cocher la bonne réponse = to check the correct answer
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
(Note: The following story was written in the fall of 2007.)
The kids and I are sitting at the kitchen table, polishing off a tomato tarte. My son insists that this is one of his favorites.
"Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman," Max suggests. His sister seconds that, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and managing to nod at the same time.
"Thanks, Jackie. Use your napkin!" I remind my daughter.
In my brain, I travel over to the "meals" department, where I uncheck the "pot-au-feu" box, and je coche the square that reads "tarte à la tomate". (The first was fade, the second, flavorful.) I'll get the menus right one day. In the meantime, there's nothing like encouragement from your twelve-year-old boy.
...and there's nothing like constructive criticism from your ten-year-old:
"Less mustard next time," Jackie advises, swiping her mouth again.
"Use your napkin!" I repeat, filing away my daughter's tip. She's right about la moutarde.
As I fine-tune my mental menu, checking and unchecking boxes, noting my family's likes and dislikes, I feel a cold, wet nose knocking at my elbow. That would be our dog, Braise (brez), reminding me to tick the "more scraps" box.
"Merci, Braise!" I say, rubbing my wet elbow. "Now won't you use your napkin, too?"
* * *
Tomato Pie / La Tarte à la Tomate
This recipe comes from a French friend, and not my mother-in-law. Rachel (rah-shel) is also la marraine (godmother) to our daughter. The ingredients and mode d'emploi were huffed and puffed to me during a grueling hike (we'd finished the tomato pie during a rest stop) somewhere near the town of Martigues... or was it Marseilles... or Marignane? Memory fails me, but the recipe is too simple (and too delicious) to forget! Here it is. Enjoy it and share it:
1 store-bought pie crust (or make this fast, easy shortcrust pastry)
2 or 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 cup of shredded Emmental cheese (or Gruyère)
2 or 3 large tomatoes, sliced
Roll out the store-bought crust (if rollable). Make sure the crust base is pre-cooked or the tart may turn out doughy-bottomed... Slather mustard across the dough's surface. Sprinkle cheese over the mustard and set the sliced tomatoes across the top. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and a filet or "swirl" of olive oil to taste. Cook the tomato pie in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes.
*variation: try tapenade (crushed olive spread) in the place of the mustard.
la tarte = pie; Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman = You should make this more often, Mom; le pot-au-feu = boiled beef with vegetables; coche (cocher ) = to check off (box); la tarte (f) à la tomate = tomato pie; fade = (pronounced "fad") bland, insipid; le mode d'emploi = how to, directions; merci = thanks
This one was made with cherry tomatoes! Here are some helpful tools for your tart!
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety