Ragout: Simple recipe for Provencal stew + kitesurfing in Giens peninsula, near Hyérès
What does 'carénage' mean? + What wine and boats really have in common....

Today's French expression: Se donner le mot (also le pointu, manque de chance, la pissaladière...and hangry...)

Patisserie pastry tarte fraise choux wine
Are French bakers in cahoots? Read on in today's story. Also, see our book update at the end of this post.

Today's Expression: Se donner le mot

    : to pass the word around


by Kristi Espinasse

A few days ago, my husband and I were headed to the old port, to take out the little pointu we are trying to buy. The wooden fishing boat is not ours yet, but the owner has kindly allowed us a few sorties, or outings, until Provencal bureaucracy kicks in and we are granted the honor of purchase.

As I was saying, we were on our way to the docks... when we decided to stop for a pissaladière--a delicious pizza-like 'slice' topped with sauteed onions, anchovies, and an olive... Pulling up to the first bakery, we noticed the iron curtain was down. 'Oh, it's Tuesday!' I said to Jean-Marc. 'C'est fermé le mardi...'

There was a second bakery nearby and, manque de chance, it was closed too! Having left the seafront, we headed in to town. Oh, stop at that one! I said. 'I hear they make everything on site, and that it's delicious!' Jean-Marc parked à la Marseillais (illegally) in front of the garage next to the boulangerie...when suddenly the garagiste appeared. (Not to scold us, but to inform us the baker was closed).

Ils se sont donnés le mot? What--are they all in cahoots? Jean-Marc quipped.

(At least I think that is what I think my hangry husband said. In any case, what a picture his words painted in my mind, of so many apron-clad bakers 'passing the word': Psst! Hurry--Hide the onion tarts! Shutter the storefront! Alert the garagiste!)

That's no way to do business. But, from my experience, the French aren't always in it for business. (I'm thinking of the time the dry-cleaner turned my brother-in-law away. 'Five shirts?' she said. 'No. I can only handle two today...'

And isn't that what we love about France? It is everything on a smaller, more charming scale...just like our little red-trimmed fishing boat. I'll tell you more about that in the future.... For now, I'm off to post the end of Chapter Two of our memoir. I hope you will dive in, and read along with us.

Pointu little fishing boat wine eagle la ciotat
Jean-Marc managed to find a bakery...only they didn't have pissaladière. So he got quiche!


= Provencal fishing boat
la sortie =
trip, outing
manque de chance =
tough luck
a la marseillais =
Marseille style (the way the locals from Marseille drive)
la pissaladière =
Provencal onion tart
c'est fermé lemardi =
it's closed on Tuesdays
la boulangerie =
sedonner le mot = to pass the word around
vraiment faim + irritable =
lagaragiste =

THE LOST GARDEN BOOK EXCERPT (from Jean-Marc's chapter)

And all went like in a dream, at least that is how I recall it. The wines in the tanks were delicious (one eventually got 91 points in The Wine Spectator), the family seemed happy and I felt like a rock, like the King of the World.

But in November 2007 a few weeks after the harvest, when the vine leaves started to fall, I suddenly felt like my dear leafless vines: dead. A heavy, brutal burnout/hibernation phase lasted for 6 long months, until the next Spring when the new vine leaves burgeoned once again. During that very dark time, my future award-winning wine tasted bad, flat... bland to me.  I could only see black clouds in the sky, my whole vineyard project and even my own physical life were definitely going to hit the wall. I was sure of it.

(For those who have purchased our book, read all of chapter two, here.)

To purchase The Lost Gardens, a book-in-progress, click here and scroll to the end of the post.

Reader feedback from Chapter Two:

Dynamite!!!!...Your writing seems to have one upped your sharing and it's a good balance back and forth. I'm eager to "follow along" but encourage you to take your time. After all you are living it! --John Hawke

Old boat pointu sicily
A charming Sicilian pointu, or wooden boat

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