I love today's word "chouia"! I hope you will share the enthusiasm by sharing this gazette, vignette (we'll figure it out yet) with a friend. And don't miss the sound clip, below, where you can hear my mother-in-law pronounce "chouia" (there's even a "flash" story from our recording session).

Also, in the Shopping section, see one of the gifts that Jean-Marc got me for Christmas... highly recommended if you are looking for a gift for a gal.~

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un chouia (or chouïa) (shooy-arrh) noun, masculine
   "un petit peu," a smidgen

[Chouïa is an Arabic word; we hear it often here, in the South of France.]

In books: "Autonauts of the Cosmoroute" is a love story, an irreverent travelogue of elaborate tales and snapshots detailing Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop's thirty-three-day voyage on the Paris-Marseilles freeway in 1982. Uncovering the freeway's hidden underbelly, they push life and literature to surreal extremes. This shot of sun is a satire on modern travel and the great explorers, and an intimate look at one of the greatest literary spirits of our time.

"Just a smidgen," my mother-in-law says, pushing her plate forward with a little more enthusiasm than her French words would let on. "Un chouia,"* she insists as I dig into the pan, portioning off the cake in a range of slice sizes. Next, like a metal detector, I let the spatula hover over the cake until I sense my belle-mère's resistance melt like scrap gold. "Ça ira," that'll do, she says, indicating her choice -- the largest slice: like mother-in-law, like daughter-in-law. I lift it out of the pan, keeping every crumb intact.

It is 2 p.m. on Christmas day and we are still stuffed from the réveillon.* But there's always room for chocolate cake and, this time, my mother-in-law's has candied orange peel inside. (She's scalped the oranges before stringing the skins, hanging them to dry over her living-room radiator.)

I didn't know about the candied oranges -- which just goes to show how my mother-in-law is always holding back an ingredient (chippie* that she is) just to throw us off.

"So your chocolate cake calls for orange peel?" Aunt Marie-Claire ("Michou") inquires, as we huddle around the desserts. My belle-mère* remains vague as Aunt Michou fishes for instructions and is, in the end, left to wonder about how to rig orange peels over her own Parisian radiator.

Meanwhile, I wonder about how I'm going to get the Provençal "Pompe à L'Huile" Olive Oil Cake recipe out of Aunt Michou.... But before I can make any progress, she tells me it took her THREE years to get the recipe from Cousin Sabine.

Our recipe scalping reminds me of the demise of my belle-mère's oranges. If we aren't careful, we'll be strung just like those pathetic peels -- only Cousin Sabine doesn't have a dainty radiator -- but a walk-in Provençal fire pit, hooks and all!

References: un chouia (m) = a smidgen; le réveillon (m) = Christmas Eve Dinner; une chippie (f) = little devil; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

More about my belle-mère, French cousins and aunts in my book, Words in a French Life ...and more about cake in La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my mother-in-law pronounce today's French word.
Un chouia. Un petit chouia.
Download chouia.mp3
Download chouia.wav

"Bravo, bravo 'ma cocotte'!" My belle-mère cheered, after our recording session. I had showed her my blog and explained the various columns: the "word of the day," the story, the quote.... "Bravo, bravo, 'ma cocotte'," she approved. All those bravos... well, I suppose I'll forgive her for calling me "chicky".
Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier
French in Action : A Beginning Course in Language and Culture, the Capretz Method: Part One
A Christmas present that I received from Jean-Marc. I love it! TRESOR by Lancome "possesses a blend of lilac and apricot, with lower notes with amber and musk."

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