Italian cats are the best skirt, I mean--"souris"--chasers. (la souris = mouse)
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
(A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream)
rongeur (ron-zhay) noun, masculine
O temps rongeur, et toi, envieuse vieillesse, vous détruisez tout! O Time, thou great devourer, and thou, envious Age, together you destroy all things. --Ovide
My brother-in-law, Jacques, moved out at the beginning of the month. I never imagined that my belle-famille* would live with me, well, not this early on in marriage. (Is 13 years "early on"? On a good day it still seems so.) The salon,* where Jacques slept each night, barely had time to collect dust before
the new lodgers arrived demanding room AND board! Pushy would-be pensioners were they!
Pension (or "demi-pension"): the term evokes quaint 1920's France, when expats like M.F.K. Fisher took up residence in wallpapered rooms with lumpy beds, droopy curtains, and wobbly writing desks. What more could one's inner poet ask for? Perhaps a bit of dialogue over dinner in the home's quirky kitchen with its even quirkier cook/mistress of the house.
I love the idea of a quirky house mistress: artistic, eccentric and just nutty enough to not mind what the neighbors say. Come to think of it, these are traits both my mother and belle-mère* have in common...
(The one, artistic enough to board an international flight [Mexico city/Paris] in glitterly green pumps and a floor-length fire engine red cape. On the back of the cape, the face of Frieda Kahlo runs from my mom's shoulders to the backs of her knees... Sure you want to wear that, mom? I'm sometimes wont to say. "Absoloodle!" she'd only reply after one of her favorite fictive heros.*)
(... And the other, eccentric enough to lick lemon sauce off her patent leather purse when her forkful of flounder missed its target, landing in her lap where her purse was securely tucked. I still remember my amazement when my future mother-in-law, after a strict aristocratic upbringing, picked up her
purse and gave its shiny surface a swift swipe of the tongue. While the restaurant clientele sat stunned, I felt a sigh of relief escaping my own mouth, as the sauce had escaped hers: I would no longer have to worry about a perfectionistic mother-in-law.)
Digress, digress, digress (for what this essay has to do with M.F.K. Fisher and politesse* is anyone's guess). As for my mother-in-law, she brings us back to today's subject: rodents, or "rongeurs" as the French call them. (I called them pushy pensioners back in paragraph one...) Our house has been colonized by mice! On witnessing our dilemma, my mother-in-law, true to her down-to-earth, sauce slurping self, came up with a solution to our pest problem.
"Why don't you just domesticate them?" said she.
Good thing my own mom's not here at the moment... or she might be seconding my belle-mère's pet proposal by plucking feathers from that four foot tall Frieda cape of hers so as to fashion flamboyant curtains for our furry freeloaders. She'd surely call that a "mouse" warming present. Absoloodle she would.
References: la belle-famille (f) = in-laws; le salon (m) = living room; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; fictive hero (from this book; la politesse (f) = politeness
You might love reading M.F.K. Fisher's words on France and the art of eating
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & quote:
O temps rongeur, et toi, envieuse vieillesse, vous détruisez tout!
MP3 file: Download rongeur.mp3
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