The "Gâteau Savane" from today's story. Those are the pine cones that Christiane helped me to collect. And that, there, is a very old roof tile. The cursive reads "fait" and "30 juin".

gâteau (gah-toh) noun, masculine

    : cake

Plus la part de gâteau est belle, plus elle a de chance de tomber de travers dans l'assiette au moment de la servir. The prettier the slice of cake, the greater are its chances of falling sideways onto the plate at the moment of serving. (Murphy's Law)

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "gâteau" and read today's example sentence: Download Gateau Download Gateau


(Of Cake... and Conflicting Feelings)

When Jean-Marc asked me to make a cake for the Loto des Commerçants,* I reminded myself, after the initial panic, not to complicate things: just make a simple gâteau au yaourt!*

Stirring together the familiar yogurt-flour-egg-baking powder-sugar ingredients,* I glanced down at the package of flour and noticed an astuce* marked "Gâteau Marbré": for amarbleized cake, simply add two teaspoons of cocoa powder to the mix....

Turns out marbleizing a cake is as easy as dividing the finished mix into two bowls, then stirring two teaspoons of cocoa powder into one of the bowls before pouring the mixes, by turn, into the cake pan.

What had been panic quickly turned to pride, as I watched the marbled cake rise, taking on a tortoise-colored appearance. The cake rivaled any store bought "savannah,"* I decided, on the surface at least. (Fingers crossed that the cake tasted as good.)

Watching Jean-Marc walk off with the "prize," its sweet aroma carrying me to the door in time to wave the cake goodbye (forever!), it occured to me to make another gâteau marbré at the next chance.

That occasion came only four days later. Out came the ingredients and, thankfully, there were just enough eggs left to make the cake. Before long, the scent of savannah sweetened the room. I looked at the clock and calculated that there would be just enough time to pick up the kids from school and make it back in time to collect the goûter,* hot from the oven.

In the school parking lot, my son approached the car. I noticed the tall blond by his side. She must be two grades older than Max, I figured, feeling an alert go off inside of me. Turns out the two were, giggle, giggle, the same age.

As the couple approached the car, I quickly ran my hands through my unkempt hair. He might've prepared me to meet his girlfriend! Given me some advanced notice! I thought.

"Can you take her home?" Max asked, in his "cool," almost 14-year-old voice. "She needs a ride."

The two got into the car. When the giggles continued, with me interrupting now and again for directions, I realized that we were getting farther and farther away from the village--and from the cake, which was still cooking!

"Is this where I turn?" I asked the girl, impatiently.
"Euh, je ne sais pas," she answered, and was that "husky" in her voice?
"You don't know?" I questioned.

"Is this your street?" I repeated, activating the turn signal.

"You know where you live, don't you?" I questioned, and was that "condescending" in my voice?

"We don't usually go this way," the girl admitted.
"Well, which way do you 'usually' go?" I snipped.

When the girl indicated that the way was several kilometers back, via another road leading from the village, I swung the car around with an audible, irritable sigh, but not before commenting "Why would you tell me to go this way, when it's the other way?!"
"She didn't tell you to go that way," Max pointed out, in gallant defense of the demoiselle.

That's when the car fell silent and I was jolted back some 25 years. I could now remember that awkward, confusing feeling: the way that an unfriendly adult could make you feel after some sort of vague accusation--this, followed by the feeling of inadequacy, or inability to defend oneself--due to lack of experience.

Through softened lenses, I now peered into the rearview mirror, to the young (if tall and blond) passenger in the backseat.

"What did I do wrong?" The girl was probably wondering. As for my unfriendliness, I guessed it had something to do with the soon-to-be overcooked cake and... perhaps... a lot to do with the not-so-little girl. Then and there, I noticed some sort of prejudice going on within me. Prejudice, I wondered, against what--puberty?

Immediately, I regretted my behavior. But the guilt would stay with me until I reached home.

Opening the front door, Fate greeted me, with fervor--and with her holy plan for redemption....

Max and I floated toward the kitchen, hooked by the sweet scent which carried us forth. "The cake!" I remembered. All that guilt had erased my memory of having ever made the cake! And now, I realized with relief, it was just what the doctor ordered: comfort food!

That's when Fate's plan went into action. Salivating now, I opened the oven door. On my mind was the perfect cup of tea to accommodate the cake. I'd have two slices, and set aside a few for Jean-Marc. The kids would eat theirs with me at the table.

That's when Max remembered something very important.

"Mom," he said, with his usual nonchalance.
"Just a minute," I replied, getting out some plates and some honey for my tea.
"Mom," Max insisted. "I volunteered to bring a cake to school tomorrow."
With that, shoulders slumped, I returned the plates to the cupboard and wrapped up the cake.

*     *     *
Third time around at making the cake (one I hope I'll finally have the chance to taste), I glance down at the package, to the instructions for marbling: simply add two teaspoons of cocoa powder to the mix.... If only the instructions for living--and for loving others--were as simple to comprehend.

Corrections, comments--and stories of your own!--are always welcome in the comments box.

100 more lessons in love, in the book "Words in a French Life"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le loto des commerçants = local merchants' lottery; le gâteau (m) au yaourt; recipe for yogurt cake =
this link; une astuce (f) (du métier) = a trick (of the trade); savannah = savane (type of marbled yogurt cake; le goûter (m) = snack (tea time)

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The following video, on how to make a French yogurt cake, was made 4 years after the story was written. Our dog Smokey wasn't even born yet... enjoy.

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