sanglot: Christmas time and tears


In the town of Nyons: Persimmons aspiring to be potirons.

In children's books: Oxford First French Words

potiron (po-tee-rohn) noun, masculine

    : pumpkin

French definition* of "le potiron": "plante potagère voisine de la courge"
("vegetable plant, related to squash")

*From Le Petit Larousse

Do you know of any "potiron" terms or expressions... or would you like to help translate the quote (below)? Perhaps you have a pumpkin story to share? Anyone care to discuss the differences between a potiron and "une citrouille"? Feel free to voice your "potiron pensées" in the comments box, for all to see.

Je préférerais m'asseoir sur un potiron et le posséder bien à moi que d'être à plusieurs sur un coussin de velours.  --Henry David Thoreau, from "Walden"

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "potiron" and read the quote: Download Potiron . Download Potiron

The last time Mr. Delhomme (senior) stopped by, he looked over to the picnic table... and sighed. "Well, what are you waiting for?"

I stared back at the giant pumpkin that he had given my mom weeks ago. (Or did she swipe it from Monsieur's potiron* patch, just below?) No, the citrouille* was too heavy, even for her, to swipe, or to lift, or to drag undeterred.

"Elle va le peindre,"* I announced. "Nature morte,"* I offered, explaining Mom's "still life" plans for one imposing potiron.
"Bah!" Monsieur's replied. His eyes scanned the countryside, where real country women once resided -- before the artists and writers decamped. In their funny minds, vegetables were no longer edibles -- vegetables were vedettes!*

As for Monsieur's question "What are you waiting for," I pondered that one for few weeks more. Meantime, the old pumpkin, cut from the earth's cord, remained on that table, but a somber gourd...

And then my Grandmother Audrey didn't answer her phone over at a Salt Lake City nursing home. Instead, another woman's voice declared:

"The number you have dialed has been disconnected".

*     *     *

A pumpkin in my throat, I dialed up my Uncle Rusty and soon, in the background, that familiar family atmosphere whistled and hummed. What are you all doing?

"Aunt Betty is making pies."
"Yep. Nine pies!"
"NINE PIES?" I pictured my aunt Betty at the kitchen stove. I remembered her long hair that, as a child, I loved to brush and those delicate lace-making fingers, from which she also produced handmade peluches.*

"What kind of pies?" I asked, easing into the atmosphere of yesteryear.
"Oh, pumpkin, banana, cherry..."
"So you are all getting together... with Grandma?..."
That's when the voice of reassurance sounded. "I think I'll swing by [the nursing home] and steal her for the day... if she'll quit fighting with Aunt Reta."

"Fighting? Fighting!" I giggled. "She's fighting!!!" I imagined our occasionally ornery Audrey, grand-mère extraordinaire. She may be fighting with Aunt Reta, but she is also taking her daughter's, advice: to squeak! "It is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease!" Grandma had shared Aunt Reta's tip during our last conversation. That explains the disconnected telephone. (All that squeaking got Grandma transferred to a more suitable room!)

And so, on a very light note, I hung up the phone... but not before Uncle Rusty offered to send instructions for pumpkin pie. He seemed to read my thoughts ("Who me, make pumpkin pie?) and his humble answer, 'We just follow the instructions on the can" was all the encouragement needed.

Soon things picked up round here. "Still life" started to spark and that old, cold pumpkin found its way into the warm hearth. Fueled by memories of family holidays with a feisty grand-mère,* and aunts and uncles who show they still care--I marched out to the picnic table, picked up that potiron and transformed the Gallic gourd into a piece of the precious past: spiced up and sweetened for the present moment, at last.

* * *
PS: In addition to soup and some pumpkin seed snacks, I made the pumpkin pie! Monsieur Delhomme's son is coming for dinner and I just can't wait for word to get back to old Delhomme that the "artful" pumpkin (after lending itself to a still life painting... then a story) went on to become a tart (as if artists and writers didn't have a country woman's smarts!).

*   *   *
I once wrote a story about a French turkey and shared a few of the ingredients in my mother-in-law's cognac riddled "farce" recipe (!). Thanks for checking out the chapter "Dinde" in my book (which doubles as a great stocking stuffer, hint hint).

Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome in the comments box.

le potiron (m) = pumpkin; la citrouille (f) = pumpkin; elle va le peindre = she's going to paint it; la nature (f) morte = still life (painting); une vedette (f) = movie star; une peluche (f) = plush toy, stuffed animal; la grand-mère (f) = grandmother

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Gifts & More~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lego Make & Create Eiffel Tower 1:300

Map of Paris 12 File Folders with Vintage Designs

Magazine: Printed in French, Chatelaine features articles on practical home advice, health, beauty, family, and fashion issues, practical home advice, and a wide variety of recipes.

Free your inner Gallic cook! Larousse Gastronomique

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Comment dit-on "pumpkin pie" en francais? La tarte de citrouille?

Pumpkin pie from scratch, wow, impressive :-)


Hi, Kristin -- now that we've relocated from Florida to France, it's a bit of a challenge, isn't it?!

Our citrouille (as explained to me, a citrouille is only a jack-o-lantern) was made into a jack-o-lantern for the handful of trick-or-treaters we had here.

Our potiron (again explained to me that a potiron is a flatter, different species, best suited for cooking) was divided - part of it became veloute de carotte et potiron (yummy!), and the rest became pulp to be made into a pumpkin pie this afternoon.

I even found a turkey! Although they're quite expensive here (about US$5/pound) we splurged and bought a gorgeous turkey from a farm near Nemours. I'll let you know after tomorrow whether it was a success - but it looks like it will be. The birds are allowed to roam free in a very big, very clean yard -- and they all looked fat and very well-suited to be the center of attention at our dinner tomorrow.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to les americains in the EEUU, and here's good wishes for the expat Thanksgivings that will be celebrated tomorrow.


Kristin, we're all happy that your grandmother is still as feisty as ever. It must have been a challenge to make that pie from a pumpkin, and without Carnation milk!

How does one say in French the question M. Delhomme asked: "Well, what are you waiting for?"

And as long as I'm asking, could you please translate the quote from Thoreau?

Love the picture...

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Libbie,

Re Carnation milk... I used crême fraiche or sour cream instead (condensed, canned milk didn't seem appetizing!)

Mr Delhomme's "Well, what are you waiting for" would be "Alors, qu'est-ce que tu attends?"

... And here's a translation, for today's quote that I received from Sarah, in Moncton, Canada (hi Sarah!):
"I would prefer to sit on a pumpkin and have it to myself than to be one of many on a velvet cushion." Sarah adds, "One of many examples of how one must be flexible in translation rather than literal..."


"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." Henry David Thoreau. It's nice to see the French translation - thank you.


While we had no potiron yesterday for our thanksgiving meal away from the U.S., we saw a shop called Potiron in the Gare du Midi in Brussells yesterday. We gave our Merci's over Belgian beer, grilled salmon, and a waffle for dessert.

Jules Greer


Your stories bring back so many memories for me, of course I clearly remember that
beautiful crisp October morning in Monsieur Delhomme's garden. Everyone was off doing
errands, I could entertain myself with that
darling man in the pumpkin fields. Even though he is almost 30 years older than me I think he is so beautiful, my French crush.



Juste en passant
having a little rest, but must go back to my garden before it gets dark. Today, at last, the weather is fine for what I want to do!

1) I think un potiron has 2 flat poles - une citrouille is much ronder.

2) In the fairy tale “Cendrillon”, Conte original de Charles Perrault, (fairy tale -> Cinderella) the Fairy Godmother turned “une citrouille” (NOT un potiron!) into a carriage.

3) The flesh from "potiron" is tender and tastier than the flesh from "citrouille".

In France and in UK (don't know about US):
-> Potirons are used in soup and gratin recipes & pies.
I have 2 recipes of --> Potage au potiron, NOT “... à la citrouille”
and a recipe of --> Gratin de potiron, but NOT “... de citrouille”!
I used to have a recipe of Tarte au potiron (I lost it!)

-> I don't know anything about tartes "à la citrouille", but "graines de citrouille rôties" are great!

4) just checked:
-> potiron n. m. = Cucurbita maxima = in English, Winter squash
-> citrouille n. f. = Cucurbita pepo = pumpkin (used for Halloween pumpkins)
Stems of potirons & citrouilles are different in shape and texture.

Back to my bulbs...

Christie in San Diego

Kristin, Thank you so much for this post and to all the comments that followed. It has been driving me crazy trying to understand the difference between potiron and citrouille since Autumn a year ago! - Christie

Fred Caswell

Inspired by an uninvited muse two days before le jour de l'action de grace, this geezer rolled up his sleeves, cleared a crowded kitchen counter, and proceeded to create deux pain complet weighing at least two pounds each.

Nancy et moi were to meet George and Marilyn as our quests for dinner just about the time the loaves had surrendered enough heat to be sliced; it was time to leave. One loaf was intended for George and Marilyn but there was considerable concern about the interior of the bread as a never-before-tried method was used (no machine and easier than expected). The gift was given.

Upon returning home a test slice had to be made. It is noted that these loaves had not one grain of white flour in them or on the kneading board -- whole wheat all the way!

Later, chez nous, une premiere tranche of the saved creation revealed a soft and even bread. Back from celebrating Turkey Day with rellies, our friends reported with praise and gratitude; George wanted to know how much I charge!

mere garden

Love your blog! It is in my faves!


By the way, ladies (and guys wandering through the kitchen!)-- en France, evaporated milk is "lait concentre, non sucre".

Sweetened condensed milk (or Eagle milk, if you are my grandmother) is "lait concentre sucre"

Brown sugar is cassonade (a dry brown sugar, so adjust for moisture in your recipe) or Vergoise, blonde or brune (this is the brown sugar you're familiar with - the soft, slightly sticky, molasses-flavored stuff, in light or dark.)

Baking powder is levain chemique, and dry yeast is levain boulanger. Baking soda is bicarbonate de soud, and could be found in the baking aisle. It might also show up next to the salt...or it might be at the pharmacie (go figure).

Hope this helps someone trying to adapt recipes from tragedy for me, just bumps in the road.


I guessed that the difference between the two words for pumpkin might have to do with cooking pumpkin vs. ornamental pumpkin. Sunny's post seems to back that up, though apparently it's not a 100% distinction. Bravo to you for thinking to make pumpkin seeds. My husband did that one year when I was overly ambitious and had a real pumpkin. (I usually go with Libby's for pumpkin dishes.) Thanks also to Sunny for the lesson on what to look for on French market shelves. Almost as much fun as figuring out English recipes! (demera sugar, caster sugar, etc.)

Sorry you had that shock with your grandmother's phone being disconnected, but it all turned out well enough. Phew.

Jon North

Apropos of turkey. Too late for thanksgiving this year, and I missed the opportunity with an American friend locally too, but here in Lunel and presumably anywhere you find Halal butchers you seem always to be able to get turkey - chaply too, and delicious. We often get spiced brochettes, but you can get really large breasts whole to roast, and legs. I shall remember to remind American friends next year in October!


I once saw "potiron lumineux" somewhere as the translation for "jack-o-lantern." Is anyone familiar with that expression?

Ann at Cooking the Books

Congrats on your pie, Kristin! I made one a few weeks ago for some French dinner guests -- they loved it but were HORRIFIED to learn I used pumpkin from... a can! Shocking!

Sunny, thanks for all those cooking translations -- extremely helpful! I wish someone would publish a dictionary of food terms (a real dictionary, alphabetized -- not arranged by category as is the Marlin menu master).


Adding a follow-up regarding baking

---> LA LEVURE = yeast
-> de la levure fraîche = fresh yeast
-> la levure de boulanger = baker's yeast
-> de la levure (de boulanger) déshydratée = active dried yeast (in granules)
---> LA LEVURE CHIMIQUE = baking powder
In France, you can buy “sachets de levure chimique” - They come in bundles of about seven paper packets – each one contains about 2 good teaspoons of baking powder. ALSA (Levure chimique Alsacienne) is a very well known brand.
---> LE LEVAIN = sourdough (US) / leaven, leavening agent (UK)
Wikipedia will tell you something on each od these words.
---> LE BICARBONATE DE SOUDE / bicarbonate de sodium = Sodium bicarbonate
Many forms of baking powder contain sodium bicarbonate combined with cream of tartar.
I once came across a website giving what you are looking dor. I'll try to find it again.
-> If light comes through an object, it's right to say the object is “lumineux”. In this way, a Jack-o'-lantern can be considered as une “citrouille lumineuse”.
-> Jack-o'-lantern in French = une “citrouille lanterne”.
-> For those who make no difference between the French words potiron & citrouille, I suppose they might call a Jack-o-lantern --> un “potiron lanterne”, (I assume the same people would also say that it is “un potiron lumineux”)
Thank you so much for the very cheerful persimmons! What a wonderful contrast of colour with the building. As far as shapes and lines are concerned, the rows of round tiles are most fascinating!
I love the ending of your suspense story and am very pleased to know your dear grand mother Audrey is fine! And what about the pie.... ? I think Monsieur Delhomme father -or his son- might like to get your “Recette de la Tarte au Potiron”!


And for the record, potiron makes an awesome pumpkin pie. It has a much more 'pumpkiny' flavor (ahem...a technical term, I'm sure) -- with a more velvety texture. The 'lait concentre' worked fine -- although I'm sure yours with creme fraiche was rich and gorgeous.

Our turkey was magnificent -- a 6kg/13 pound bird that came out of the oven golden and juicy -- and with the best flavor of any turkey I've had in years.

Diane Stanley

Hi Kristin,
I've been away from the computer for a while due to Thanksgiving and then Christmas decorating.
A friend sent me this lovely message about God's garden planning for humanity.
Well, here it is.

God's Pharmacy

This is absolutely amazing - and makes perfect sense!!

It's been said that God first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, planted a garden, made animals and fish... all before making a human. He made and provided what we'd need before we were born. These are best & more powerful when eaten raw. We're such slow learners...

God left us a great clue as to what foods help what part of our body!

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... and YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.
A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood
A Walnut lo oks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now & nbsp;know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.
Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.
Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.
Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).
Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.
Sweet Potatoes looks like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries

Oranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.
Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.

Psalm 46:10 - 'Be Still and Know that I AM GOD'
Please don't break this even if you only send it to one person. Look at the date when this was started. Thanks

Casterman Philippe

well done...I'm from Belgium. I just don't know who, why, all those messages, echanges, about "potiron". Now in french...j'ai cliqué sur google "potiron lumineux" un texte lu lorsque j'étais à l'école "moyenne"(on n'est pas sortis de l'auberge avec ttes ces appelations différentes pour désigner les classes scolaires et les degrés d'études!) c'est de cette manière que j'ai atterri sur votre blog (si on doit l'appeler ainsi)
En wallon, on appelle "ça" un grign' din.
prononcer le "din" comme "daim". . . une lointaine tradition de chez nous exportée + tard aux States et qui par la bande , nous revient. C'est dingue... ces jack-o-lantern
sont en passe d'avoir la suprématie de l'air
Question: ne sommes nous pas confrontés à une future invasion? (I'm story-teller)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)