Illegal Alien, Moi? Sans papiers? Carte de sejour & Lettre de motivation + Ratatouilasse recipe (ratatouille + hamburger)
Vendange + Hostile? (Please don't sign off after reading this!)

Glaçon: A Wife's Revenge + Ratatouillaisse recipe


Just discovered another photo of Jean-Marc and his side-kick Mr. Sacks, in Italy. Don't miss the collection of Mr Sacks photos!

JEAN-MARC IN WINE SPECTATOR - Please read about Jean-Marc in this week's online edition of Wine Spectator! The story is called Parched in Provence.


TODAY'S WORD: le glaçon

    : ice cube

French definition of ice cubes from Wikipedia:

Les glaçons domestiques se réalisent en plaçant un bac à glaçons dans un congélateur. Sous l’action du froid, l'eau du bac (de préférence de l'eau chaude selon l'effet Mpemba) gèle dans le bac, puis il suffit de démouler les glaçons.

Domestic ice cubes are made by placing an ice tray in the freezer. Activated by the cold, the water in the tray (preferably from hot water according to the Mpemba effect ) freezes in the tray, then simply remove the ice from the mold.


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

The other night, I crawled into bed with a tall glass of freezing cold water. I had forgotten just how much I love ice cubes! And then a heatwave hit France - sending me back to the nostalgic past. Sitting in front of a cheap fan (air conditioning is as rare as ice cubes here), looking out the window at the parched countryside,  glimmers from my Southwest American childhood come back, reminding me of how we managed to keep cool in the Valley of the Sun.

ICE CUBES- Everyone used them in their cups, adding sun-brewed tea or pop from the fridge. You either bought your bag of ice cubes at the store, or your refrigerator door magically produced them (as at my friend Vanessa's house). Some people made their own ice cubes, bien sûr.

NO ICE CUBES IN FRANCE-is an exaggerated statement, but not that far from the truth. If you have been to France, you know exactly what I mean. Restaurants serve one (maybe two?) ice cubes when you order a soft drink. But forget about ice in your water!

Indeed, forgetting about ice became my coping mechanism when I moved from Arizona to France. So much so that now, 23 years later, it just wouldn't even occur to me to offer you an ice cube in your drink. My unconscious reasoning? The ice tea has already been chilled... in the frigo!

Press me and I might offer another explanation: Have you seen our ice cube trays in France? I've tried the plastic sack molds, only to watch a piece of blue plastic break off with each individual cube. I've used the built-in trays (in a new freezer we once had) but the "tray-flip" mechanism never worked...and was broken when it was banged on the counter in frustration. And I've attempted the "flexible" molds (you bend them inside out and still the tiny ice cubes cling on for dear life!!). All such effort produces a few broken cubes (the rest end up on the floor) and several frozen fingers. Might as well stick those in your cup!

But when the temperatures hit triple digits last month, I was desperate to cool down and so resorted to using those crappy flexible molds to make a small cachette of cubes (hey, each for his own. If you want ice cubes around here--make them yourself. Suffer icy fingerburn!).

Then, last week, Jean-Marc took my precious, Rare Ice Cube Collection and dumped it into a bucket to chill a bottle of his rosé! Hell hath no fury that describes the degenerative effect this had on me. (Because we had a guest at the time, I could not dump the icy bucket over my husband's head and pour his rosé into the Mediterranean!

The next day, I decided to see what French store-bought ice cubes are like--and they're huge! That evening, I carefully chose four--enough to fill a small canteen. I took the accoustic, stainless steel canteen to bed with me (see opening paragraph) and, each time Jean-Marc nodded off to sleep, I jiggled my drink, smiling when a percussion of cubes sounded off in sweet revenge.

Done with my evening reading (and drinking), I shut off the lights. No matter how many times I read my well-worn prayer book, I'm still just a little devil. 

                                   *    *    *

Smokey-our father
Smokey's prayer: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Rainbow Bridge come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Dog Heaven...


Another picture from my Instagram, titled "Generous Neighbors". Now read on for what to do with summer vegetables...


My friend and artist Yvon Kergal posted his delicious Provençal recipe. I made it an my family loved it. Now see Ann Mah's post for the hit recipe in English .

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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Trick for getting ice cubes out of a twisty tray:

1) Make sure the inside of your arm is clean (left arm if right-handed, right arm if left-handed)

2) Place the open face of the tray against the inside of your arm with one end sticking out near your hand.

3) Using your arm and hand against the face of the tray to keep the cracked cubes from falling out, twist the end of the tray with your free hand.

You will usually be successful freeing cubes nearest the "blocking" hand, but sometimes you get lucky and the entire tray of cubes comes loose. If you get only a few out of one end, flip the tray lengthwise (putting the empty cells near your elbow) and try again.

Your arm may get a bit chilled, but you'll keep the freed cubes from falling on the floor!


Kristin -

We had a Brit friend who told us when she was young and tended bar in the UK that they'd bring out a small bucket of ice, set it at the end of the bar each night. And each night the ice cubes would simply melt away, unused.

Flash forward. We were in Austria during the recent heat wave (mid-90sF) and rented an apartment. It had one odd plastic sack with cubes in it, that didn't appear to be refillable -- and searching through Viennese home stores led us to believe that ice cube trays are as rare as hen's teeth!

I understand the concept that "it rarely gets that hot here," but I'm not certain that is still true. Whether it's global warming or not, I think it may be time for Europeans to rethink their ice cube loathing!


Kim Ross

This is such an interesting post. I wouldn't have imagined that there would be an Wiki entry about ice cubes, but it seems that there is a Wiki entry about everything. If you look at the Wiki in English, it first gives you information about an American Rapper whose stage name is Ice Cube and then you must link to find your ice cubes (or glaçon.) This, it seems to me, says a lot about American culture. First, Wiki English thinks of "Ice Cube" the Rapper and only secondarily, the lowly ice cube. We take the "ice cube" for granted in our American culture so much that we don't think of it first off when we talk about an "ice cube". Interesting! Thank you for your thought-inspiring post.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I remember the first time I ordered a Coke at a restaurant in Germany and I received a small glass with no ice. It was cool but not cold. Not like our huge super sized drinks here in restaurants! :-)

We made our own ice cubes when we lived in Europe with the old, blue plastic ice cube trays that we brought with us in our household goods. They worked great and the ice popped right out. The trick was twisting the tray slightly.

I made the ratatouillaisse last night and my husband and daughter loved it. My daughter is vegan, so I made her portion in a separate pan. Yummy!

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

Two items...first, how is Smokey doing? Second, I sometimes freeze water in a small milk container and add some edible flowers. Remove the paper or plastic container by immersing in warm water after ice block formed inside. Voila! A beautiful ice Column for placement in a pitcher, or in a bowl of items to keep cold, like wine wine bottles. No messing around with cubes and trays.

Kate Dickerson

Hi Kristin -

What a great article in the Wine Spectator! It shows outsiders the hard work, dedication and love that really go into producing wine.

I also love Jean-Marc's statement, "You have to find a good balance between letting them struggle to put down roots and helping them out." It applies to my children right now!

Here's hoping for rain for you guys...

Mim (Richmond, VA)

This post reminds me of our first family stay in Paris in 1986, when the kids were young and the space was small. The frigo was the size of a small microwave oven, with room for a teeny tiny ice cube tray that made teeny tiny ice cubes, but the frigo wasn't cold enough. A neighbor, also, from the USA, brought us a bowl of tiny ice cubes one hot afternoon as a gift for the kids. What a treat! We were so appreciative.

Jeanne Asakura

Just read the excellent article in WS. I so sympathize/empathize with you on the weather challenges. I live in FL but found last week's weather in PACA unbelievably intense. Please keep us posted about how those baby vines are doing. Sure hope the weather breaks soon!


Love this post. It really hit home with me. For years, I was making ice cubes using a flexible canele 2 on sheet pan, carefully fill, more carefully walk across the kitchen without spilling, place in chest freezer....whoops a was a nightmare. And always 8 Americans waiting for MORE ice for their cocktails!! The problem was that we had a commercial ice maker in the garage (needed repair). I looked at that thing for 3 years and then literally had a melt down (no pun intended) about having it repaired. Xavier kept saying soon....well, soon came, and it has been heaven ever since. The French move slowly....


Kristen- I'm thinking that of all the American things that have slithered into French (European) culture I'm rather surprised that ice cubes are something that has not. I wonder why. Is it because French freezers are too small to accommodate ice cube trays? Might there be another reason? I can't think of one.
I can send to you some American plastic ice cube trays. I'm sure that shipping 2 little lightweight items wouldn't break the bank. Just say the word.



Yes, this is a fun discussion!

I'm starting to wonder if the lack of ice cubes is a side effect of the lack of AC? If you put ice cubes in a drink in the US, chances are you are in air conditioned comfort and the cubes keep you drink cold, but they don't melt rapidly. The same cannot be said across Europe, where your home or restaurant probably isn't air conditioned and the ice cubes just melt and water down your drink of choice.

Speaking of which. What if I want my drink "on the rocks?" :-)



102 here yesterday and today - before you add in the humidity so ice cubes are definitely on our minds. Thank good ness for AC and thank you for reminding me how when I was young we used all your listed methods for getting ice cubes. So spoiled now with ice in the door magic. but we love it.

Thank you for the Golden family picture - it is one of my favorites of your dogs. Was at the vets yesterday - a Braise cousin was there - thought about you and family - hugs.

Cheryl in STL

I'm in Paris right now and I know it's hotter in Provence....but I'd give almost anything for a glass filled with ice cubes!

Sue Lennox

I haven't tried these but I like the idea:


I was perfectly fine without ice cubes until the heat skyrocketed. I bought a plastic tray but the tiny freezer didn't work fast enough for my needs. So I found an Intermarche close by that sells bags of ice. Had to transfer it to small baggies to fit in freezer but it worked. 😃

Marcia A Fyfe

Hi Kristen,

As you know we live on our boat in the Caribbean and ice used to be a problem for us, too until we discovered if we cut off a plastic 600ml water bottle and fill it to the top of the label with water, set into in the freezer and let it freeze. Then we just turn it upside over a container and hit the outside with a small hammer which breaks the ice into cube size pieces. Voila!
Thanks for the delightful glimpses into your life in France.
Marcia & Jack on s/v Rights of Man in St. Lucia

edie schmidt


I remember the lack of ice cubes in France. Sounds like you've had a hot summer kind of like our summers in the American South. Our son and his wife were visiting her family earlier this summer in St. Etienne, France and they remarked on the heat there. Here we are spoiled with both ice cubes and air conditioning which turns us into lazy home bodies.
Enjoyed the article on your husband and yourvines and am praying for good weather pour vous!

Edie from Savannah

Debra Amrein-Boyes

Having lived in Europe for many years, I know from the European perspective, that the idea that drinking ice cold drinks is bad for the kidneys is very widely held. All that cold hitting your inner organs is deemed unhealthy. Additionally, power, as in electricity, is more at a premium than in North America where we are used to excess. In Switzerland where I lived, the national power grid is shut off to washing machines over lunch-time, when most families would be cooking their main meal of the day, because, in the de-centralized industrial model, most workers live close enough to go home for lunch. (clothes driers, which use an enormous amount of power are very scarce in households-everyone hangs their laundry to dry, and indeed does not wash clothing after one use as our teenagers here are wont to do :). In addition, there is less need for the huge refrigerators that North American find indispensable, as the larger population living in closer quarters means shopping can be done daily, so food is always market fresh, and not stored up at home.

Audrey Wilson

Hi! Kristin
We suffered the same problems as you, but eventually found some plastic covered cubes ,which are re-usable ,of course . I've posted a message to you on FaceBook with a photo of them. Ice is absolutely essential in this heat,especially for the G&Ts !

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Interesting you manage to have us all contemplating ice :) A nice subject to think about in a heatwave (or the long hot summer some of us live in or, as I do, struggle to endure). I have heard that putting heated items in the frig or freezer (as the Mpemba effect suggests) makes the appliance work harder. Also that one should not drink water run hot from old pipes, but always run cool. Apparently, the heat increases sediment or toxic chemical releases. I am not the expert to know for sure, so just avoid doing so.

I still have one old fashioned metal tray where you wiggle a toggle on top that moves the dividers and separates the cubes. For the flexible plastics trays, I've found turning the tray over and running water over the bottom of the tray, before right siding and twisting it, helps release the cubes. I usually do this over the sink since sometimes a cube will pop out early, or over a bowl if I want to collect the cubes. Once loosened, they don't seem to stick so tightly again when returned to the freezer.

As always, loved the photo.

Randy Komisarek

Kristin. Great post. After more than 5 years here we've acclimated to sans glace. Restaurants almost always serve ice cold water robinet (tap) which is very refreshing. On our boat we keep rotating glass sealable bottles from the freezer to the frigo so glace isn't really necessary. Pretty hot here in Roanne France, though and steel boats are a little like ovens. Stay cool.

Julie Farrar

In Dijon, many restaurants will put ice cubes in the glass if I order a soda. However, it is always only two tiny ones. I have to admit that one of the first things I bought for our apartment was a couple of those ice trays that make tiny cubes. My husband walks home from the university and is usually there in summer months, so he definitely wants something cold when he gets home. We've adjusted to not having AC (although with climate change we might have to rethink it). But the ice cubes are a little piece of home.

Bon chance to JM and his baby vines.

Linda D.

How to stay cooler in hot dry weather:

Well, you've already covered staying hydrated and several great ways to make ice cubes. Here are two other tips for staying cool. The first comes courtesy of one of my favorite movies - The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn Monroe's character used to keep her undies in the freezer. As long as I've only left them long enough to get cold and not board stiff, it's fabulous!
And this second hint comes from a Southwest science geek friend. It only works in DRY heat, but it helps to lower room temperature by as much as 15 degrees. Soak the bottom of a white sheet in a window box planter (we have molded plastic ones here). Leave the bottom of the sheet in a couple of inches of water at the bottom. Hang the sheet in a doorway and the wicking action of the cotton combined with a slight natural breeze (or a little help from a floor fan) cools the air by releasing moisture. This will NOT work in humid heat as the air will already be saturated.
Stay cool, friend!


Our dearest Kristi,
Your wonderful post and pictures today(not to mention that heavenly recipe!Yum!) had me both smiling and remembering how much we missed ice cubes and AC at my belle mere and belle pere's place.Living here in the West,we had taken both for granted until then!
So hope you get relief from the heat soon.
We are also in the midst of heat wave and drought,and
now(as before) will really appreciate water and cooler temperatures when(and if) they arrive again.
Just emailed you a lovely thought about the Rainbow bridge.
Blessings and prayers for all of you.
Natalia. xo


Don't tell Jean-Marc, but I even have to put ice cubes in my wine! I am a water and cold-drink addict! No amount of refrigeration makes my drinks cold enough! But, for France, I suffer through! :-) And, often, the nice waiters/waitresses are kind and bring me a bowl of ice - heaven! I'm visiting my daughter in MS and the heat index, with humidity, has put our temps at 110-115 for days on end. I think I might pass out! It's cooled down a bit today and is only 90' ("feels like" 99')! I love the picture of Breizh and Smokey and hoping Smokey and all of you are taking care! I'll pray for rain for your vines! My hat off to J-M and all his amazing efforts - but, don't let him steal the cubes (I like those reader ideas of freezing water in containers that can be used in the drink bucket to chill other bottles- or bop J-M over the head when he steals your hard-earned cubes!!).

catharine ewart-touzot

After my years in Europe and Africa I almost never (while back in the states) put ice in my cold drinks, they are almost annoying. I would have thought that there would now be ice cube trays to be had in France, or with the introduction of "American" refrigerators, even machines dispensing cubes..but maybe not. Why don't you ask your sister to send some?, maybe because, except on really hot days it is not even a thought? After 23 years I would think that your beloved husband would understand the importance of them to you and never dare to fill an ice bucket with them...but the rose did need to be chilled and that is a business. I have to agree trays are. even the best to be had in the states, most annoying and for me at least not that necessary but for my children they were ready to buy a new refrigerator because their machine stopped making ice on the hottest days of the year. How different we all are.

Karen Cafarella

Even though it is so hot here in Phoenix in the summer, I don't use ice cubes. I find the drinks at the house are cold enough for me.

But, when I go to a restaurant I have to ask to only half fill the glass because then there is too many ice cubes and not enough drink.

Hope you are getting cooler weather and those baby vines are doing well.

Give a big Hug to Smokey from me!


Jan in Colorado

Europeans don't think drinking ice cold drinks is good for you. I remember when a German coworker was served beer in an iced mug, you would have thought someone tried to kill him! Once when we were visiting in Scotland, my husband bought our host several ice cube trays as a house gift and not-so-gentle hint.

Faye, Gleneden Beach, Oregon

Hi Kristin, Great post. We moved to England in the 70's and stayed for 5 years. When we ordered a drink we always asked for ice. We always got a strange look. We even tried to order ketchup -- got the same look. Then we moved to Germany in the 80's , stayed for 4 years and it was the same thing with the ice cubes! We were prepared and brought over ice cube trays. But with the fabulous German food, we didn't worry about the lack of ketchup! We also tried to serve our German landlord a cold beer. What a reaction --- he thought we were nutty to serve beer cold.

Stay well. I hope Smokey is doing well!


Ice cubes: the new cultural divide!
Europeans: no ice.
I've lived in Australia (very hot summers) for 43 of my 63 years on this earth and will never get used to ice cubes! Don't they give anyone else a headache?
When out I must specify only 2 or 3 cubes please.
At home I use frozen quarters of lime or lemons in my G&T. Cannot stand the thought of a good drink getting watered down. :)
Spellcheck: hoard ice cubes.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

My father loved ice cubes so our refrigerator/freezer had an ice maker, so long ago, and they were not cubes but half moon shapes. That difference made us popular in the neighborhood -- little kids are easy to impress. Now I use the plastic trays for cubes, and agree that running water over the back of the tray makes removing them quite easy, with a twist on tray, and something below to catch the ice cubes.

A twist of fresh lemon in water poured over ice cubes, that is so good! I hope you get through your heat wave, and so do the vines.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

A 2nd thought -- doctors here often prescribe a bag of ice to treat injuries, and my bag of ice is filled with ice cubes from my freezer. The ice improves circulation, helping the body heal itself, and in my case at least, getting the painful part cold distracts me from the pain, as does all the hustle of making ice bags, having towels to catch any water, and keeping the ice on just long enough. Never would have gotten through removal of 4 wisdom teeth at once without ice in bags.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jacqueline, for the helpful edits, and I love your frozen lemon pieces idea! Jean-Marc sometimes freezes grapes and uses them as ice cubes.

Thanks to everyone who responded to this ice cube post. It is fun to see the discussion and to read about your experiences. Audrey and Sue, yes, we have tried the plastic cubes but they end up scattered around the freezer (and then I dont want them in my drink!)

Roseann, thank you for the offer to send some ice cube trays, but I think I will stick to store-bought, or use what we have!

Nancy--and all who have asked about Smokey--Thank you! He is doing very well, thanks!

Paula Cameron

I was surprised to learn the college year that I was in France (1982-83) that ice was a scarce item. I learned to drink sodas without ice, just as I learned to cross my 7s and zeds, all habits that I kept from that year, along with my fondness for almost all things French. However, I do enjoy air conditioning! Especially on a hot day like today -- 90+ degrees -- in Pasadena, CA.

Cynthia P. Lewis

Thanks for posting the site for Ann Mah's recipe which I definitely plan to make while the summer veggies are so available ... even from my small garden.

I believe you are a little bit devilish! I have to chuckle when I picture you in bed with your "acoustic canteen" filled with the large ice cubes which made a nice "sweet revenge" sound when you gave it a shake.

So glad to know that Smokey is doing well ... and all of his family, too, I hope. Bon Week-end.


I loved your ice cube story. Not everyone can write about ice cubes with that much flair. You don't add them to Chardonnay, do you?

I guess I have a thing or two to learn about wine. I'm leaving Taos, New Mexico tomorrow at the behest of my renter, who says I must drive your way during my trip through France to learn about wine. And other stuff. And so I shall!


Thanks for pointing me to the recipe--I've made and loved it!!

Barbara Hylton

I am commenting on David's vitriologic rant and your response. I say - you go girl! Believe me when I say his rant says more about him than anything. Something internal is going on here. Best wishes to you and your family, whom, to my way of seeing things, is adored by you.

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