A pigeon's life... tiring of tossed crumbs and considering take-out




tepid, lukewarm

For our eleventh wedding anniversary dinner, mon mari chose a restaurant facing the midnight-blue sea in the old Catalan village of Collioure.

I had carefully ironed a two-piece ensemble en lin and applied an extra dusting of bronzing powder sur les pommettes in preparation for our romantic celebration. On my way out of the hotel's narrow salle-de-bain, I noticed Jean-Marc seated on the edge of the bed, watching the Grand Prix de Brésil. He was ready to go, dressed in his favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape T-shirt.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to wear that here in Banyuls wine country?" I asked. The etiquette question was only a pretext to get him to change out of that bright orange T-shirt! Did he have to wear it on our special night out?

My husband grinned. The wrinkly T-shirt favori would stay with him.

We walked from our hotel to the seaside restaurant, where the employees were slow to greet us. "It's the end of the season," Jean-Marc pointed out. "They're probably tired and fed up with serving the tourists."

With dragging feet, the waiter led us to a room that looked more like a hospital cafeteria than a Michelin non-starred restaurant. Plastic plants did little to warm up the sterile, gris-sur-blanc atmosphere. Only two other tables were taken; I heard French spoken at the one, English at the other. 

Jean-Marc studied the carte des vins while I went over the menu. When the sommelier appeared, my husband had a few questions about the wine; he was searching for a fruity red to go with his meal, one that would also complement his anchovy appetizer.

The wine steward said he did not have a young, local wine, so Jean-Marc set his sights on a rosé. Disappointed to learn they had no half-bottles of rosado, Jean-Marc settled for a demi-bouteille of Collioure red 2002—the vintage being a little older than Monsieur had wished for.

Jean-Marc lifted the glass of champagne he had ordered as an apéritif. Before it even reached his mouth, he was shaking his head. "C'est tiède."

Hoping to get him to quit fussing, I reached over and touched the glass to find out for myself. It felt fine to me.

"No, it's warm," Jean-Marc insisted. "Champagne should be chilled!"

Things heated up quickly when a bug was discovered just beneath the flute's rim.

"Un moustique!" Jean-Marc removed the insect from inside the glass, wiping it on the table. (I looked the other way, hoping to erase the squishy image from my mind.)

Undeterred, Jean-Marc took a sip of the bubbly, only to push the glass away. "Tiède!"

I was dumbstruck when he reached over, plucked up the mosquito carcass, and returned it to the inside wall of the glass. Next, he summoned the waiter.

"You didn't have to do that!" I whispered. "You could have just told the waiter the bug was there!" I have read about customers who do just this sort of thing—bug placement!—in order to change orders on a whim or to avoid paying for something. I did not want the waiter to confuse my husband with "one of them"—one of the buggers!

When the waiter returned, Jean-Marc complained about the mosquito and the fact that the champagne was tiède. The waiter's response was to return with another lukewarm glass of champagne.

Jean-Marc took matters into his own hands, this time asking for un seau of ice. Visibly ruffled, he explained, "A waiter should always pour the champagne in the client's presence. Did you notice that both times he brought the glass, already filled, from the kitchen? The same is true for wine ordered by the glass. They should pour it at the table so that you are sure of what you are getting."

No matter how uncomfortable I was about my husband's exigence, I was impressed by his knowledge of restaurant etiquette—not the kind we diners are supposed to have (elbows off table, chew with mouth shut) but the kind the wait staff are supposed to practice.

While the flute of champagne chilled in the bucket, Jean-Marc began to critique the red wine that had already been served. Apparently, it was tiède as well.

Enough was enough. "You are a wine snob!" I said, pushing my menu away with a sigh of impatience.

"Je ne suis pas wine snob!" he replied. "Wine snobs buy the most expensive wines without looking for a better price/quality ratio," Jean-Marc explained. "A wine snob will walk into a store and ask for the most expensive Côtes du Rhone. That is a wine snob!"

As I learned the difference between a wine snob and a wine buff, I watched my husband of eleven years from across the table. His serious face was in direct contrast to the crinkly orange Châteauneuf-du-Pape T-shirt that he would wear, like a uniform, throughout our romantic weekend. No, he was no snob, wine or otherwise.

Your Edits Here please. Does the story read smoothly? Thanks for pointing out any grammar errors or typos, here in the comments box. Did you notice any words missing from the vocabulary section? 

French Vocabulary

mon mari
my husband 

en lin
made of linen

sur les pommettes
on the cheekbones

la salle de bain(s)

le Grand Prix de Brésil
Formula One championship car race in Brazil

a kind of wine made in the Roussillon county of France

favori, favorite


la carte des vins
wine list

le sommelier
wine steward

le rosado
slang for rosé wine

la demi-bouteille
a half bottle or 37.5 cl 

monsieur (as in monsieur difficile)
mister, mister picky

un apéritif

c'est tiède
it's warm (not chilled)

le moustique

le seau

demanding nature 

Je ne suis pas wine snob (snob de vin)!
I am not a wine snob!

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Diane Samson

he had a few questions about the wine; (needs a semicolon)
"Champagne should be chilled." (doesn't need a comma)
It reads well and flows smoothly, I think. Good job

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

I also have an "orange T-shirt" kind of husband and still try to sniggle him into changing into something else. It has rarely worked in our 43 years of marriage!! He's a good man and I'm blessed just like you are with J-M. So I really enjoyed your story today!

I'm not sure if it's my viewer or if there is a minor spacing issue between ratio, "Jean -- I was waiting for the end quote but it looks like it's with the beginning of a sentence starting with Jean. Also I would do all or none of the vocabulary with or without = signs. You use them with just one word. Also, is somelier f. Ou m. Or used for both? Not sure how that works.

Great story. Easy to follow and fun for me to read-even though experiencing some of the exact same frustrations just before talking to ourselves and reminding ourselves just what a wonderful man we have in our lives!

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

P.S. Oops, I misspelled sommelier in my post above.

Sushil Dawka

Hello Kristin,
Another beautiful vignette.

In the seventh paragraph, do you mean to say 'complement' (as in to complete / go well with) instead of 'compliment' (as in to praise) for the fruity red and the anchovy appetizer?

The capitalized IT for the red wine in the fourth-last paragraph looks a bit awkward, like a misplaced acronym. Italics would be ideal, but you already have used that to set off tiède. No easy solution there...,perhaps the 'as well' is adequate emphasis.

With regards.

Ray Stoddard

At the beginning of the story, you have salle-de-bain in italics, which usually indicates it will be found in the Vocabulary section, which it's not. Perhaps you've covered it before?


anne wirth

What a gem Jean Marc is! I know how uncomfortable he can make you but, he is his own man and I don't see any pretense there. I had a husband like Jean Marc and I learned to sit back and enjoy him. This is a great story, funny, and so telling of your relationship. Great!

Dianne Gallagher

I loved your story - easy to read and I could feel your discomfort at Jean Marc's insistence on correct serving of the wine - but he is an expert and has every right to insist on top service - pas problem! My late husband was the same and I learnt to just 'go with the flow' - thanks for your wonderful stories.


Once again, I had to work hard to find any editorial comments:

1) In "sur les pommettes" -- did you want to italicize "sur" along with the rest of the phrase?

2) In "one that could also compliment his anchovy appetizer" -- "compliment" should be "complement."

3) "Champagne, should be chilled!" There should be no comma after "Champagne."

4) "Mon mari," "apéritif," "Un moustique," "Je ne suis pas wine snob," and "c'est tiède" do not appear in the vocabulary section.

Just noticed that a few of these corrections have already been offered -- sorry for the repetition! Once again, a lovely story.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you all for these edits! I meant to respond individually -- but I need to leave now for the bus stop! Mille mercis for these excellent fixes!

Martine NYC

Sommelier is often translated as wine steward. I have never seen wine waiter before, though it might be fine.
Great story.

Sarah LaBelle

Quite a story!
Personality, comfort with each other, the disappointing restaurant for the romantic weekend, you dressed up, husband in orange T-shirt, and with all the challenges of that meal, you still call it a romantic weekend.

Your marriage grew all the time,non? And still grows.

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

I love this one,Kristin. I logged in late so did not see anything that needed correction. Just a wonderful story highlighting your relationship with Jean Marc. My idea of a romantic weekend! And I agree that he is not snob, in any way. He is being totally polite while telling the waiter that this needs to be fixed! Glad that you were, more or less, relaxed as he interacted with the waiter. A very good read indeed. So happy for you to have such a lovely and loving family!


Hi dear Kristin,
What a wonderful story! It left me with smiles (and memories of our own eleventh anniversary!)
Your words illustrate an example for all of us to follow in tolerating the ways our spouses differ from us,and how we can do this with humor and harmony.
Your vignette is excellent and perfect as is. Love, Natalia XO

Jackie Smith

Great story - very entertaining and well written. I could easily picture the events take place as you described them!

Rebecca Q T

Hi there! Glad the stories are up again! Two comments below.

1) It might serve the reader better if you insert an "I inquired" or "I asked" after the quoted question. Jumping directly into the explanation is confusing from the reader's perspective.
"Are you sure it's a good idea to wear that here in Banyuls wine country?" The etiquette question was only a pretext to get him to change out of that bright orange T-shirt! Did he have to wear it on our special night out?

2) I've always thought "fed up" should be followed by the preposition "with." Here, perhaps, that would be wise?
 "It's the end of the season," Jean-Marc pointed out. "They're probably tired and fed up serving the tourists."

Charming tale! Looking forward to Monday's edition.

Kristin Espinasse

Rebecca, perfect! Ive incorporated your latest edits. 

And thanks to those who have written in to say that the story reads clear. This is so helpful, too!

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Amanda Frost

Here are a few niggling suggestions:
There are a few commas too many. I would delete the comma after "sterile" (para. 6) and after "young" (para 8). A comma in this place generally means "and" and I think you rather mean these two adjectives to modify both the following adjective and the noun. I would change "could complement" to "would complement" in para 7.
The hyphen in para 5 from bottom is -- and not — (em dash), which you use elsewhere.
I would delete the comma after "Apparently" (para 4 from bottom) as unnecessary.
And, finally, your indication of the pronunciation of tiède is not so good. I don't know if you are using a system, but "tyed" would probably be pronounced "tied" by an American reader. I myself would write "tee-ED"--using no system but my own.

Nice story!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much for these helpful suggesions -- and especially for catching the pronunciation. I will get to these edits soon (my dear Dad is in town -- so I might take a little longer to update this story with the edits. I have a few from Bruce, too. Need to get those in as well :-) 

Linda Casey

All of your stories are delightful and I always look forward to reading them with a gleeful smile on my face. Keep 'em coming.

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