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Entries from January 2021

A French wine and jam contest (with a nautical theme and a seaworthy crew...)

The Bitter Orange Wine and Jam confiture marmalade contest participants in La Ciotat
Ahoy! Ohé! Participants (or pirates...) at Sunday's mischievous marmalade contest. Notice the historic grue, or crane, in upper left. Today's "words of the day" are submerged in the following story. Hunt for them like a deepsea treasure--or walk the plank! se faire jeter par-dessus bord! Mille mercis to Christiane, from La Ciotadenne, for the pictures that illustrate this post. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
 by Kristin Espinasse
At the end of an unfamiliar driveway, near the historic old port of La Ciotat, Jean-Marc and I hesitated to get out of our car—partly because it was so windy and partly because we were unsure of le lieu. We were studying the facade of a 1950s bungalow, une maison de plain-pied, when the various nautical accents came into view. This had to be our friend Laetitia’s, newspaper journalist by day...and feisty capitaine by moonlit night.

Laetitia had invited us to her annual concours de confiture, or jam contest. While we were too late to enter, we could still be a part of the marmalade magouilles. This regatta of the senses was born one year ago when the massive bigaradier, a bitter orange tree behind Laetitia’s house, almost capsized under the weight of its sour load. Rather than let so much perfectly good fruit go to waste, our capitaine mapped out a new course—un concours—for the stranded fruit.

Bienvenue au Domaine du “Léticiota”
Given the tree is located at the end of two ultra mini rows of vines, Letitia dubbed the event "Le concours de confituriade et Vin D’oranges amères du Domaine du Léticiota." Which just goes to show you don’t have to have endless fields...to be a domain. All you need is an endless possibilities mindset—something our artist-capitaine has by the boatload!

There she was now, our suntanned capitaine with shoulder-length blond waves and a smile that would melt a pirate's heart. “Bienvenue!” our hostess waved, as we blew in with the Mistral, landing pil poil among a convivial circle of locals. There in the sunny side yard, we met the accidental “confituriers” who had previously been given a box of sour fruit and un défi: make jam and wine with these sour oranges! (The wine category is a new addition to this seaside citrus adventure.)

In the distance, not far from where Laetitia and boyfriend Jean dock their 1939 voilier, the famous shipyard grues of La Ciotat could be seen, rivaling an Eiffel Tower view. After an apéro, braved amidst the icy wind and an onslaught of ashes (we were seated beside the bbq) our seaworthy hostess clapped her hands and quickly got down to business naming the contestants, the 4-man jury, and the Hussier (yikes, that’d be me! But what was a huissier? (Presently my spell correcter suggests “hussy”. That's garce in French!).

“Your task” Laetitia informed me, “is to make sure these pirates behave! The judges must not talk to each other, and no one is to see this scroll," our capitaine said, handing me the ultra confidential document with the names of the confituriers which correspond to the numbered jars and bottles.

Jam contest judges
Ils trichent? Do you think they're cheating?

First abord we’re Maryline and Jean-Marc. The jam judges disappeared behind the wooden ship maquette in the kitchen. I followed, making sure the two didn’t go adrift...share notes and the like….. no worries there, the two worked as if their lives depended on it (or walk the plank! se faire jeter par-dessus bord), The judges dipped their spoons into the marmalade, the colors of which recalled the shades of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Next, Maryline debarked and Jean, Laetitia’s rugged co-capitaine, came on board with Jean-Marc, this time to judge the 4 wines. Between gulps of water, and much re-tasting, they carefully rate the homemade vin d’orange...
IMG_0229

Meantime, the island savages outside were getting hungry! It was nearing 3 pm when the wine- and water-logged jury finally emerged in time for the crew to dig into lunch à la bonne franquette. Everyone brought something to bbq (hats off to Hervé and Didier who manned the flammes). In addition to the bbq fare, Michel, president of the association to protect ancient boats, brought a spicy pecorino, and Maryline, passed around her handpicked, marinated mushrooms. Miam miam!

Jean-marc kristi
Now that everyone was relaxed, it was time to hear the results. The hussy and the head jurist stood…Jean-Marc read the results before announcing a number... after which I searched the sheet for the corresponding confiturier winner. One by one the gagnants shot up and did a little happy dance. Each winner was rewarded by an unexpected, and sometimes quirky, cadeau on the part of our hostess-capitaine, who declared that all the jam and wine here in la CIOTAT, at Laetitia’s...will here-to-for be known as “confiture et vin de “Léticiota”.

I leave you, dear reader, with Laetitia’s colorful notes, below, which will fill you in on the juicy details. (Warning: the end of this edition gets messy, as I have copy/pasted the text message from Laetitia--originally destined for our group only--and included a google translation in English, I  am in a hurry now to make lunch for my son, who's arrived unexpectedly, so please overlook the errors and just enjoy the colorful highlights.)

(P.S. follow me here on Facebook, where I will upload a video of the magouille or shenanigans, at the next chance!)

Presents and wine

Laetitia's Notes:
Le Concours de Confituriade et Vin d'oranges amères du Domaine de Léticiota a été récompensé sur les bases suivantes:
1- couleurs aspect
2- senteur orange.
3- texture consistance
4- amertume et sucre
5- goût traditionnel
6- Goût spécial insolite.

7 confitures en concours et 4 vins sous l' œil de notre huissier de justice des calanques Kristin Espinasse. Les fiches techniques de chaque chef ont été révélés après la proclamation des prix et aucune réclamation n'a été retenue bien que certains aient ajouté du rhum ou de l'alcool dans leur vin. Les jury pour les confitures: Jean-Marc de la cave le Vin Sobre et Maryline. Pour le vin les jurys était Jean Paquiero et Jean-Marc. Étonnant le résultat des jurys a toujours concordé dans le résultat total des meilleures confitures et vins. Pendant que le jury délibérait au coin bar résultats = Pour la confiture 1er Caroline et Pierre Yves. 2 execo du 2e prix Didier et Marilyne. 3e Laetitia et Jean. Pour le vin 1er Michel, 2e Hervé Pour le prix déco d1orange au clou de girofles pour Marie.🤝🤝🤝👏👏👏 l'extérieur un superbe barbecue cuit au feu de bois par Didier et Hervé sous la surveillance de Michel. Nous avons apprécié canard porc et gigot, merguez et saucisses... le tout dehors pour ne pas faire participer la covid. Merci à tous pour cette excellente journée un grand temps de préparation mais ça valait le coup et à refaire! La journée s'est terminée par la présence de Jean-Claude Goudon navigateur ciotaden et sa femme, le vainqueur de la Virtual Regatta du Vendée Globe de presque 1 million d'inscrits il est arrivé 1er des concurrents hier à midi après 69 jours sur son ordinateur !
Group

Laetitia's Notes in English (translated by Google)
The Domaine de Léticiota Confituriade and Bitter Orange Wine Contest was awarded on the following bases:
1- appearance, colors
2- orange scent
3- texture, consistency
4- bitterness and sugar
5- traditional taste
6- unusual special taste

7 jams in competition and 4 wines under the watchful eye of our bailiff of the Calanques Kristin Espinasse. The technical sheets of each chef were revealed after the proclamation of the prizes and no complaint was accepted although some added rum or alcohol in their wine. The jury for the jams Jean-Marc from the cellar Vin Sobre and Maryline. For the wine, the juries were Jean Paquiero and Jean-Marc. Astonishing, the jury's results have always matched in the total result of the best jams and wines. While the jury deliberated in the bar corner results = For the 1st jam: Caroline and Pierre Yves. 2 execo of the 2nd Didier and Marilyne prize. 3rd Laetitia and Jean’s. For the 1st, Michel’s wine, 2nd Hervé. For the decoration prize of orange with cloves for Marie outside a superb barbecue cooked over a wood fire by Didier and Hervé under Michel's supervision. We enjoyed duck, pork, merguez and sausages ... all outside so as not to involve the covid. Thank you all for a great day a great preparation time but it was worth doing again! The day ended with the presence of Jean-Claude Goudon, navigator Ciotaden and his wife, the winner of the Virtual Regatta of the Vendée Globe with almost 1 million registrants, he finished 1st among the competitors yesterday at noon after 69 days on his computer!


SELECTED FRENCH VOCABULARY

AUDIO: Listeb to Jean-Marc read the vocab list
Ohé! = Ahoy!
le lieu = place, spot
une maison de plain-pied = bungalow
le concours = contest
la confiture = jam, marmalade
la magouille = shenanigans
le bigaradier = bitter orange (tree)
pil poil = smack dab
un défi = challenge
le voilier = sailboat
la grue = crane
miam miam! = yum yum!
le cadeau = gift

Pirates and friends

Laetitia and michel

Kristi and laetitia
Bbq

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Seaside in La Ciotat + learn a dozen useful words (and hear some drunk French) in today's edition

La Ciotat beach
Let's jump right into today's narrative and improve our French! The audio and vocabulary list follow...

When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE...! and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette, and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépé—les oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.

***

Kristi and SmokeyThe interesting thing behind today's story, written in 2006, is how the various details have almost all come true! While we do not live in Brittany, we do live near the beach, where my husband enjoys catching sea urchins. Missing from this story is my dog (born 6 years after I wrote the piece). I could not have imagined the joy Smokey would bring!
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to all the vocabulary below

le troisième âge = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped, a vintage Mobylette
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God

Now for some "Drunk French"-just for fun, see the video below (click on the image or the arrow, center, to view it. Turn up the volumn).

Walking in the sea in winter wetsuitCan you see the locals braving these icy waters? Wearing wetsuits they walk through the sea daily.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


To Cope in French + Waking up in France to an attempted coup d'état back home

Coastline in la ciotatAs upsetting as it is to wake up to news of an insurrection, most concerning is the effect it could have on our personal relationships. That is, at least, the biggest thing on my mind this morning. The following thoughts began as a pep talk to myself. 

Firstly, hang in there! Tenir bon = tenir le coup
What if the antidote to un coup is to tenir le coup? Such is the definition for tenir bon: to endure, withstand, weather the storm, stay the course. To tenir bon means simply to cope. Nous devons tenir bon!

Tears flowing, a fast-growing knot in the throat, sudden sadness/despair...followed by anger. Did you have a similar reaction when you watched a mob storming our capitol several hours ago? Here again are two words that may help during destabilizing or upsetting times: Tenez bon!

Weather The Storm
The worst possible outcome of this political storming is its power to divide us. No matter which side you are on you won’t be able to win over the other, already entrenched in his or her beliefs. So what can you do? Until you find a peaceful answer, tenez bon! Weather the storm in love and dignity.

I leave you with a cheerful photo taken last Sunday. The dog's tilted head speaks volumes. Tell me what he is saying in the comments.

Amicalement,
Kristi

Dog in front of barber
Both photos in today's edition were taken here in La Ciotat. Please share this blog with someone who loves France. Merci d'avance!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!