affolement & Recipe for Zucchini and Potato Gratin

Balcony in Nyons (c) Kristin Espinasse
I heart lonely chairs. More pictures of Nyons in an upcoming Cinéma Vérité.

affolement (ah-fol-maohn) noun, masculine

: panic, perturbation, unsteadiness

verb: affoler: to cause panic and s’affoler: to panic.

Sound file & Example Sentence Download MP3 or Download WAV

Pour l'instant, l'heure n'est pas à l'affolement.
Now's not the time to worry.



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

Affolement, it is the French word for panic—that feeling of s-p-i-n-n-i-n-g!

Part one of the wine harvest begins this week and the first team of harvesters are arriving e-a-r-l-y. And though I have been keeping notes (grocery lists and "choses à faire") it is impossible to pencil in the unexpected or l'imprévu, no matter how often my crayon hovers over the lists, trying to anticipate fate.

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? are no longer a journalist's formula: these are the "askings" of an anxious organizer. As I jot down mind matter (all those pensées that prevent peace) I can't help but remember "the best made plans" and wonder whether these lists aren't partly in vain? De plus, I am learning that dotting the i's and crossing the t's of rigidity (there's that word again) only ever ends in flurry: Dame Chaos will invite herself to la fête so one might as well join in and get used to whim! (Never mind that I have scotch-taped myself into place, in preparation for a flurry of fate.)


In other, more important news, Jean-Marc, who, for the next month—and for the duration of the wine harvest—will be known as "Chief Grape," had a tiny run-in with fate: while readying his farm equipment he was stung (just over the eyebrow) by une guêpe! It is painful just looking at him and all that ballooning of skin.

I look into his eyes, one no bigger that a sliver:
"Does it hurt?" I ask, pushing aside my list.
"Non, c'est juste un peu gênant." No, it's just a little annoying, he replies.

And somehow his answer strikes... lines through my lists... taking all this "chaos" and putting it, somehow, right.


French Vocabulary

un affolement = panic

chose à faire = things to do (list)

imprévu (adj and n.m.) = unforeseen, unexpected

le crayon = pencil

la pensée = thought

de plus = what's more

la fête = party

la guêpe = wasp

    => learn a quirky tip, or une astuce about getting rid of guêpes, or wasps. Click here for the story "Uninvited Guests Guêpes"

non, c'est juste un peu gênant = no, it just a little annoying

A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey


Today I get my staples and stitches removed! In anticipation of the event, I've "loosened"  a part of my cone (exhibit A, above. Notice the jagged plastic, next to my teeth!).


All in a day's work!

RECIPE: Gratin de Courgette & Pomme de Terre


Have I showed you a photo of my brother-in-law lately? He and his girlfriend came over yesterday. Mariem helped me put together a casserole for dinner as we sat at the kitchen table slicing zucchini and potatoes and chatting about "quick and easy harvest recipes!"

When the slicing was done, Mariem added a little olive oil to the glass baking dish and the two of us went about layering the vegetables, knocking hands as we worked.

We began with a layer of thinly-sliced potatoes, then a layer of zucchini... then salt and pepper and a tiny pouring of cream (we mixed store-bought béchamel + heavy cream, a.k.a. what was on hand.) Mariem's five-year-old boy joined in and I watched, awed, as the vegetables disappeared into the casserole dish. Finally, we topped the legumes with one last sprinkling of salt and pepper and the remains of the cream... then into the oven (150°C -- or 300°F) for one hour.

I had some garden fresh tomatoes on hand (a gift from my friend Houria) and we tossed those with olive oil (a gift from Alexis, who is back, joining us for this harvest) and parsley and salt and pepper. A light dinner or, as the French would say juste ce qu'il faut...

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Bill in St. Paul

Good luck with the harvest, Jean-Marc and Kristin. We'll be in Paris for two weeks starting Wednesday to celebrate our 40th anniversary and to drink JM's wine in country!

Smokey's looking good. Has he ever shown any reaction to his attack, such as not going near his attack site?

Frenchee le Trip

Awesome that you put all that chaos straight - that's most of the battle. Wishing you a steady and bountiful harvest.
Is it genante with an "e" even when you say "C'est...."? I always thought it went to neutral/masculin when it starts with "c'est."

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Ahh - ye ole Terreur on the Teroire syndrome. Through FWAD, many of us have been through this season right by your side over the years. I marvel at how you manage to get through the onset of school AND the harvest! But you get through it with grace somehow, even if each year may feel like it's the first.

It's "back to business" time! Enjoy!

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Thanks for that recipe, Kristin. I make a vegetable tian, alternating zuchinni, potato and tomato and topping with olive oil, thyme and gruyere cheese. I think the next time I will leave off the cheese and use the cream! Great idea!!!

Margaret Dennis


Ouch. La gruepe sounds painful. Good luck to all with the harvest. This is exciting since it means that we will be in Provence to visit you near the end of your weeks of labor. I do hope all goes well and there aren't too many unwelcome surprises.

I know Smokey will be happy to take off the collar.


Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- I love the photos, all of them. Smokey's face looks as if it has healed well and just in time. Also enjoyed your story, the gentle wisdom, the word AFFOLEMENT, and finally the recipe. J'aime cooking à deux.

Hope Jean-Marc's eye improves quickly. Bonne semaine et bonne vendange si ça se dit.

Stanley V. Wanek

Perhaps you could direct me to a source or, better yet, advise me on translating two parts of the recipe ingredients for Le gâteau au yaourt.

2 pots de farine
1 sachet de levure chimique

What are the English equivalents for "pots"
and "sachet?" I can't find them anywhere.

I appreciate any help you could provide.

Stan Wanek

Diane Dainis

Good Luck with the harvest. So much work but outstanding results! Hope Jean-Marc's eye gets better soon. Plan on trying your recipe today. I have a lot of zucchini right now.
Have a wonderful Fall.


How ever did Smokey get at that collar?? Glad he's on the mend!


Bill, Happy Anniversary! and have fun in Paris. Re Smokey: no, he has never shown any signs of remembering the incident.

Frenchee, Jean-Marc also caught the mistake: you are right, no "e".

Karen, I love the vegetable tian you mention. I think you'll love this creamy version. P.S.: thanks for remembering the harvests! This year feels much better, less whirlwind.

Stan: you won't have to worry about grams/ounces if you follow this simple guide: use one container of yogurt (any size, though a small one (6oz?) is good).

Next, just use that same container for the actual measure: first empty the yogurt into a bowl, then refill the container according to the 1-2-3 guide:

1 container full of vegetable oil
2 containers full of sugar
3 containers full of flour

Add three eggs (I usually add them to the bowl first, whip them with a fork, and then add the yogurt).

Finally, add the baking sode (in France they refer to the handy packets), but you can measure 1-2 teaspoonfuls.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. (re temperature Is it 350F?)

Libby, Smokey was re-operated on (after being attacked by two dogs when he was 2 months old) and the collar was put on last Friday, to protect the stitches.

Thank you, all, for these harvet cheers!


Whoops! Make that "harveSt" cheers :-)



How much can I pay you to trade your life for mine?

USD, please....


Bonne chances with those lists and the harvest. At least with the latter one can see and end in sight!!:) And as for Jacques, he looks so happy. Was the experiment "Jacques' Friends" via Facebook a success story then?? LOL
A bientôt


my joints would not be happy harvesting but maybe some year soon I will come help cook for the harvesters. bonne récolte!


Hope the harvest is quick, easy and abundant.
A bit of baking soda mixed with water to thick paste consistency will help with sting pain right after the sting happens. Let it dry over the site and then wash off.
I have a bumper crop of summer squash and was looking for recipes-est voila!


Roseann, Not for sale (so how about coming to visit? :-)

Angela, Jacques found this angel on his own, in Avignon. July marked their one year anniversary.

Martina, just the recipe we were looking for... thanks!

Gary, what's your chef's specialty? Heck, we'll eat anything!

Suzanne in Monroe Twp., NJ

Bonne Vendange, Kristin and Jean-Marc. We're looking forward to seeing you in a month's time. Smokey looks fabulous! I think it was very diplomatic of you to post a photo of JM's brother and not JM with his swollen guepe bite. The casserole sounds wonderful. We are making corncakes (Jersey corn)with caviar and frommage frais tonight. Ah, summer food!

Leslie in Massachusetts

Good luck, I'm sure you will do brilliantly. Plan for the things you can and do the rest "au pif"!


The best of luck with the harvest. I have a request, could your teach me to say: Savon de Marseille. Please!

Thank you

Fred Caswell

Bonne chance avec la vendage!

How I wish I would be there to help and, after leaving, you and JM could agree that it was great Fred came as he was fun and a big help.

I'll be there in spirit. Comme toujours...

Anne Maroon

"Merci mille fois" Kristin for responding (on 8/25) to my request for a re-introduction to you, your family and this wonderful French Word-A-Day site! I can't wait to have my students subscribe and begin to read, enjoy and learn from you (not only some French but some wonderful Life Lessons, as well :)


Linda Meier

Bon vendange!! Your list of chaos sounds just like mine as I try to sort and remember all the things I must do to leave behind our little farm for a month while we are in France. Yay!! Sounds like you are expecting many visitors over the next month. What a gracious host and hostess! Can't wait to kiss the noses of Braise and Smokey to ease the pain of missing our own animal kingdom.

Eileen deCamp

Good luck with the harvest! The recipe sounds yummy! Great photo of "Chief Grape" obviously before the guêpe got to him! Smokey looks ready to shed that Elizabethan collar!
I would love to help with the harvest one year!


Kristin, I cook lots of things. some examples: and and all photos from Provence!

Jennifer in OR

Wish I had read of what to do with the potatoes and zucchini from my garden a few days ago...your recipe sounds yum. I just made a soup, which was good, but I'll try this la prochaine fois!

Linda Chandler

Ah, Smokey, ingenuity, determination, and skill- all admirable qualities. Just add teeth! I know you will be glad when the hated collar is gone. xxx Linda in AZ

Candy in SW KS

Your post made me think about the "pensieve" in Dumbledor's office in the Harry Potter books. Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when we're finished with a thought/memory for the moment, we could clear our heads by simply removing them to the pensieve? And then be able to retrieve them as needed. T'would make life so much simpler when there's so much to be done(and so much going on in one's head!). I wish you well in your harvest. Keep giving us updates please (as most of us live vicariously through your posts!) and best of luck to Smokey and Jean-Marc as they heal. Bisous a tous!


Suzanne and Gary, the food sounds and looks delicious! Wish you two were here in the kitchen!

Ido, is this a trick question? :-) Here goes: sah vohn deuh mar say. Hope that's right...

Fred, you are always here in spirit!

Eileen, the photo is of my brother-in-law. No worries, even my brother-in-law (Jacques) thought it was Jean-Marc when he saw the photo! Jacques shaved off his beard and cut his hair, so you probably did not recognize him.

Candy, a pensieve is a clever invention! Jules would say to give it all to God. Lately, I listen to my Mom and it all works out.

Anne Gailhbaud

Do you know?
Professeur de français (à la retraite anticipée juste aujourd'hui car j'ai 4 grands enfants) je lis chaque jour votre blog, disons à l'envers: cela me permet d'acquérir du vocabulaire en anglais.
PZ: I live in Périgord where very many english peoples live. do you know this country?
Warm regards

Pat Cargill

Kristen, From my perch on the Living Life Vicariously through FWaD tree, it seems you are growing, evolving...coming into your own in certain ways. You exude more confidence and there is a sense of maturity in your words. I loved the reference to J-M's wasp sting, your inquiring about how he was feeling--I interpret that to convey not only the unpredictability of life (especially in the midst of the great activity of le vendage), but more importantly, that feelings (loving concern) are the mattermost in all the chaos of life. Being able to connect on that level will always separate the real from the "unreal of reality." My love and best wishes to la famille Espinasse at this Big Time of the Year! Tourjours,

p.s. Darling Smokey - you are just the ticket for hilarious diversion w/your nifty trick of eating your Elizabethan collar! You continue to amaze and amuse! Happy to hear your healing has gone well. That was quite the smile in the photo. Bisous! Also quel handsome men - les deux freres Espinasse! Cheers!

Robyn France

Anne--J'adore le Périgord et aussi ce blog de Kristin. Elle nous peint un tableau aimable de sa vie --toujours avec humeur. Elle est adorable. (aussi prof américaine à la retraite, mais qui voyage souvent en France).

Kristin--je vous souhaite un vendange extraordinaire--sans problèmes!


Bonjour Anne, Je suis si heureuse de savoir que vous lisiez ce blog "à l'envers"! J'éspère que ces mots peuvent plaire aux Francophones, comme vous. Re Périgord - malheureusement, je ne le connais pas encore!

Pat, your words always bring a smile!

Robyn and friends - your harvest wishes pump energy into this vie. Merci!


Note to Gary: Have just purused your Picasa foodie pics...mon Dieu! Beautiful, mouth-watering! You folks really know how to live. Lovely.

Pat Cargill

oops, somehow, I signed that last post as "y" -- anyways it's from Pat in Roanoke, VA.

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