la motte

The village of La Motte in the Var region of France

(mowt) noun, feminine

...used in the following terms:

la motte de terre = lump of earth, clod
la motte de gazon = turf, sod
en motte = balled
la motte de beurre = lump or block of butter

Citation du Jour
Deux mains jointes font plus d'ouvrage, sur la terre,
Que tout le roulement des machines de guerre.

Two joined hands do more work, on earth,
than all the movement of war machines.
--Victor Hugo

A Day in a French Life...

What could be more French than butter cut from the slab? Growing up in Arizona, the butter we used came individually wrapped in printed wax paper. Our 'motte de beurre'* was a rectangular cube--one in a box of four. As a kid, I enjoyed the butter 'sandwiches' at Mary Moppets pre-school, as well as peanut butter, butter and honey sandwiches that I made for myself at home. As you can imagine, I was a wee bit potelée.*

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In an  historical épicerie* in Draguignan, one with a handsome bordeaux-colored shop front, jingle bells on the door and a window filled with colorful tea-cups, tea pots and a glass coffee-press or two, I watched the French women order their groceries. Pointing to the slab of butter in the chilled section of the shop, the lady in front of me said, "Deux cents grammes de beurre, s'il vous plaît, Madame." I watched the third generation shopkeeper fetch a knife (a knife of knives, one that would send a band of butter knives running for cover in a knife block). Knife in hand, she reached into the cooler and lopped off a section of butter. She placed le beurre on the balance,* wiped her hands on her apron, and said, "Deux cents dix grammes, ça vous ira, Madame Durand?"*

As I watched Madame wrap the pale yellow lump in paper, I wondered whether that butter was salted or unsalted. Probably unsalted. The French eat only unsalted butter.

"The French eat only unsalted butter," I repeated to myself, shaking my head and smiling, remembering one in a number of opinions I'd formed about the French before moving to l'Héxagone,* including: "French women don't diet" and the "French are naturals when it comes to class, style and manners..." I continue to sort through these myths, as I settle, more comfortably each day, into this French life.

*References: la motte de beurre (f) = block of butter; potelé(e) = chubby; une épicerie (f) = a grocer's shop; la balance (f) = scale; deux cents dix grammes, ça vous ira? = two hundred and ten grams, will that be O.K.?; l'Héxagone = France

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