Can't you just smell the clay?

You've heard the expression "to smell a rat" but did you know the French equivalent: "subodorer quelque chose"? With that in mind, today's word, "subodorer" makes perfect scents, or rather, "sense"! Imagine that "rat" below you (sub) and stinking (odor) of just stolen cheese: subodorer.

Another way to remember today's word (subodorer = suspect/scent) is this: when we suspect something, we look down (sub) and begin "sniffing" (odor) for clues. Well, those mnemonic devices are helpful to me... maybe you'll come up with something else!

subodorer (sew-boh-doray) verb
  : to smell from afar, to scent, to suspect

...le nez, fin et délicat, un peu arrondi, aux narines palpitantes, semblait subodorer de vagues parfums... the nose, fine and delicate, a little rounded, nostrils quivering, seemed to smell faraway perfumes. --from The Fleshly School of Poetry, and Other Phenomena of the Day by Robert Williams Buchanan
On Saturday morning at around 11, I shut the oven door, checked the thermostat, lifted the lid on the stove-top pot, and stirred the potimarron* soup. Next, I replaced the couvercle,* picked up the dishcloth and ran it across the comptoir's* faux marble surface--reaching down to put an extra polish on the oven door (so as to double check the poulets rôtis* inside...). Next, I heaved a sigh of relief and hurried upstairs to shower before the guests arrived.

Yogurt_cakeWhen I returned to the kitchen, no more than 30 minutes later, I ran smack into a cake! Even if a concrete collision wasn't involved, my mind remained reeling as if struck. How did a just-baked cake end up on my counter and whose hand was behind this stroke of luck?

The golden gâteau* was neatly tucked inside a red-checkered dishcloth. You've got to hand it to those French, who always manage to make simple look so chic! So, who was the stylish sender behind this treat?

My first soupçon or "inkling" was "Marie-Françoise". On second thought, it isn't like Jean-Marc's aunt to stop by, unannounced, just before the lunch hour.

"It must be our neighbor, Danielle," I thought. She had just inquired about my being tired (and I could've clobbered Jean-Marc for using me as an excuse for having declined our neighbor's Friday night invite). Maybe this was some sort of high-energy cake?

Then again, it might be from someone else! Maybe the cake was brought by a repentant robber? I imagined for a moment a cake-covered countryside in which every home had on its comptoir a moist mea culpa from a penitent burglar.

As I leaned over to smell the sweet crust I heard footsteps.... heavier than a woman's and louder than a thief's!

The man who left the sweet snack looked just like a lumberjack (the cake's red-checkered cloth cover might have been a clue...). I kissed my brother-in-law on each cheek, thanking him for the imprévu.* To assume that only women and repentant thieves can bake, that is where I had made my mistake!

                                             *     *     *
Here, once again, is the recipe for my brother-in-law's yogurt cake:

References: le potimarron (m) = small pumpkin; le couvercle (m) = top; le comptoir (m) = counter; le poulet (m) rôti = roast chicken; le gâteau (m) = cake; l'imprévu (m) = unexpected

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French
Did you like today's idiom "to smell a rat"? Here are 101 more French Idioms
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounced today's French word and recite the quote:
Subodorer...le nez, fin et délicat, un peu arrondi, aux narines palpitantes, semblait subodorer de vagues parfums...
Download subodorer.mp3
Download subodorer.wav

In music: C'est L'amour: Romantic French Classics
Street French 1: The Best of French Slang
In DVD: The French Revolution (History Channel Documentary)
On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order.

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