Curtained doors and French charm in the village of Serignan

                      :: Bonjour New York City! ::

If you happen to be in the Big Apple next month, then let's meet at Crawford Doyle Booksellers, a small store located around the corner from the Metropolitan Museum between 81st and 82nd Streets on Madison Ave. I'll be there, perusing the stacks, on April 15th, from 4:00 to 6:00. RSVP here.
(foo-tay) adjective
  sharp, smart, astute, crafty

une petite futée = a sharp little thing, a clever one

Think out of the box? No, the French don't think out of the box. They think out of the cone! Make that the culinary cone: handmade of clay, shaped like a pyramid, only with rounded edges, and glazed in a fiery stove. You guessed it: Tagine!*: an epicurean essential when you cook Moroccan instead of Provençale.

On Saturday night, I got to thinking about tagines. Specifically, if we were set to eat Tagine Chicken, then how come our hostess just placed a bright-red Dutch oven in the center of the table? Back to thinking out of the box ... or cone....

Aurore, our hostess, explained: "Tagine, simply, is the name for Moroccan stew. But you don't need a tagine to cook a ragout. Any slow-simmering pot will do!"

Aurore's breezy reply matched her style: witty, warm, and improviste;* a style she's been perfecting ever since marrying Alain, the quick-to-criticize "cook". You might say Aurore and Alain are the French version of "The Honeymooners"*. He's Ralph, she's Alice. He's the wise-cracker, she's the clever counter-attacker.

While seated next to Isabelle, discussing language, I kept my ear partly tuned to our hosts' playful banter. "Carrots!" Alain remarked, of his wife's simple entrée. "Darling, carrots will render you agreeable!" she countered, citing a famous French dicton.* Aurore had a witty comeback for every one of Alain's teasing criticisms. And though many of the French-language subtleties eluded me, I could appreciate Aurore's character. But, how to describe it in a word?

Meantime, Isabelle and I, seated in the couple's crossfire, were discussing the French word "futé".* While Isabelle tried to explain its meaning, Alain launched another playful vexation. On hearing his wife's witty retort, I looked over to Isabelle. "Futé... I get it!" I said, impressed with our hostess's endless repartee, thoughtful words not to be confined to a box, let alone a culinary cone.

tagine = ; improvist(e) = improvised; honeymooners = ; carrot dicton = Les carottes, ça rend aimable = Eating carrots makes you agreeable; futé = clever

              Get yourself a tagine! - read the rave reviews here.

A must read: "Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen" by Kitty Morse

Featured Francophile gift: Paris Metro Subway Apron
Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
A French salon favorite: Kerastase Volumactive Shampoo
Le Creuset Round French Oven

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety