un morceau


La Vannerie = Wickerwork (c) Kristin Espinasse
                    Les paniers for sale in Aix-en-Provence 

petit sac pour emporter les restes
noun, masculine
doggy bag


One of the first cultural differences I encountered after moving to the land of bistros was this: they don't do doggy bags in la France! 

In 1990, in Aix-en-Provence, a plate of egg rolls separated me from my future husband. Egg rolls in France are different from those in the States. In France, Asian restaurants serve the fried rouleaux with sprigs of mint and leaves of lettuce in which to roll them. Les Nems, as they are called, are Jean-Marc's and my favorite entrée, and we usually order so many that by the time the main course arrives we are too full to finish it.

At the end of that first shared meal in the restaurant chinois, we had our first leftovers. I explained to Jean-Marc that les restes in America go into doggy bags.  Jean-Marc was amused by the funny term and  his practical side was quickly won over by the concept. But when he tried out the idea on the waitress, asking her to wrap up the remaining food on our plates, she showed neither amusement nor practicality. In fact, she looked a bit put out by the request. 

After Jean-Marc persisted, the waitress returned with an empty plastic tub which, judging from the label, had formerly held pistachio ice cream. She pried open the container and slid the contents of both plates inside. I watched doubtfully as the sweet-and-sour shrimp was poured right over the canard laqué, and the riz cantonais was heaped directly on top. 

"Ça ira?" As the waitress scraped off the last grain of rice from the plates, her exaggerated gesture embarrassed me, cheapening an otherwise romantic evening. 

Walking down Aix's narrow and winding cobblestone streets after the meal, I suggested to Jean-Marc that maybe it was not a good idea, after all, to ask restaurants to wrap up food. It was too awkward for everyone involved when the servers had to go scavenging for odd containers in order to be accommodating.

Jean-Marc disagreed. It was a very good idea, he assured me—no more wasted food. The French would do well to adopt the practice of asking for a doggy bag!

"But they are not doggy-bag equipped here, so there's no use trying to save the food!" As I argued my point, I walked right into a street beggar. Suddenly, three sets of eyes bounced off each other.

"Bonsoir, monsieur," Jean-Marc spoke first. 

I watched my date, who smiled as he crouched to the ground, offering the homeless man the "useless" invention. Le doggy bag

The homeless man nodded his appreciation. A long pause ended, and Jean-Marc and I walked on. I pulled my boyfriend's arm close. This one was a keeper.



Your edits appreciated. Does the story read clearly? Should it be included in the book? See the comments box at the end of this edition to leave an edit or feedback.

French Vocabulary

le rouleau

le nem
a kind of fried egg roll

une entrée
starter, hors d'oeuvre

le restaurant chinois
Chinese restaurant

les restes (mpl)

le canard laqué
Peking Duck 

le riz cantonais
fried rice 

ça ira
will that do?

Bonsoir, monsieur
Good evening, sir


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Third paragraph - I'd say "She looked a bit put out by the unusual request" rather than "fanciful."

Sixth paragraph - "after all," not "afterall."

Nice story!

Ronni Lester Ebbers

Superb. Don't change a word. Perfect and touching ending.



I enjoyed this story. Just two comments:

I think you should decide whether to use caps or not (Doggy Bag/doggy bag) and stick to the same way throughout the story.

3rd paragraph: I'm not sure whether 'sensibility' (capacity to feel, sensitivenesa) is the word you want here. Do you mean good sense?

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Leslie. Ive fixed *afterall. Your *unusual* is good, for it was an unusual request. I put in *fanciful* because, to the waitress, it may have seemed like a capricious or flippant request. (Actually, I just like the word *fanciful*! I will think about changing it...

Ronni, Thanks for your feedback!

Linda, thanks. Ive fixed all the Doggie Bags. Re sensible, as in: Acting with or exhibiting good sense.  (I wanted to say *eco-friendly* but settled on sensible.

Cynthia Baita

Dear Kristin,
I think it is a delightful story, and wouldn't change a thing...keep writing.......
Cynthia from Florida


And have the French finally adopted the idea of "un petit sac?". It's a beautiful story about a kind and generous man. I will look forward to reading it once again in the new book.


Ca va comme ca! And by all means include it, since it's a funny illustration of the little cultural differences that all travelers become so acutely aware of, that may not be important in and of themselves but that nonetheless reflect national mores and practices. And that's a large part of what travel is all about, isn't it--learning about these differences and gaining perspective on ourselves and the way we go about doing things.


In the sentence beginning with "ca ira?" I would change the word embarrassed to embarrassing me. Or split the sentence into two.

This is a beautiful story. Thank you.

Debbie Ambrous

Happy Anniversary!!
I was corrected for using "entree" in a story that I wrote about dining in a restaurant in Burgundy. The person who corrected me said that the word is used in France for the main course, not the appetizers. Could you explain for me? Maybe even redeem me? My husband and I also give away the doggie bag to less fortunate people on the street, although we've never seen beggars in France. I will always remember the huge smile of happiness on the face of an old lady in Zacatecas, Mexico when she saw a container of steak and potatoes that our young daughter had not touched. Yes, the doggie bag is a practical idea. Take ziplock bags with you to restaurants. We were especially guilty of doing this when we traveled in Europe with less money. Well, actually, that could be currently - the less money part!


Happy anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc.
You both won the lottery!

Dear Kristin,
I couldn't agree more with the last sentence.
This story is, like your boyfriend back then, definitely a keeper.

Rebecca T. in Baltimore

This is such a charming story! Like Chief Grape, this one is a "keeper!"

Chris Redo

Rather than "eat it all", I suggest "eat any more".

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, everybody, for the helpful and encouraging feedback! At this point I need to weigh the stories, with the better ones going at the beginning and the end of the book. If you have any suggestions on which stories you liked best, thanks for letting me know here, in the comment box. 

Debbie, I wonder if that is a regional difference. Here, it an entrée is not a main course, although it is not uncommon for people to order one as a main course (preferring to eat lightly)

Chris, thanks for *eat any more*. Much better. 

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

Definitely a keeper! It took me back to the the Cour Mirabeau, first dates, France!

End of second paragraph - eat any more - could mean you couldn't eat any more appetizers or what i think you mean is you couldnt eat
'anything else' or 'anything more.'

Please keep the story. And, a very Happy Anniversary!

Larry Krakauer

Nice story. In my experience, the word "entreé" always means appetizer in France, and main course in the United States. My etymological dictionary says, "1724, a reborrowing of the Old French 'entrée' ENTRY with the meaning of the main course of a meal, which developed in English from the sense of a dish served between the main courses (1759)." I confess the transition from ENTRY to MAIN COURSE doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but that's the best I can do.

Rosalinda Roll


Do, please include this in the book.

Jane Woodside

A great story. The only proofreading detail that jumped out at me (or perhaps bounced) was the image of eyes bouncing off each other. Je crois que ça n'ira pas! I would have said that three sets of eyes met.

Diane Young

Happy Anniversary! You definitely got a keeper, and so did Jean-Marc, who is both sensible and sensitive.

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)

Just as Jean-Marc was a keeper, so is this story. It reads perfectly and is one of those that results in a smile on the readers' face.

Karen from Phoenix

I love this story. It definitely should be included. What a wonderful way to "use" the leftovers.


Hi dear Kristin,
This story is WONDERFUL!
It brings smiles on a good day and even more of them on a hard day.
Definitely a keeper and definitely perfect as it is!
Love, Natalia XO


Your wonderful story reminds me of my summer 2008, at a restaurant in Poitiers when I could not finish my huge crêpe. Having learned about the French etiquette, some twenty years earlier, I did not ask for le petit sac. But I asked my French hosts if French people have now adopted that "doggy bag" practice. Their response was still a big NO-No.
Last March, this year, we had some visitors from Germany. The couple was astonished when the waitress at a local Italian restaurant in my town, asked if I would like her to doggy bag my unfinished huge portion of individual pizza. My German friends said it was not practiced in Germany, but they agreed it was a great idea not to waste food, just like Jean-Marc in the 90's.
One question, depuis ce jour là, au restaurant Chinois, have JM and you asked again, for doggy bags? :-)

Suzi Hodgson, Lima Mt

A beautiful slice of your life. It should be included in your next book.

Dorothy in RI

Great Story!
Possibly substitute "unexpected request" for "fanciful request"


I agree with Ronni - superb. Moves right along from start to finish. Bravo, and bonne anniversaire du mariage.

Sharon Marchisello

Happy anniversary!
One small detail:
"doggy-bag equipped" should have a hyphen.
I agree this story should be included as it illustrates an interesting cultural difference.

Diana Goggin

Wonderful story, Kristin. Please include it in the book.

Incidentally, the term "doggy bag" is falling out of favor. People prefer to say "box" or "container," such as, "May I have a container for the rest of my meal?"

Just today, the waiter asked me if I'd like a box. In fact, he offered to box up the food himself.

I love your newsletter and read every issue.

Diana in San Diego, California

Geraldine Ventura

Kristin, Happy Anniversary! July 4, is special to me also, because it's my birthday, and as a young child I thought the parade and fireworks were in my honor. I enjoyed your story and glad to learn that you married a very sensible man. The only time we have been offered a form of Doggie Bag in France was at the 3 star Michelin Les Crayeres in Reims. A plate of sweets offered at the end of the meal were placed in a lovely bag and offered to us to take home because we were too full to eat them then. Chef Boyer was a sensible man, also!
Love your stories.

Gerry Ventura

Kristin Espinasse

Happy birthday, Gerry!!

Many thanks for these additional comments. I have deleted fanciful (keeping it simple!) and added *to full to finish it* (re the main course). This clears up the issue!

Millie, Good question. Yes, from time to time, Jean-Marc will ask for a container in which to carry out the leftovers. I have noticed that his asking depends on the place, and maybe even the mood. Now that we have dogs, it is very hard to watch certain leftovers be carried off--only to end up in the garbage... so I sometimes slip the dog-friendly *restes* into my paper napkin!

Judi Wallner

Hi Kristen, Happy Anniversary...we celebrated 18 years of being together on July 2nd. We bought our house in Castelreng (7km from Limoux of Blanquette fame) twelve years ago and had our own doggy bag experience in an Italian restaurant in Fountainbleu. Our meal was so delicious but way too much for us to finish. We asked for a doggy bag, they took away the food and brought us back a huge 50L black poubelle plastic bag with the morsels of food bouncing around in the bottom. To their credit no one snickered as we left the restaurant but we did indeed feel a bit foolish!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the thoughtful anniversary wishes! Just to say--it is so amusing and fun to read all of your doggy bag stories. Keep the anecdotes coming--it would be good to link to them in a future post. So many great stories! 


Kristen...a great story. Happy anniversary and MANY more.

Robyn France

Kristin--love the story--looks like you fixed all the little quirky items, but I have always seen it spelled doggie bag-Webster Merriman seems to as well http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doggie%20bag
Do put this in a nice prominent spot--we never ask for "to-go" boxes in France as I didn't know if that adjustment in attitude was complete. A few years back, we were staying close to Nice and some folks asked for doggie bags in a resto and there was quite a to-do--so I never tried it.
ps--your package is in the mail.

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Larry Krakauer and Debbie Ambrous -

Back in the day, formal dinners might have had 6 or 8 or 12 or 15 courses. The first few courses were what we would call appetizers — chilled oysters, soup, etc. These would be followed by what we would call main dishes — a roast, fish, poultry, etc., each served as a separate course. The first of these main courses was called the "entrée" because it was the entry into the main part of the meal.

In the early 20th century, as dinners shrank in scope to the point where there was only one main course, that main course was still called — in the U.S., anyway, — the entrée. Even though it makes no sense any more.


This is a lovely story and definitely merits inclusion in the book. So glad I found your blog!

We just returned from Paris and Provence and were surprised that restaurants frowned on our requests to take along uneaten food. I do like the idea of taking ziplock baggies and will certainly consider it on our next European jaunt (which may be some years away yet, maybe things will change).

It does seem a shame to toss perfectly good food in the garbage. Here at home we often get another meal or even two from our doggie bags.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Hi Kristen,

I LOVE this story about you and Jean Marc. It was a wonderful thing that he gave your leftovers to the homeless man. I agree that he was a still is a keeper! Thanks for sharing this beautiful moment. I'm sure the homeless man will never forget your kind gesture.

Susan in Sonoma Valley

Perfect, from start to finish. And definitely a keeper. You are a courageous person (well, we know that) to open things up to all the armchair editors out there. With the exception of the correct spelling of doggie bag noted in one post, I think you should stay with exactly how it poured out of your heart and memory. I like "fanciful" too!

Martin Karlow

Instead of referring to his "sensible" side, call it his "practical" side. That way, instead of referring to the waitress's "sensibility" (which is misused here), you can refer to her "practicality."

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