Mealtime and How to say "I'm full" in French

veuve de la vendange

Winter Cabanon (c) Kristin Espinasse
I wrote the story "crush widow" two years ago. Were you reading then? (Photo of a modern cabanon with its carpet of white flowers taken in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. In wintertime, the old, leafless vines always look, to me, like upended chicken feet—as do all the pollarded trees.)

la veuve de la vendange (lah vuv deuh lah von danzh)

    : crush widow

Audio file: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words below: MP3 file or Wav file

On les appelle "les veuves de la vendange", ces femmes qui "perdent" leur mari chaque année en septembre, pendant le ramassage des raisins. We call them "crush widows", these women who "lose" their husbands each year, in September, during the grape harvest.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I learned a new term last fall, while guiding yet another enthusiastic and brave bénévole out to the vine fields to help my husband, Chief Grape, with the work load.

"Yeah," said Eugenia, sympathetically, as she speed-walked (wouldn't want to keep the Wine Chief waiting!) beside me in well-worn jeans and a grape-stained tee. "There is even a term for it!" 

It must have been in the way I looked: a little desperate? I hadn't meant to show any evidence of exasperation. After all, the harvest and its flurry were over... and yet we were still soliciting helping hands to tie up any harvest loose ends. 

"The harvest just keeps on going... and going... and going... At first it was two weeks, then four, then six. We began this vendange eight weeks ago!" I told our latest helper, as we hurried out to the field, buckets and sécateurs in hand. (I would soon leave Eugenia with Jean-Marc and another volunteer, Jeffrey, in time to dash back to the kitchen and stare into the fridge, wondering just what to throw together for an impromptu lunch for the assistants. I didn't dare serve last night's noodles: a collection of scraped-from-the-kids'-plates pasta... fit for a close-knit family, but nowhere near appropriate for our volunteers! 

Huffing and puffing our way out to the field farthest from the house, Eugenia disclosed to me the well-known term used in the wine industry. "They call women like you "crush widows".

Crush widows! It was one of those aha! moments. So I was not alone in this very lonely state, the grape harvest, when vintners disappear from their wives and from the home and can be found somewhere out in the field or in the "cave" for the remains of the day. 

But what Eugenia didn't tell me was that crush widows don't suddenly lose their status—and regain their lost love—after the grape crush. No! They wear their vine veils on into winter.... when their husbands are busy juggling the sales of their wine, the accounting, the bottling, the PR, and the pruning of their vines!
Pulling into the driveway last night I stopped in front of the cellar and lowered my window. I was lucky to find Jean-Marc outside and not lost to the depths of his cave

"Want to eat early tonight?" I had in mind a movie on T.V., one we could watch after an early meal... 
"I'll be at the vintners' meet-up. Remember?"
"Oh... that's right! (How I managed each time to forget...) Do you want us to wait for you for dinner?"
"I don't know when I'll be back..."
Voilà, une petite illustration of the term crush widow, which could well be a song by Ani DiFranco. I'd love to sing it now, with a feisty French accent!

This morning I woke up and checked the pan on the stove. His portion of rumsteak aux champignons was still waiting for him. I imagined Chief Grape had filled up on crackers, olives, and nuts during last night's vigneron meeting. This was all he needed to do! Join another Cercle de Vignerons!!!
Just then, my inner "Fairness Mediator" cleared her throat in time to remind me of the thousands of hours that I had given to starting up a website and filling it with stories. I remembered the day when Jean-Marc marched up to my computer and mumbled something about all my time being thrown into cyberspace... and for what benefit?!
I could be patient with Chief Grape. I could learn, as he eventually had to, to allow another's dream, and to do so encouragingly. And for what benefit? As Ani says, for the joy it brings.

To leave a comment, click here. If you like, let us know which city you are writing in from.

Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse (c) Sophie Roussel Bourreli 
He loves me. He loves those grapes. He loves me. He loves those grapes!

bénévole = volunteer
la vendange = harvest (read about a typical vendange, here!)
le sécateur = pruning shears 
la cave = wine cellar
le rumsteak = round or rump steak
le vigneron = wine maker 
aux champignons = with mushrooms
cercle de vignerons = wine society
What Smokey looking for? Click here to share a guess. (It's not snowing here in the south, near Bandol. Photo taken in Sainte Cécile, where it snowed a few years ago!).
When you shop at Amazon, entering the store via any of the links below, your purchases help to support this free word journal at no extra cost to you! Thanks for keeping this in mind, next time you shop online. Here are some on my picks:
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
The Widow Clicquot. Highly recommended! Both Jean-Marc and I loved this book, and took turned yanking it out of each other's hands during summer vacation. Click to see the reviews.
Kissing Bench
A cozy kissing bench for the garden. I'm looking for one of these in France, meantime, for US readers, you can get one at Amazon!

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.

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


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Warren C. Plauche'

Kris - We all try valiantly, but seldom succeed at living another's dream. Soldier on, my dear, you display enormous patience. Ain't love grand? Warren

Tim Averill

Dear Kristen,
In the years when my job as a debate coach had me gone almost every weekend of the school year, I had a T-shirt made for Lauren. The bold lettering read, "DEBATE WIDOW."

I see what you mean.


Is Smokey looking for China? That is what my mother always asked when the dog had his head deep in the snow.

Julie Farrar

Ah, I get to be one of the first responses finally since I'm reading in Dijon now. But I know what you meant at the end about allowing for another's dreams and passions. My husband is at the office 7 days a week. There was a window of time when I resented that schedule. But I understood it because I used to have the same job, the same passion. Now I'm going in a different direction and have more flexibility so I have taken it upon myself to become the entertainment manager for together time on a regular basis. It's good to be following a passion, but it's also good to get your head out of the hole and take a look around you.


I'm up early (for California time) with a headache, but what a joy to find your post! You are so right about allowing each other's dream, and the time it takes to realize that dream. But it does take patience for both spouses, and making sure we do have together time, as Julie said above. My husband and I are also learning that, as I think we've both felt widowed at times.

What an adorable picture of you and Jean-Marc. It's so obvious he loves you (and those grapes!) Oh, how I wish we could join your cruise. Our current financial picture doesn't allow it, but I will be with you in spirit!

And I think Smokey is saying, "Where is that bone? I know I buried it here before this snow!" :)

Pat Cargill

Love is grand and your writings allow your readers a window into the continuing evolution of a lovely and devoted couple.

But we must remember & offer a "Cheers!" to the most famous wine widow of all: Veuve Cliquot!

" In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established the original enterprise which in time became the house of Veuve Clicquot. His son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798 and died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. Under Madame Clicquot's guidance the firm focused entirely on the latter, to great success."

(Wikipedia, of course!)

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
This was great and I loved clicking back and reading "Espoir" from 2005! I love the photo of the cabanon too. It almost looks like a painting from one of the impressionists! Lovely!

Pat Cargill

p.s. ~
At the Veuve-Cliquot website, the following describes Yellow Label champagne:

"The strength of this golden-yellow wine is immediately pleasing to the nose while its complexity explodes on the palate. The initial notes of fruit are followed by more discreet aromas of brioche and vanilla when the wine is allowed to age in the bottle. Brut Carte Jaune offers a perfect balance of finesse and forcefulness."

Marriage, too, could fit into the "finesse and forcefulness" description. We have to forge on against resistance, or manifest forcefulness (intention) to be the writer or wine maker, but the sweetness and gentleness of finesse is as important. That dance between the two occurs everyday in a relationship, and, Kristen, you both know all about that and are doing it successfully!

Best to you and J-M for 2013 in all la famille Espinasse endeavors!

Kristin Espinasse

Warren, It are :-)

Tim, I always felt such an affinity to Lauren. Now I know why!

GB, when I read your china message, the first thought that came to my mind was all that hidden-under-the-field faience! Then I saw the capital c and realized what you were talking about. (Back to the plates, we uncovered several, in bits and pieces, when we lived on the vineyard).

Julie, I love how you tied in the picture of Smokey with the theme of todays story. Why didnt I think of that?

Karene, I hope you feel better soon!

anne wirth

Smokey is saying, "I know I buried a bone here. Where is it."

Alyssa Ross Eppich

Smokey est a la recherche de souris! Les chats ne sont pas les seuls a les chercher......

julie camp

1) Yes, Eileen, the photo at Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes does look painted. A stunning work of art.

2) Raisin Chef avec l'auteur-femme célèbre: M. et Mme (Jean-Marc et Kristin) Espinasse. Tourtereaux.

3) Hey, Braise, whatja find down there?

Christine Webb-Curtis

Every once in a while, I hear my sons talk about my having been missing while working on "work" or convening a meeting for some committee I had volunteered for. It takes one of those head knockers to remember the sacrifices our families make in the interest of furthering our dreams. I'm not sure I would do it any differently given the chance, but perhaps I would be able to acknowledge it as you have. And you know, given your readership, that your work is loved.

Chris from Carmichael

Martine Simmons

So comforting… I did not know "la veuve des vendanges," but I do know many widows of all passions. My husband and I often cross like ships in the night. Thank you.

Diane Young

Thanks for the reminder of Veuve Cliquot. It brought back memories of trips to the Loire Valley. Somehow all your pictures of places in France look so much better than the local scenery. It's going to be around 80 degrees F today here in Jacksonville, Fla, and I'm wishing we had a little more wintry atmosphere. Bare trees but no snow!
Keep on writing. We all look forward to the next blog.

Georgia Schall

Bonjour Kristin!

Might Smokey be looking for frozen grapes left behind under their frozen covering?

I have read Veuve Cliquot which I enjoyed very much learning about the beginnings of champagne, the history of the region and beyond and the interesting way in which a woman was at the head of this successful company. That book has prompted our trip to France next Sept. for my 70th birthday where we will visit the Champagne region. The river cruise sounds like a great time, but maybe another year since we will have just returned from France.

Alice Harra

Great post. As always. Alice, Chicago, Illinois.

Pat Cargill

...oops, Kristin, did not see your reference to the Veuve Cliquot book when I first posted! Look forward ro reading it. :)

(ex) chief grape

Love the story which,I have to admit, I had not read 2 years ago, most probably because I was busy golfing or partying =)
Thank you my lovely wife for having been so patient with me.

Judie Block

I am writing from Capitola,Ca. I recently discovered your website. Love it and am enjoying word of day. In 1985, I spent a week in St Cecille on a bike trip. Wonderful memories!


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post (and pictures!) that left me both smiling and admiring you for wearing yet another hat in addition to crush widow(!)-- 'partner in renovations"!!
Is there anything you that you canNOT do??
You give us inspiration and a good dose of what we sometimes need most: PATIENCE!!!!!!
(I admit to being very guilty of "Lord, give me patience, and give it to me RIGHT NOW!!!")
Love, Natalia XO

Jim Anderson

What happened to Newforest?

Leslie in Portland, Oregon

Maybe like Henry, our Golden, Smokey was burying his nose in snow just for the sheer joy of it! (Henry also lives in a place where snow comes rarely and even more rarely sticks on the ground.) Or, if this was Smokey's first experience with an accumulation of snow, he might have been checking to see if the ground was still there. In any case, Smokey is endlessly entertaining...such a wonderful dog!

Sandy Vann

Ode to patience and understanding and marital bliss! Mille merci's Kristin for another fabulous post and lovely reminder of the joy in supporting anothers dream whilst pursuing our own as well. Smokey seems to be saying if I just bury my head in this snow, surely I will find what I am looking for. Sometimes life feels like that it seems to me. A bit foggy, overwhelming and then voila, the prized clarity or nugget is discovered.
Bon weekend. We landed (at last) a cozy flat in Menton. Come visit!

dorothy  dufour

Another expression to add to my list: "meme
pas peur". I like it. I hope you had good news from the dermatologist.

Do they use "depayse" in France? And did I ask
you if they use "manger aux bouts des dents"
if they don't like a taste or texture?

Diane Scott

After 27 years of marriage and four children, I learned to accept my husband and I were mere ships passing in the night or, I should say, in our case, snoring side-by-side-through the night and passing during the day! Our moments to connect may come by simply taking a few moments to hold hands. (Then one of the kids usually vaults over the couch to turn on the TV!) BTW, Widow Cliquot's Champagne is a favorite of ours. Bought the book to add to the "leaning pile of books" on my bedside table! Hang in there!

Sara Theis

Smokey cherche un lapin. In the snow Smokey is loonng for a rabbit.

Sara T. San Jose, California U.S.A.


Is Smokey perhaps a "truffle" dog???
Molly LIncoln, NE, U.S.A.


what does it say about me that I knew today's word from drinking champagne? Laissez les bon temps roller! Thank you for your insights into relationships and patience and allowing our family live their lives, their way. It is not always easy.

Mary Lou Johnston

Hi, Kristin:

I am not sure this will reach you as I am new at sending you messages, though I am an “old” reader and admirer of your work. I am also a friend of Linda Cane, who visited you last summer, and told me all about your prvious home. I think that your photo of your former vineyard has a very Van Gogh quality -- not a bad attribute.

I can appreciate your being a “veuve de la vendange” and that you must let your partner follow his passion. For several years, I was a “veuve d’art.” My husband is an artist/painter. For many years, he would come to Europe for exhibitions, sometimes staying away as long as three months, while I stayed home with the two kids. During one of his trips, I went to a party and met a woman whose husband was in South Africa for a month. “Oh, that is a long time to be alone,” I commented, just making conversation. “Oh, that’s nothing,” she said in a low voice. “I heard about a woman in town who is married to an artist. He goes abroad to have art exhibitions for several months every other year and she is alone with their two children and her job.” I changed the subject quickly.


Mary Lou Johnston, Montclair, NJ

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