they could and would do for me!).

I didn't see anything above that I would change. And of course, your stories are wonderful.

I appreciate your sharing the writing process, as well. I also need to create a book from my prosperity meditations. Perfectionism seems to get in the way.

(Please don't use this post as an example of my skills :)

Best wishes,

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Lorrie! Dont let perfectionism get in the way (it is getting in my way too, but I am pushing past it for this project :-) I will look forward to an update on your book project. As Nike says, Just do it!


The story was wonderful. I, feeling the embarassment second-hand, did think the neighbor was rather cruel. Kristin, maybe you could tweak it a bit to incorporate some of the flavor of your mom's comments about how the neighbor, as a contrast to your own personality, helped you grow as a person, making it more of a teachable cultural/personality moment. Just a little thought.

Jules Greer

I must also add, I would bet that most of Kristi's anxiety on this special day when she invited this couple over was due to the fact that she was cooking for quite a famous chef in the area. She was so preoccupied (sp?) with her humble soup for Max (Yes he had the same name as my precious grandson). I think this element must also be included in this story.

Just to add my two-bits to this story, when I lived there during my recovery from my multitude of ailments, Max always made sure I had the 'best view table' each night I climbed up the castle stairs to watch the sunset. I was always smothered with complimentary wine and ordeurvers (sp?) and warm conversation with all of the staff. This is a memory I will always treasure...their love healed me and made me strong.

So Kristi Darling - you must polish this story a little more as it reminds me of two more people that played an important part in my sojourn through Provence.

I love using the word sojourn - it should be featured as a FRENCH-WORD-A-DAY word. I'll shut up now Kristi, am I talking too much? I am so HIGH on this project!!!



Stacy ~ Applegate, Oregon

Funny and charming! Keep up the great work! I'm still smiling...

Kristin Espinasse

Carrie, thank you for the nerve-racking suggestion -- to tweak the text a bit... Ive followed your idea and, along with Moms comments, have added some information that was missing.

I hope the story is smooth and that the additions have not broken the flow. Please let me know (anyone who is reading now!!)

Jules Greer

Hi Honey,

This looks good to me this morning.



Carmen Clarke

This one is excellent, especially for the humor and the vocabulary. Love it.

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Bonjour, Kristin...this updated version reads much more smoothly and has been filled-out nicely. My only edit is that I believe "défaire" is missing its accent, both in the text and in the vocab list.


If it often said that people "see" and loathe in others what they are guilty of themselves. That said, i feel your neighbor calling you out with the label "la reine" was really her seeing herself in another human's mirror (ooh i like that last part of the phrase can i copyright it?). This story speaks again to the differences in culture especially with the poop thing. Paris streets lined with pooch poop have long been joked about yes? (ooh i like the consonance in that one too.) So i think it can be included. I could not get past your sweet honorable nervousness having to prepare and serve a delicious meal to a famous chef. I think i would have been vomiting with nerves. OK back to edits...the only thing that struck me is that you wrote you did not have a dog ("Une crotte de chien? But we don't have a dog....") and my head is full of your darling photos of your blonde doggies lately - i realize you have two now. So it stopped me - would it be wrong to put something like "we did not own a dog then" or would that change the whole tense thing?

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Charles! Great eyes for catching that one. Im about to put this story into the manuscript... I hope all the coquilles or typos have been caught!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Hedda, just saw your note. Yes, the dog issue: I thought about that, too. Because these stories are taken from the 2006 (or around then) archives, they pre-date Braise! She will be introduced later on in the book...


This is a wonderful story - of the humanising effect of humour. You took it well (I think I would have been ever-so-slightly annoyed!)
I think you are brave giving us all jobs as editors.
I am a sub editor and absolutely hate it when people pick out my mistakes - even though I know they are (mostly) right.
It is humbling and I need to learn that (hopefully) they see themselves as helping, rather than criticising me personally.
The 'crotte' - which helped diffuse a situation created by your neighbour, is a lesson to us all, to be less judgemental in our thoughts and opinions of others and to be kind. I saw it as a kind of apology from your neighbour - even though it could have gone horribly wrong.
No editing needed.

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- My only recommendation would be in the area of simplifying your punctuation. Here are a couple of small suggestions. Hope I'm not being too picky.

So when it was my turn to invite my neighbor and her husband for le déjeuner, I took care to appear more relaxed, even though I was twice as nervous given her previous impression of me. (Omitted comma before "given.")

Yes, I must have been a little bit crisp as I carefully sat down on an elegant sofa and began to take in my surroundings. The home was filled with romantic statues and modern-art paintings; fresh flowers dressed every table. (The : and then ; in this sentence seemed a little confusing to me.)

I'd worn a long skirt and a button-down chemise.... (Omitted comma before "and.")

Next, I checked my clothes to see whether something had gone wrong during the dressing stage. (Omitted comma before "to.")

Love the story.


Thanks for sharing this story too! It's very relatable in the fact that we've all experienced similar scenarios.

Jules is right. These people are put into our lives to help us grow and learn to laugh at ourselves.

How interesting to read the constructive criticism on your writing too.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Ophelia! I am transferring this story to the manuscript templete now. Wish me luck! (Biting nails...)


Have I missed something? You have no dog?! When did this happen?

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Avril, do not panic. This story dates from early 2005, before even Braise, Smokey's mother, joined la famille Espinasse! Smokey is still very much present, and you likely saw the photo of him swimming in the sea with Kristi in today's entry -- July 12/17!
Kristi, I must've missed this one when it first appeared over 12 years ago -- what fun to read it now, and to follow the suggestions of readers and the maternal warmth of Jules's input 'back when'!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Kitty 💛

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