And what if we all just ate grapes and called it a day? Our dog, Braise (brez).

Today's word is "faim!" (That's right: "faim exclamation point".) There's so much to tell you but I'm afraid we'll only skim the surface of this French soup as I've got fruit farmers to feed! More, in today's column, below.

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From the makers of Rosetta Stone software: "Pronounce [French] words correctly after practicing with our proprietary speech recognition and analysis tools." More info here.

faim (fan -- N is nasal, silent) noun, feminine

Un homme qui a faim n'examine pas la sauce.
A hungry man doesn't consider the sauce.

Kicking and screaming. That is how I went into it, this two week stint of cooking for the masses. Not that anyone dragged me into the kitchen. When the subject of feeding our harvesters came up, Jean-Marc told me not to worry about it. But if I didn't worry about it, who would?

At the village supérette* I stare at the shelves of cheese, yogurt, and cream.
"Je peux vous aider?" Can I help you? the man behind the meat counter calls out.
"Non, merci." I thank him, turning back to the cheese aisle.

Forget calcium, the grape pickers need fuel! I dash over to the cereal section and stare at rows of pasta, rice, polenta... Polenta! Aunt Marie-Françoise came over last weekend, her trusty wicker panier* in hand. Inside the basket there was an entire pork roast bathing in mustard cream sauce! When eight of us harvesters devoured the pork roast, Aunt Marie-Françoise offered the recipe, suggesting it went well with rice, potatoes, pasta, or even polenta...

Today we are eleven at table. I toss the polenta into the caddie* followed by rice, pasta, couscous, and tabbouleh. Grains, grains, grains! Fuel, fuel, fuel! (Filler, filler, FILLER!)

Next, I stare at a row of boîtes de conserves.* Beans, corn, peas.... I snap up two of the biggest cans of lentils and plan to add them to yesterday's pasta. I am learning to stretch leftovers, that what isn't enough for four can--with the pull of an aluminum tab--be plenty for fourteen. Just add beans!

My eyes are fixed now on a package of instant flan aux courgettes.* Just add eggs. Perfect! I'll need four boxes but at nearly seven euros a box...Oublie-le! Forget it! I'll make vegetable soup instead. I've got two sacks of potatoes and plenty of onions...Vichyssoise!*

"Je peux vous aider?"* The man behind the meat counter seems concerned. This time I'm frozen, eyes-glued to the pastry aisle, wondering about making quiche for a quinzaine.* We'll be fifteen pickers this weekend when we move our équipe* over to Uncle Jean-Claude's wine farm (in thanks for all the picking and pork roasting he and Marie-Françoise did for us last weekend).

"Je peux vous aider?" Monsieur repeats.
Help? Can he help me? He wants to help me! So why am I still saying "Non, merci"?

The man behind the counter looks sympathetic.
"We've got harvesters," I tell him. "I'm trying to plan meals for the next two weeks."
"I can prepare a pork roast for you!" the butcher says.
"No, thanks. I've got that covered."
"Daube*...roast chicken...lasagna!" Monsieur offers. I respond with a hesitant look. "Here, take my card," Monsieur says. "You can always call in an order. Bon courage!"*

I hear a little voice inside that says "Take him up on it! Take him up on it! Let him help cook!" Only the voice is drowned out by another voice, this one evil and snickering. It says: "You can't have someone else cook! It's too expensive and besides--what would the neighbors think?!"

Why is it that when I need it the most, I have the hardest time asking for help? Thankfully, like Aunt Marie-Françoise and the man behind the meat counter, there are those who fall out of the French sky, arms open like angels. Up to me to learn to stretch my mind, like those leftovers, and let the idea sink in that it is OK to let people help. Benevolence and baked beans--I'll get through harvest season one way or another.

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The next word goes out Monday--if you know what I mean. (Back to the kitchen!)

References: la supérette (f) = mini-market; le panier (m) = basket; le caddie (m) = trolley (cart); la boîte (f) de conserve = can of food; le flan (m) aux courgettes = zucchini flan; la Vichyssoise (f) = cold potato soup with leeks and onions; Je peux vous aider? = Can I help you?; la quinzaine (f) = about fifteen, fifteen or so; une équipe (f) = team; la daube (f) = beef stew; bon courage! = good luck!

     La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange
     The French oven -- a timeless standby and a must for pork roast!

:: Audio File ::
(...back next week. All our French speakers, pint-sized and otherwise, are out picking grapes!)

French comfort food: Vichyssoise Soup
French chef apron with wine label
Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl
Mille Bornes: the classic French auto race game.

Terms & Expressions:
  avoir faim = to be hungry
  avoir une faim de loup = to be starving ("to be hungry as a wolf")
  n'avoir plus faim = to be full
  manger sans faim = to pick at/toy with one's food
  manger à sa faim = to eat to one's fill
  avoir faim de = to hungry for

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