Random photo-du-jour taken in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

écume (ay-koom) noun, feminine
  foam, scum

      Bavardage est écume sur l'eau, action est goutte d'or.
      Chat is foam on water; action is a drop of gold.

                                                       --Tibetan proverb

While reading a book* demystifying the complexity of French cooking, a little étincelle* of hope appeared, like the spark at the end of the wand which lights our simple gas oven. But when hours before our lunch guests were to arrive I misplaced the cookbook, and with it the fastoche* instructions for pot-au-feu,*
that hopeful spark turned into a roaring pit and I into the pot above it!

An internet search revealed hundreds of recipes for pot-au-feu, one contradicting the next. "Place the beef into the pot then cover with cold water..." one site instructed. Another insisted I add the meat to *boiling* water, to seal in flavor. A third recipe recommended putting the vegetables (navets,* choux,* carrots, poireaux,* and onions) in first, before the meat... and a fourth cautioned cooking them separately....

I put a stop to the confusion by remembering an old French dictum: "Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce".* Next, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work (first boiling the meat, careful to tuck a few bay leaves and a sprig of thyme in between; next, I added the vegetables).

Three hours later I realized that the hardest part about making pot-au-feu is getting the beefy scum out of the pot (and that part's easy!). "De-scumming" (or "unscumming"?) requires time and a special "twist of the wrist" (so as to avoid coating one's kitchen walls when flicking froth from pot to poubelle).*

The pot-au-feu turned out nicely. Now to skim the carreaux de cuisine*...

                                          *     *     *
Post note: While cleaning the clove-scented kitchen (from the stewed onions which were stabbed with the aromatic spice), I came across my mother-in-law's recipe for French beef stew. I'm still smacking myself on the head. When the head-throbbing stops, I'll see about posting her recipe.

References: book: "Recipes from the French Wine Harvest"; une étincelle (f) = spark; fastoche = (slang) easy; le pot-au-feu (m) = boiled beef with vegetables; le navet (m) = turnip; le chou (m) = cabbage; le poireau (m) = leek; Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce = Too many cooks spoil the sauce;
la poubelle = garbage can; le carreau (m) de cuisine = kitchen tile

La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking

:: Audio File :: 
Écume. Bavardage est écume sur l'eau, action est goutte d'or.
MP3 file: Download ecume.mp3
Wave file: Download ecume.wav

In music: A French Christmas
In Film: Paris Je T'aime: Stories of Love. From the City of Love.

Terms & Expressions:
  écumeux, écumeuse = foamy, frothy
  écumer =  to skim; to take the scum off
  écumer les mers = to scour the seas
  écumer (de rage) = to foam, froth at the mouth
  un cheval qui écume = foaming horse
  l'écume de la société = the scum, dregs of society
  une écumoire = skimmer, skimming ladle
  une écumeur littéraire = a plagiarist

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety