le sapin


Taken at the bed and breakfast in Italy.

Smartfrench_2SmartFrench CD-ROM --"the smart way to learn French"

acceuillant,e (listen to the sound clip, below) adjective
  welcoming, friendly

Le véritable poète a pour vocation d'accueillir en lui la splendeur du monde. The true poet's vocation is to welcome within himself the world's splendor. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My high heels scraped over the jagged cobblestones and I linked my arm through Jean-Marc's for balance, stopping to throw my head back for a view of the hilltop castle beside which we now stood. Large spotlights, fitted into the ground between the old stones, lit the medieval walls which disappeared into the black Piedmontese sky.

Jean-Marc and I continued down a winding path in Castiglione Falletto in search of pasta. When the first restaurant was full, we shrugged our shoulders and headed toward the brightly lit sign that read "BAR". From the bar's terrace we approached a window and peered in. The place was empty but for an older woman and two men who sat playing cards. The woman made eye contact and motioned for us to come in. When we hesitated, she opened the door and came out to greet us.

"We just want a plate of pasta," Jean-Marc explained, not yet recovered from his truffle and cream lunch in Alba. "No pasta," the woman apologized. Then, as if an Italian light bulb went off in her head, she chirped "Risotto!"

We took a cushioned seat at the back of the bar, just beneath a strip of fluorescent lights and next to a blaring TV. Noticing the program "A Prendre Ou A Laisser" (Take It Or Leave It), Jean-Marc remarked about how the Italians had adapted the French game show. "How do you know the show didn't originate here?" I argued, this to a man who still believes Barolo could be a French wine (given the Piedmont winemaking region used to be part of France).

When Jean-Marc asked our doting hostess about the wine menu, I shot him a look that said that THIS was no place to be a wine snob, we were in a BAR after all--not a wine bar but a European snack bar.

"This will be good," I assured Jean-Marc. "Pull your chair over next to mine." He did, only to begin swatting at fruit flies which collected above his wine glass. His arms fell to the table after I shot him another look, not wanting the sweet lady who had given us such a warm welcome to worry about a few flies.

The woman, who called herself "Renza,"* brought out a platter of thinly sliced cold cuts, delivered with a smile, followed by a look of uncertainty. I nodded enthusiastically while elbowing Jean-Marc. "MmmMmm, this is very good!" he assured her. And it was.

As we ate the first course, I could hear Renza chopping away in the kitchen. Minutes later we would be drooling over her celery, walnut and gorgonzola salad, pulling the lemon pips from our olive stained lips.

When Renza tried to enlighten us on bagna cauda,* the third course just before the risotto, we couldn't understand an Italian word she said. Undeterred, she pointed to the roasted yellow peppers, the halved onions, and the "hot bath" they found themselves in. "B-a-g-n-a c-a-u-d-a!" she repeated.

The final dish was rice. Just rice. (And who'd have thought that Just Rice could be this good?) We pushed aside the leftover risotto, too full to finish, and watched wide-eyed as Renza returned with a wicker basket full of sliced Italian cake, or "panettone," unshelled peanuts, clementines and a sprinkling of wrapped Italian caramels.

When the bill came I thought Jean-Marc might start dancing, just like those fruit flies above his wine glass: only nine euros for his five-course meal (and the wine, only two-fifty per glass)! Jean-Marc pulled out a twenty and fished around for another ten. Renza accepted the twenty and pushed his wallet closed, sealing the transaction with a smile as warm as b-a-g-n-a c-a-u-d-a.

                                    *     *     *
Renza_1left, Renza and me.
References: Renza (recipes and more about Renza in this book); bagna cauda = a warm sauce (anchovies, olive oil, and garlic) for bread and boiled/roasted vegetables
*To find Renza, just look for "La Terrezza Bar Da Renza" when in Castiglione Falletto.

Hear French:

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote: Download accueillant.wav

Le véritable poète a pour vocation d'accueillir en lui la splendeur du monde.

In Gifts & Books:
CreusetrisottoLe Creuset risotto pot made of enameled cast iron for even heat distribution

PanettoneChristmas Napoli Panettone Cake - Traditional Italian Dessert

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