"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 Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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