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Laboring the earth, the old-fashioned way, at Domaine du Trapadis. Photo by Jean-Marc.

rêche (resh) adjective
  harsh, rough, abrasive (fabric, wine)
  prickly, cross-grained (difficult-to-deal-with person: un homme rêche)

Additional French definition for rêche, from Le Petit Larousse:
    : "qui est âpre au goût" = that which is tart to the taste

  le drap rêche = crumpled sheet
  le vin rêche = a rough wine
  la voix rêche = raspy voice
  rendre rêche = to roughen

Synonyms in English (and French) include flirty and fun words like scabrous, râpeux (raspy), and cahoteux (bumpy)

Listen to today's word in the following sentence (taken from the French version of today's story): Download reche.mp3 . Download reche.wav

Pas d'essorage rapide et encore moins de sèche-linge pour des tissus pourtant épais et rèches. No quick drying and forget about tumble drying for the thick and coarse fabrics.

A Day in a French Life...
By Kristin Espinasse

Here for you now, the "rêche" or rough translation of Aunt Marie-Françoise's "French Apron of Yesteryear" story. Enjoy!

                                    Grandmother's Apron

These days, now that it is customary--even easy--to do the washing in our modern machines, we have adopted new habits. We no longer need to protect our clothing, in order to get as many consecutive days'  use out of it as possible, and what a pleasure it is to change each morning, even if yesterday's clothes are still impeccably clean.

As for our grandmothers, they had to transport the all-imposing "lessiveuse métallique"* boiler before activating it over the fire! (Or, worse, they had to go to the outdoor community lavoir.* No quick drying and forget about tumble drying for the thick and rêche* fabrics. And so, back then, it was necessary to
superimpose protective wear over the clothing that one had prepared to wear... for the week!

For the women, still at home at the time, the protective tablier* was worn all day long. Only outings, church going, or social calling was done without the apron.

This apron of our elders had nothing in common with the cute little curvy and embroidered thing that decorates more than it protects some of today's moms when they cook.

The apron of yesteryear reached around grandmother's great hips, fastened with the help of a large ribbon, and ended level with the dress itself, just above grandma's heels.

And what a variety of uses grandma made with her apron! Folded onto itself, it became a glove for pulling from the oven dinner, or that beautiful apple tart, and carrying them over to the window for cooling. And, whipped before the fire, the apron served as a fan.

As woman, back then, constantly had their hands immersed in cold water, it was necessary to dry them quickly lest they be pained with a cruel chilblain*; just above the pockets, the apron's cloth served as a permanent towel.

When grandmother went to the garden, which, back then, was more a potager,* she returned with one hand tightened around the base of the cloth. Like that, the apron became a great basket permitting her to return time and again with vegetables, dry wood, apples (just fallen from the tree) or, with much
precaution, a collection of fragile (and still warm!) eggs.

When the littlest members of the maisonnée* became intimidated by the arrival of visitors, they ran to hide "dans les jupes" (in the skirts), that is to say: behind this vast drape of cloth. Grandmother took advantage of the occasion to wipe tears and to scrub the dirty (and pretty) little faces, or "frimousses".

When sun rays revealed fine dust on the waxed sideboard, a corner of the apron, in passing, quickly took care of the chore.

If she was going out and the air seemed a bit chilly, grandmother lifted up the apron's sides to muffle herself within this cotonnade.*

At suppertime, perched on the front step, she waved her apron like a flag, this being a signal for the field workers to head to the table.

And when all were seated 'round, it was, once again, grandmother's apron that bustled about behind the men in order to serve--all through the course of the meal!

This apron is more than a forgotten piece of clothing, it is temoin* of another time and place, of our traditions, for we all have paysanne* origins.

                                       *     *     *

Please share this story with a girlfriend, aunt, mom, godmother, grandmother, sister, daughter, best friend, co-worker, teacher, student, cook, or accidental housewife. Thanks!

Read "Grandmother's Apron" in French, written by Aunt Marie-Françoise*:

*Aunt Marie-Françoise (Marie-Françoise Vidal), when she is not harvesting her family's grapes, works  as a speech therapist (orthophoniste) and enjoys helping children who have special needs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ References ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
une lessiveuse (f) métallique = copper boiler for washing; le lavoir (m) = outdoor laundry (consisting of a great, rectangular stone bassin filled with running water); rêche = coarse; le tablier (m) = apron; chilblain = type of skin disease ; le potager (m) = vegetable
garden; la maisonnée (f) = household; la cotonnade (f) = cotton fabric; le témoin (m) = witness, proof, evidence; paysan (paysanne) = rural

In bilingual French/English children's books: Grandma Nana: Beloved by all children, Grandma Nana is known for telling wonderful stories and riddles that make everyone laugh. She also has a very special doll, unlike any the children have seen before, that is very close to her heart.

Check out the French Word-A-Day widget:


Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program

La Vie en Rose: A Very French Adventure Continues

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language...

Lego Make & Create Eiffel Tower kit lets builders re-create an impressive replica of this famous Parisian structure -- based on original blue prints!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Chez le marchand de sirop / At the syrupmongers...

(mar-shan, mar-shand) noun, masculine/feminine
  merchant, trader; shopkeeper

While my book, Words in a French Life, has yet to be translated into French, there is a growing number of français who are reading the vignettes on life, chez eux. Receiving feedback from Francophone readers...from as far away as Toowoomba... is about as refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade--garnished with crushed ice and a sprig of purple lavender--on a lazy summer day. Here's a recent mèl from a French woman living in Australia:

Je m'appelle Sylvie, je suis française, originaire des Alpes de Haute-Provence, d'un petit village à 14 km de Saint-André-les-Alpes, donc pas très loin de chez vous. Je suis dans une situation similaire à la vôtre, marié à un australien, vivant en Australie, dans le Queensland et élevant trois enfants (10, 8 et 2 ans). J'admire la façon dont vous avez embrassé la France et y avez fait votre place. J'ai découvert votre livre "Words in a French Life" par hasard, chez un marchand de livres à Toowoomba,le titre m'a de suite attirée et je suis sortie avec le livre en poche. En le lisant, j'y ai retrouvé les couleurs et les odeurs de la Provence, c'est formidable. Merci.
Bonne continuation,

My name is Sylvie, I am French, from the Alps of Haute-Provence, from a little village 14 km from Saint-André-les-Alpes, therefore not too far from you. I am in a similar situation to you, married to an Australian, living in Australia, in Queensland, and rearing three children (10, 8 and 2-years-old). I admire the way in which you have embraced France and made your place there. I discovered your book "Words in a French Life" by chance, at a book store in Toowoomba, the title got my attention right away and I left with the book in my pocket. In reading it, I rediscovered the colors and odors of Provence; it's wonderful. Thanks.
Keep up the good work,

Back to today's word... and to several terms and expressions:
marchand en gros = wholesaler
marchand au détail
= retailer
marchand d'art = art dealer
marchand de glace = ice cream vendor
marchand de fromage = cheesemonger, cheese vendor
marchand de poisson = fishmonger
marchand de légumes = greengrocer, produce dealer
marchand de canons = arms dealer
marchand de biens = property agent
marchand ambulant
= hawker, traveling salesman

And a few unusual terms:
marchande d'amour = "seller of love" (prostitute)
marchand de couleurs = ironmonger
marchand des quatre saisons = street vendor
marchand de sable = sandman
marchand de soupe = greasy spoon (restaurant)

And last but not least... un marchand de vin! = wine merchant, vintner

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Apron Tablier du dimanche (c) Kristin Espinasse

tablier (tah-blee-yay) noun, masculine
  : apron, pinafore; smock

[from the word "table"]

Here's the French definition from the "Dictionnaire de l'Académie française" :

"Pièce de toile, de serge, de cuir, etc. que les femmes et les artisans mettent devant eux pour conserver leurs habits en travaillant." (Piece of cloth, woolen fabric, leather, etc. that women and craftsmen put in front of them in order to spare their clothes while working.)

Audio File:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word tablier and read the definition:
Download tablier.mp3
. Download tablier.wav

More Words & Expressions:
  le tablier de sapeur ("fireman's apron") = breaded, fried tripe
  rendre son tablier = to give one's notice; to resign, step down


While every other French person was out collecting bouquets of muguet* yesterday, Aunt Marie-Françoise had thyme on her hands, or rather, *in* them....

As it happened, we were on another fragrant stroll, breathing in the acrid, buttery scent of rosemary, the licoricey sweetness of genêt,* and plenty of pungent, musky earth after rainfall.
"Thyme... rosemary... only thing missing is sarriette!"* Marie-Françoise lamented, referring to the batch of herbes de Provence* that she could've whipped up for us had we some wild sarriette to choose from... and a coffee grinder. Tant pis!*

We continued to gather the thyme for tea, or "tea time" if you like, given that the wild garriguian* herb doubles as a cough reliever. Though I didn't have a cold, I did have plenty of fever, standing there before a hill of herbs, eager to refill that empty jar of homemade spice mix that Marie-Françoise keeps stocked for us.

Determined, I put one foot at either side of a budding shrub, fixed my hands around its base (as one would a rope), and attempted to "lift off"... and so take the plant with me using some form of anti-gravity, I know not which.

But nothing budged and the plant, literally, held its ground. Having a second go, I wrestled with the stubborn shrub, this time using the weight of my body to hoist the hell-bent herb out of the ground. My body now at a sharp incline and partly suspended at one end (but for the root holding me down at the other), the only thing I managed to uproot were the curious eyes of Jean-Marc's aunt.

Marie-Françoise paused from her own herb gathering, looked up casually, and offered a suggestion. "You need only bend the little branches, she said, snapping off another delicate tige*, adding it to a growing bouquet. That way the plant is left to flourish year after year....

(This far into the essay, and I still haven't managed to introduce the word of the day: tablier. So let's end things here, with only one tiny regret: had we one of those frilly, flowery, oh-so-feminine tablier-frocks, we might've carried back with us, in our gathered aprons, a bit more medicinal thyme. Speaking of frilly,
flowery, and frou-frou, Aunt Marie Francoise tells me that *those* kinds of aprons are a phenomenon of style. Read her story, in French, and learn about the authentic aprons of yesteryear and their not-so-ordinary uses. Click here: .

Note: I'll post the English version on Monday.


~~~~~~~~~~Glossary of French Terms~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le muguet (m) = lily of the valley, a.k.a. "Our Lady's Tears," (traditionally offered to friends, neighbors, family... on May 1st; le genêt (m) = broom (plant); la
(f) = winter savory (herb); les herbes (f) de Provence = Provencale herb mixture including thyme, rosemary and sarriette.. and sometimes marjoram, basil, lavender...; tant pis = too bad; garriguian (made up word for "of the garrigue" [la garrigue
= wild Mediterranean scrubland]); une tige (f) = stem, stalk

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort
A Is for Apron: 25 Fresh & Flirty Designs

Apron-tablier (c) Kristin Espinasse

Aprons for sale in Alsace...

Betcha a tablier-wearer lives here... quaint and charming as it is.


Download and listen to the children's song "Le muguet du premier-mai"

Urban Crayon Paris: The City Guide for Parents with Children

Paris Metro *Subway Map* Novelty Apron

Decorative set of 3 blue nested vintage look French Toile Planters

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.