la mère porteuse


Lots of dough behind these beaded curtains. Italian bakery in Ceriana, Italy.

French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak 1,000 common French words and 250 essential phrases.

la pâte (pat) noun, feminine
  pastry, dough, batter, fritter mix

(...not to be confused with the masculine noun "pâté" [pa-tay])

les pâtes (lay pat):
  pasta, noodles, spaghetti

Les nations ont besoin de héros et de saints comme la pâte a besoin de levain.
Nations need heroes and saints just as dough needs leaven.
--Gustave Thibon
                                                      *     *     *

Those normally reserved French get all mushy when speaking to our golden retriever. I listen to their praise, translating the French words correctly or incorrectly as I hear them. "T'es une PAT,"* I hear.  While I get the gist of the Gallic word that is pronounced "pat" (gentle, sweet, easy...) I still
wonder just what exactly the French are calling our pup?

"She's a paw!" they seem to say, goochy-gooing our puppy, Braise.
"A real noodle!" they insist.
"What a rag!"* they coo.
"Oui, t'es gentille," Yes, you are nice, they assure her. "You are a real PAT!"

I vow to ask the next pat utterer, who turns out to be my unsuspecting sister-in-law, just which French "pat" (pâte or patte) they are referring to. "Oui, t'es une patte!" Cécile says, ruffling the soft fur on Braise's head, unknowingly stepping into my language trap.

"Would that be 'patte' or 'pâte' -- 'paw' or 'pasta'?" I inquire, before getting a little testy: "...or maybe you're calling her a "rag"! Is that what you're implying?!"

Cécile, my belle-soeur,* looks pensive. "A paw," she confirms, only to change her mind. "No, a crois."*

Dough! That's it--they're calling our dog a "dough". Now this makes sense and I couldn't agree more that Braise *is* like dough: soft all around like a dough boy (or girl), with a disposition sweet as cookie batter (indeed her coat is cookie-dough colored), but mostly she is pliable, stretch- and pullable as pâte à pizza.* And one could, not that one would, toss her up into the air after a
few pizza dough spins for nary a complaint on her part, sweet, supple chienne* that she is.

Then again, those French may be calling her dough as in dodo or noodle brain, but that is only because our pup hasn't yet learned how to offer a paw (or patte). And did it ever occur to the name callers that maybe Braise herself, bilingual dog that she is, was confused and that that is why she still doesn't lift a paw when asked to "donne la patte"?* And all this time she thought we had
mistaken her for a noodle cooker. "Give us a noodle! Give us a noodle!" we seemed to be saying, convincing her--and in our own words!--that we had truly lost our noodles.

References: PAT = the sound of "patte" (paw) ant "pâte" (dough); rag = la patte (second meaning); la belle-soeur (f) = sister-in-law;je crois = I think; la pâte à pizza (f) = pizza dough; la chienne (le chien) = dog; donne la patte = give me your paw

Audio Clip: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for "dough": Download Pate.wav
Les nations ont besoin de héros et de saints comme la pâte a besoin de levain.

Related Terms & Expressions:
pâteux (pâteuse) = pasty, sticky, coated
la pâte à modeler = modeling clay
la pâte à papier = paper pulp, paper mache
un coupe-pâte = dough knife
la pâte à pizza = pizza dough
la pâte à pain = bread dough
la pâte brisée = flaky "broken dough"
la pâte à cake = pound cake batter
la pâte à son = bran / brown bread dough
la pâte feuilletée = puff pastry
la pâte à gaufres = waffle mix
la pâte à bugnes = Lyonnaise fritters
la pâte à choux = pastry dough for making profiteroles, cream puffs, & eclairs
mettre la main à la pâte = to get to work
une pâte molle (personne) = pushover
In Books and Gifts:
Doughs, Batters, and Meringues (French Professional Pastry Series)

Great Pates Baroni poster!

Provence print French bread or napkins reversible fabric basket. More Provence fabric baskets here.

Beignet Mix for crispy, powdered-sugar coated fritters. Snack on them while reading Hot Beignets & Warm Boudoirs.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety