Herbs-n-spices for a melting pot...

For those of us who studied French a few years ago, or many, but still get stuck when it comes to speaking: "Tune Up Your French" by Natalie Schorr.

un creuset (kreuh-zay) noun, masculine
  1. a crucible, well, hearth
  2. a difficult "épreuve" or "test" (ordeal)
  3. a melting pot

Lorsque les gens choisissent de s'assimiler, on peut parler de...creuset...s'ils sont contraints de le faire on parle de...autocuiseur. When people choose to assimilate, we can talk about a...melting pot...if they are forced to do so, we talk about a...pressure cooker....

--From the book "La négociation interculturelle chez les filles franco-maghrébines" by Sandrine Gaymard

Of all the creuset* definitions* that I have combed through, in English and in French, this one struck me the most:

"A place or set of circumstances where people or things are subjected to forces that test them and often make them change."

The idea of change or "emotional growth" inherent in such testing circumstances motivates me and I find my mood lifting. That is, until I read this next definition:

"a severe trial or ordeal"...

OK. Admit it. Life isn't always hunky-dory here in a fractured French farmhouse where we are still tripping over cords, shimmying past scaffolding, and trying to ignore walls and floors that forever have holes in them as if chilly fall is NOT just around the corner. Thankfully, I am not here today to talk about trials and tribulations. Let's talk about tomatoes!

Mr. Delhome's tomatoes, of course, which don't sweat like squash or cry like courgettes* (in other words: no need to sprinkle salt over them before sopping up the excess liquid with a paper towel, all the better for frying them). No, all Mr. Delhome's tomatoes need are thunder and lightning. (Well, maybe not
tonnerre,* but they do need fire!)

"So," I say to monsieur, verifying that I've understood his recipe for tomates provençales.* "I'm to put those tomatoes in a casserole, having halved them, add a filet* of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and persil*... then throw them into the oven?"
Monsieur looks dubious.
"I mean...I'm to PUT them into the oven...?"
Monsieur maintains a doubtful expression.
"Rather, I'll put them... on the stovetop? N'est-ce pas?"

After a good long Provençale pause, the corners of monsieur's mouth lift. That mischievous grin is back.
"Nah!" he answers. His eyes begin to search the scrap yard that is our future front lawn.

"You take a few of those stones, there..." he begins. Next, he looks over to the pile of scrap wood. "Un peu de bois..."* Then, seeing the pile of recyclable metal, he adds "...un lit de fer..."*

I gather I am to lay the iron "grill" across a circle of stones.... I get what he's hinting at. I've seen the fire pit that he's dug or "creusé" (kreuh-zay) on his own property. While the idea of cooking over a feu* appeals to me, I'm in no mood to rough it; not even with a recipe. We may live on a construction site
but, this side of summer and a swirl of fall in the air, I'll be damned if we're going to start camping out!

                               *   *   *

A suggestion from Monsieur Delhome: when the tomatoes are finished (some 40 minutes into baking) crack a few eggs into the piping hot Creuset (or similar type casserole), sizzle and serve. A little pinard,* according to monsieur, and the meal washes down nicely.

PS: Parmesan, chapelure,* and even herbes de Provence (in place of parsley) make good toppers for the tomatoes, too!

References: le creuset = (see definitions, above); "...change" = definition (for "crucible") is from MSN Encarta dictionary; la courgette (f) = zucchini; le tonnerre (m) = thunder; la tomate (f) provençale = Provençale tomatoes (typical dish); un filet (m) = a dash; le persil (m) = parsley; un peu de bois (m) = a little wood; un lit (m) de fer = a bed of iron; le feu (m) = fire; le pinard (m) = cheap wine (plonk); la chapelure (f) = breadcrumbs

     Creuset--a great French casserole for tomates provençales
     Provence: The Beautiful Cookbook

:: Audio File :: Listen to French:
Creuset. Lorsque les gens choisissent de s'assimiler, on peut parler de...creuset...s'ils sont contraints de le faire on parle de...autocuiseur.
MP3 file: Download creuset.mp3
Wave file: Download creuset.wav

In French-themed products: Basil PISTOU sauce
For French fluency: French music! Listen to Zazie's albulm Rodeo
A money belt for traveling. Perfect size for your passport and currency.
A collection of the most popular Pre de Provence soaps, including lavender, honey almond, verbena, linden & sage

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