"Unfit mother" in French + A Celebration
Baguette? How I Come up With the Word of the Day

French strikes--and Lunch at Chateau de Pibarnon with Eric De Saint Victor!

Doing much much better around here. Many thanks for the warmth, understanding and support you have sent. Picture of Jean-Marc and me taken two days ago, at Chateau de Pibarnon. Photos by Phyllis Adatto.

Today's French Phrase: HISSY FIT

    : un caprice

ECOUTEZ: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or  Wav

Caprice. Phyllis a fait un caprice afin que Tim accepte de venir dans le sud malgré les grèves et les pénuries de carburant.
Hissy Fit. Phyllis threw a hissy fit so that Tim would agree to come south inspite of the strikes and fuel shortages.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Some things are more charming--more fiesty, colorful and evocative--in English. One example is this peppery string of words:  TO HAVE A HISSY FIT. Hearing the long-forgotten phrase flooded me with nostalgia and joie de vivre--and "joy of life" would effectively describe the woman who recently uttered those words.

Phyllis, one mighty half of our Texas importers (Tim, her husband being the other half), was telling the story of being stuck in traffic during the current strike which has France at a stand still. Most of the gas stations are dried up after angry workers blocked the gas depots and what pumps are open are hidden behind a line-up of cars queuing for blocks to fill 'er up!

Tim, who was to drive them from the Luberon to the coast of Bandol, was doubtful about attempting the 2-hour trip. But a dwindling gas tank and throngs of disgruntled motorists would not keep Phyllis from going ahead with plans--and meeting Jean-Marc and me for lunch at Château de Pibarnon!!! (And if Phyllis didn't throw that hissy fit, I might have -- firing up the phone in time to faire mon propre caprice! Tim and Phyllis - get your butts down here. Tout de suite!

"Un caprice"--now that's the suave French counterpart to our arm-flapping, messy-haired "hissy fit". Don't you love language? I leave you some photos from our recent feast. Many thanks to the owner of Château de Pibarnon, Eric De Saint Victor, who exudes French elegance and class--and whose down-to-earth presence means he's as comfortable serving home-made deep fried beignets as he is pouring his award-winning reds rosés. 


Before we begin, let's set the scene with these words borrowed from the Chateau de Pibarnon's website:

Overlooking the Mediterranean and grown on undulating hills where olive trees, cypresses, figs, pink laurels, pines and oaks grow, the Pibarnon vineyard truly dazzles the eyes - a bit of paradise in Provence, situated on the highest slopes of the soil of Bandol. The wonderment begins as you start up the small, winding road from the village of Cadière d'Azur to Château de Pibarnon. The road climbs up through the vines and pine trees of Alep, offering unforgettable glimpses of Ciotat bay and Bec de l'Aigle. Then, round a sharp bend, the Pibarnon estate reveals all its charm. On the hill where the optical telegraph linking Toulon to Paris used to be, stands the Pibarnon farmhouse, a perfect replica of an 18th century Provençal farmhouse. Above the farmhouse are serried ranks of vines up to a height of 300 metres and a series of corries facing the peaks of Le Castellet to the north and the resolutely blue sea to the south. From the cellar's terrace, the view is worthy of the Theatre of Epidaurus. Remodelled by hefty bulldozers, the semi-circular vineyard looks like a mighty Greek amphitheatre overlooking Cap Sicié and the Mediterranean. The vines, planted on restanques, centuries-old terraces hand-built by generations of "wall-builders”, resemble hanging gardens suspended on those steep slopes.

Eric De Saint Victor tasting his renowned wines with Jean-Marc, Phyllis and Tim.

The tasty meal began on the front terrace facing the sea. Eric fried these fleurs de courgettes (zucchini flowers) after dipping them in batter. The secret for their crispness was to flatten them in the pan of olive oil (and not stuff with cheese). Then sprinkle gros sel (fat salt) on top. Exquisite. Delicious! Recipe in French HERE. (When I make them at home, I'll translate it into English) Notice how Eric left part of the stems on for a beautiful presentation!

We then moved inside, to Eric's family dining room, where he served us each dish--beginning with this starter: fresh buffalo mozzarella and the tastiest tomatoes I have ever eaten. We passed around the house olive oil and drenched our plates in Bandol terroir and goodness!

Next, right at the head of the table and on a rustic cutting board, Eric carved a trussed lamb roast. "The 'selle" is the best part," Eric said, pointing to his back to describe where on the lamb the "selle" was located.

The selle d'agneau was accompanied by two in-season side-dishes: the first, a par-boiled medley of fresh fava beans, spring potatoes, zucchini and lardons (little bits of bacon). The second, earthy girolles or chanterelle mushrooms, lightly stir-fried in butter--salt, pepper and garden parsley added at the end. We also enjoyed the halved garlic roasted beside the lamb!

Eric and Jean-Marc during an after-lunch stroll through the winery.

Strawberries were served with creamy chantilly. This wasn't the typical whipped cream, but more of a thick sweet soup. Delicious! Only, the dessert was not to be! I watched as Eric poured from a vintage bottle of Pibarnon -- soaking the fraises in wine!

I have not been faced with this dilemma in the years since I stopped drinking. I was not going to erase 13 years of sobriety in the name of strawberries and politesse! I'm not that embarrassable! What would Dear Abby say? Where was the book of etiquette for this delicate situation?

And then...a stroke of bonne chance when Eric lit up a cigarette and went for a quick pre-dessert smoke on the terrace. When his helper, Patricia, knocked on the dining room door, once again, and entered, I flagged her down and pleaded. Next, I watched as Patricia served up a generous bowl of strawberries just for me, and high-tailed it to the kitchen to rinse the wine off of them--making it back before the famous winemaker ever knew the difference!

Ouf! Some people have to worry about which fork goes with which plate. For others it's a very different story. Thank you for reading mine, and I look forward to sharing many more in the coming years. 



Enjoying sparkling water and plenty of olive oil! I wanted to show you the wonderful glass bottle, or "cruet", Eric uses to pour his oil. I have been searching for one for our home and have found something similar, in this glass porron pitcher or cruet.

Special thanks for Phyllis and Tim for the photos. For more pictures--including lunch the next day, here at our place!--visit my Instagram.


Have you read Blossoming in Provence? You will learn so many French words and phrases, tucked inside these thoughtful stories of our French life. It makes a great gift and you can easily order it.

"Always a new French word and related phrases; always a reminder about the value of good living."--Jan Marquardt

"Francophile? Want to live, laugh & love in Provence? This book is for you" --Robin Little

"Quietly moving" --Nancy Paul
Chateau de Pibarnon countryside
Read another post about Château de Pibarnon, learn about Pi-Bar Ephémère, and see what Eric cooked up this time.

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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Kate Dickerson

Looks like the perfect French day to me! I can't wait to see what you served up at your house the next day!!

John Hawke

Best Wishes from the Camino


Glad the sun is shining a little brighter for you both! Looks like you had a lovely day at the Pibaron vineyard, and managed a trompe d'œil avec les fraises. 😊

Aussie Leonie

Congrats on saying no to wine. My friend once told me 'you are strongest in your weakest moments ' those words come to me often. Lovely to see you both looking happy. We have a wonderful organisation in Victoria called Beyond Blue. It was started by our ex Premier of the state whose son had so many friends inflicted with the illness of depression. Many TV stars, footballers etc are now coming out & telling there stories. There is a Help Line and it has proved invaluable to so many people. My daughter inlaw suffered severe depression after their baby boy was born and she was able to go to a psychiatric hospital where she could have treatment & have her baby son with her. It was very very good and she is now
a happy mum to a delightful 2 year Mitchell.
All the best for your future happiness

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

French lunches -- deliciously long and full of laughter and chat about the food and wine -- are certainly a favorite way to spend the afternoon. When I first came to France I was amazed at how much meal-time conversation was dedicated to food and wine, and now I simply cannot imagine it any other way!


Hooray for Peggy! We Southerners do know how to throw a hissy fit and I've certainly thrown my share! In fact, it seems that the older I get the less tolerant I am of nonsense - sort of like Evelyn in the scene from "Fried Green Tomatoes" when she crashes her car in to the car of the girls who stole her parking place and says "Face it girls, I'm older and have more insurance".
So glad you two are experiencing better days now. I've thought of you so often and hope your days get brighter and brighter.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristi,

Ce un repas élégant et gracieux hôte!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristi,

Ce un repas élégant et gracieux hôte!

Betty Jacob

I caught two typo's. Driving south "inspire" of the strike and the thong of angry motorist. The second could turn the hissy fit into a belly laugh or I fit of giggles. The idea of the long lunch while looking out at the sea sounded lovely. Betty

Ally Davis

I have only one word to say about that amazing looking meal -MIAM!!


Ah, the French and their liqueurs. A sunny hot day in an outdoor cafe. My husband ordered a banana split; I patiently, but with great anticipation, demurred until he had his fill. One big spoonful and I realized it was saturated in liqueur. What a disappointment. But as you say, it isn't worth it for all we've gained. Thank you for a great post.

Jim Anderson

Please be more careful with grammar: "...to meet Jean-Marc and I for lunch" should be "...and me".

"Tim - get your butts down here." How many butts does Tim have?

Betty Jacob caught two errors, but misspelled "typos".


Oh! What a beautiful day you enjoyed. I hope the sun continues to shine for all of you.


What a wonderful day. The food looks divine! I'm glad you were able to get some non-wine drenched berries. I have severe food allergies which often cause embarrassing situations. When I was younger, I once at a salmon and egg pie, with my epipen at the ready, as I could not risk insulting my host. Now I speak up, but it can be quite stressful.

Julie Farrar

Rain here again in St. Louis, so I'm happy to see all the sunshine where you are. The house we just moved into has an actual strawberry patch. So far we have been blessed with only two fresh ones. I'll have to learn how to tend the patch.

"Un caprice" sounds much more delightful than "hissy fit." But if my summer in France is curtailed by transport strikes and gas shortages and other strikes I will for once be very American in that country and have my own hissy fit.


....Wonderful experience... 'rinse' , not rince. Just a heads-up..... bon weekend. Judi, Tallahassee, Fl.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Judi! Really appreciate these edits.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

I think in this case butts was told to Tim, but referring to the butts of Phyllis and Tim perhaps?

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Lovely photos all! Your joie de vivre shows!

Since you appreciate the tips:
Lets should be let's ... for let us
I think perhaps you meant "when I make them" not "one."


I just say my doctor told me it was dangerous to mix any amount of alcohol with the medications I am on. Which is actually true, but also I just don't care for wine. Before that I used to apologize and say I don't tolerate wine well and I inherited it from my mother: We used to tease her that if we waved the cork under her nose she would pass out--also true, even a sip affects both of us very quickly.

Vince Patrucco

I'm about to face the same dilemma as you did with the strawberries, Kristi, I'm traveling to Alessandria, Italy to spend time with family there. We've never met, but we've been in touch for many years. My view is the same as yours. I won't sacrifice 23 years of sobriety for the sake of "fitting in". My plan is to tell them that I don't take wine, but I'm very fond of great Italian food!

I'm happy for you that you and Jean-Marc are through the rough patch, and on to happier times.

Kristin Espinasse

Good ideas. I sometimes have to remind myself that we do not owe any explanations. But this is difficult as times.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Trina. I really appreciate edits, so many thanks for yours! All fixed now. 

Kristin Espinasse

Enjoy your time with family in Italy, Vince. It will all go well. Sometimes Europeans are very insistent (innocently so).  Just one sip of champagne!, theyll say, pushing a glass at you. But it is not a problem to push it right back with a simple, No, thank you! Bon courage! And congratulation on 23 years!


I'm so very glad to read this story about your travels, meals and companionship with good friends and with you and Jean-Marc especially! So many thoughts & prayers have come your way. Loved the squash blossoms and I've only eaten them with cheese and never thought to serve it any other way. Sans chevre is much less fattening so thank you for that. May your days continue to be filled with food, fun and laughter! Hugs from afar, xo me


I totally get it, especially when people have gone through a lot of trouble to prepare something special, and I feel bad too. But I find they're a little more accepting, less disappointed, if they know it will affect your health.

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

You could just say you are unable to have alcohol at this time ... that might give them something to think about ... they might think you and JM were expecting another child late in life :) Just looking for some humor :)

Kristin Espinasse


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Betty!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for the first correction. As for butts, if I said to Tim, Get your butts down here!, he would know I was referring to his and Phylliss butts. (Any apostrophes missing in this comment are the fault of my blog software, which doesnt permit them when I cement via email. )


I did not know about the gas strike. I remember when I arrived in Marseille, many years ago, to take a photography course and there was a camion strike and it was my first time driving in France. As we left the airport I had to drive over curbs and such to get around the trucks. Great intro to Provence.
The vineyard has such a great description that I want to visit it and your meal looks sumptuous. I like how you handled the strawberries. Well done. You and JM look good and hopefully he has defeated the gloom.


edie schmidt


Lovely photos and a lovely lunch.
Glad things are better on the home front.
Thanks for sharing,

Edie from Savannah


Un fait, je prefer un caprice....but i have wondered recently what is the difference between "a fit" and a "hissy fit" ? Is a "hissy" more dramatic? Just fun to ponder! Beaucoup bis á tous


So glad you got to spend time with Tim and Phyllis!!!


I was thinking, you have a perfect laugh-it-off/sell-it-with-sincerity/this-is-not-a-one-time-thing response: "Can you imagine how ironic my life is--I'm married to a vintner and can't (don't) even drink his wines!"


Sorry, I just had to. Ha! We all make them, that's for sure!


Wouldn't there still be some alcohol on the rinsed strawberries?
I am concerned about my friend who is 'on the wagon" but who had the Bananas Foster the other night, and I was wondering about the validity of her statement "that the alcohol all burns off." I've seen so much heartache with this girl, and I feel like this dessert that she had really puts her at risk. Am I wrong here?


Our dear Kristi,
Looking at how beautiful and relaxed you and JM look, it is clear we have answered prayers.
Thankfulness and blessings!
What a fantastic afternoon!The lunch sends me off into the clouds!WOW!(OHHHHHHH!Those chanterelles!!)
And I applaud you for the way you handled the wine situation with grace and elegance.
When we were entertaining a lot,I started asking my dinner guests beforehand if they had boundaries on what they could eat and if they drank wine.
I have qite a few things that I can't have for allergies and health reasons,and I know how awkward it can be when someone plops something forbidden in front of you and then you're the one having to explain.
Well done,dear Kristi!
Natalia XO


Bonne fille! None of my business, but what do you do if you don't see it poured? I can't imagine how difficult it must be to avoid alcohol in France


Where do I begin, I love the French culture and would love to speak the language, I have a fear of failing. Help!


Hi Kristi, Your angel certainly came through for you!! I love your stories and the real person that you are!! God bless you and I am readng and loving your books!! C-Marie

Chris Allin

A lovely and heartening post. How far you have come with Mas des Brun...🍇🌿🐝 !

Nyka Witmorr

I love the food and eating segments....they are always welcome and I find myself wanting to get in the kitchen after reading them. DElicious!!!!

Betty H. Bailey

A HISSY FIT has sound effects, as opposed to a simple "fit." ;-0

And have you heard a Texan say "fixing to," meaning "I'm about to do it!'?


Glorious, absolutely glorious to see you two enjoying an incredible outing together! It all sounds like a dream, a fantastic meal, prepared and presented by the chef, a gorgeous location, the weather even looks heavenly! Happy for you both! So nice to have good friends, too!!


A "normal" day has enough stress without the grammar police to evaluate each and every word and phrase. I think I am like most of your readers, and we are looking for a taste of life in the south of France and today's post was one of the best! Glad things are getting more sunny on the home front as well as the weather.


Aw! Don't lets be spoil sports about the thong of motorists. This is the kind of malapropism (or whatever you want to call it) that families treasure and hand on for decades. One of the many ways in which I warm to this blog is that it's not about perfection in English American or French. It's about a work - and lives - in progress. This blog was a gem. Despite the bits of "dead stuff" (sorry, long standing vegetarian) I revelled in the sights, sounds and smells of Provence you described for us. Those tomatoes were like Proust's madelaines. You share so generously and with such humour and honesty. I'm saying prayers for a good summer outcome on the possible move.


I'm late with my comments, having set aside some time today to catch up with your recent updates. That dinner sounds and looks delectable. Thank goodness for helpful and tactful assistants! I have come to a point where I must refrain from consuming sugar, and that's a tough one to announce at dinner parties. I have found, however, that today many people keep to specific diets and avoid certain foods. The majority of hosts are understanding, though I know that food allergies are less common in Europe. These days, to be on the safe side, when inviting someone to dinner I ask in advance whether there is anything they do not eat. It makes for easier menu-planning.


I do love language! Hissy fit-caprice why does everything sound better in French? I think in this case hissy-fit is more spot-on like you said.

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