For the purposes of this edition, and so as to remain neatly "in theme," we'll call the little guy in the lower left "Frank."
franc, franche (frawn, frawnsh) adjective
frank, true, free, exempt
...and the verb "franchir" : to cross, step over (out), overcome
Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.
Without stepping out his door, one can know the world. --Lao-Tseu
Madame Delhome's floors are so clean you could lick flan off them. As I tiptoe over to our neighbor's sofa, I shudder to think about my own floors until my mother's wisdom comes back to comfort me, "Don't worry about the dust, honey, people feel better about their own homes when they walk into yours."
While that is some comfort, I don't want Madame Delhome to feel bad about how her flan-lickable floors make me feel (messy), so I won't share any nuggets of wisdom with her this early on in our friendship. Instead, I'll take off my shoes.
I ask the kids to take off their go-dass,* too, before three of us wrestle Braise back out onto the front porch. (Moments earlier, when we left for cocktails at the neighbor's, our dog fancied a swim in the stream and a "dry off" in the powdery earth, the same powdery earth, I realize, that seems to be stuck
to the kids' socks!)
Barefooted, the kids and I finally sit down on madame's rustic-style leather sofa while monsieur and madame settle into the matching wood-trimmed chairs. Jean-Marc is seated next to madame. I make narrow eyes at the kids, reminding them of their manners before each of us accepts a slice of olive cake from a blue earthenware plate.
The cake aux olives* is rich with cubes of gruyère cheese and bits of ripe red tomato beneath its golden crust. The snack is heavenly good but when madame offers to give me the recipe I tell her, "Please, don't trouble yourself." What I really want to say is "By all means! Write it down carefully and don't miss even one ingredient!"
Remembering my dream of having a vegetable garden, I turn to Monsieur Delhome.
"I saw a man down by the stream working in a potager,"* I say, knowing all the while that the garden-in-question belongs to Monsieur Delhome.
"That would be Monsieur Blanc," Monsieur Delhome, points out. "I let him work on that parcel, as he loves to garden!" That "parcel" is right next to a parcel of our own and I think about how easy it would be for Monsieur Blanc, who loves to garden, to expand his project south...then we all could enjoy the fruits of his labor!
"I have always wanted a vegetable garden!" I hint. "Do you know of anyone...who might like to, uh, borrow a bit of our land for tending?" I notice that Monsieur Delhome looks confused and so I repeat my indirect wish. "It would be nice to know someone who enjoys gardening...".
"What exactly do you want, Madame Espinasse?" Monsieur Delhome demanded, putting an abrupt stop to any vagaries. Just then I felt an olive stick in my throat.
"Are you asking me to send Monsieur Blanc over to work your field?"
"No," I protested, embarrassed. Though I wanted exactly that.
The directness that Monsieur Delhome was asking for reminded me of another of my mom's nuggets of sagesse:* ask and you shall receive (but be clear about what you need and don't beat around the bush!). Still, words do not come easy and we leave the Delhomes' with my worrying about the flaky impression that I have made.
A few weeks later Monsieur and Madame Delhome stop by for a visit and present me with a beautifully illustrated book on gardening. Inside, there is a handwritten note including warm words of encouragement. I point to the book's cover where an elaborate arch of roses shades a grassy path leading to a beautiful vegetable garden--one prettier than I have ever imagined.
"What exactly are you implying, Monsieur Delhome?" I say, practicing Monsieur's direct approach along with some newfound initiative. "Do you think that I could make a garden as pretty as this?"
"Pourquoi pas?"* monsieur questioned, looking me directly in the eyes.
As for the Delhomes, they seem to have a little more faith in their new neighbor's abilities than she herself has.
References: go-dass (pronunciation for (la) godasse) = (slang for) shoes; le cake (m) aux olives = olive cake; le potager (m) = kitchen garden; la sagesse (f) = wisdom; pourquoi pas = why not?
Madame Delhome's Cake aux Olives:
(without tomatoes and with ham!)
--150 g. olives noires et vertes denoyautées
(about 5 oz of black and green olives, pitted)
--250 g. jambon (8 or 9 oz of ham)
--4 oeufs (4 eggs)
--150 g. comte (approximately 5 oz) of comte (or gruyere)
--150 g. farine (roughly 5 oz) of flour
--4 c.s.* huile d'olive (4 soup spoons of olive oil)
--15 cl. lait (something like 5 oz of milk)
--1 sachet levure chimique. sel. poivre. (1 packet of baking powder. Salt and pepper to taste.)
I have not made this cake so please don't throw eggs at me if the above calculations don't pan out! With that cautionary note in mind, I'll try to translate the recipe's instructions...
--Scald (or "ebouillantez"--and what a verb!) the olives and cut them in two. Cut the ham and cheese in cubes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
--In a mixing bowl ("une jatte"), place flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Make a "well" ("un puit") with the dry ingredients, in which to add the following: beaten eggs and milk. Mix well.
--Add oil, olives, ham and cheese. Mix again.
--Pour mixture into an oiled pan. Cook one hour and fifteen minutes (approximately).
:: Audio Clip ::
Hear my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download franchir.wav
Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.
Terms & Expressions:
jouer franc jeu = to play fair
le franc-parler = plain-spoken
avoir les coudées franches = to have elbow-room
la boutique franche = duty-free shop
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A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
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