A sympathique place to eat in Cassis. That's Max's pal, Antoine, and a couple of furry customers trying to get into "La Loco"--an Italian Restaurant facing the train station 1.9 miles above the Cassidian Port.
FRENCH EXPRESSION: “casser la dalle”
: to have a bite to eat (slang)
SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Casser La Dalle à Cassis"
"J'adore cette route!" my son, Max says as we zoom up and down the backroads of Cassis in our electric, blue bagnole. On our right a tiny vineyard cradled in a slope, looking left, a chalky white cottage perched above the road.
Windows down, inhaling a pine-scented breeze, it’s refreshing to break free from restrictive planning (moments ago I had been trying to figure out how to divide yesterday's salmon miettes with my son who unexpectedly returned home for lunch. And now here we were, immersed in the Cassidian countryside, after Max suggested we eat out.
A call rang in via the car's bluetooth connection and with it a stream of argot tickled my ears as I listened to Max and Yann's conversation (selected phrases follow):
"Ça va, Gâtée?" How’s it going, Bro*? (Max responding to his close friend).
“Je suis avec ma mère, on va casser la dalle à Cassis.” I'm with my mom, we're going to get a bite to eat in Cassis.
“T’es toujours à ton taf?” Are you still at work?
"Oui, on vote cet aprèm. Tu vas voter blanc?" Yes, we're voting this afternoon. Are you turning in a blank ballot?
Gâtée, casser la dalle, taf...I burned that slang into my memory as we fired up the hill and the train station came into view. And there, tucked into the south side of the street behind the hedges, was the eatery. “It's called ‘La Loco’,” Max explained, “after ‘locomotive’." Well, choo! choo! that made sense. Less clear was why the name of the restaurant was nowhere to be seen. Hmm. A secret-private insider address?
To be sure, La Loco had a lot of locals. Not a foreign accent to be heard and at least three of the diners had a dog.
"Salut Zoé! Salut Antoine!" We kissed Max's friends, working there, and met "Francesco" (François) the owner and chef, before settling at a table beneath un arbre on the sunny terrace. The plane tree's leaves were just coming out, but the thick trunk and branches were enough to shade us from the midday soleil.
A solo diner arrived. Antoine showed Mademoiselle to the table behind us. "You can sit by Jean-Luc. Il est beau, n'est-ce pas?" A middle-aged Jean-Luc flashed a toothy smile before returning to nurse his beer, and the young woman with the green nail polish, Doc Martins, tattoos on her neck, graciously accepted the seat, which meant the two strangers would dine face to face after the awkward introduction. I was already feeling anxious for them when, in reality the two characters managed just fine, without my own awkward projections and assumptions. Oh, to feel that free! I need to get out more.
"Salut!" Max shouted to a friend who walked in. We now chatted with Luca, who'd just finished "son taf." Taf! That’s the third time in one week this unfamiliar word came up. I wonder how many other words fly in and out of my ears, never to be registered.
We paused to study the ardoise as Antoine went over the menu. Max recommended the Macaronnade: giant rings of pasta with meatballs made with fennel seeds, and Antoine suggested we share les blettes anchoïade —a swiss chard-anchovy-mozzarrela entree. What sounded un peu dégeu turned out to be délicieux. Max and I took turns soaking up the anchovy sauce, with some crispy baguette, until the plate was dry.
In the interlude between le plat and le dessert (a delicious tarte tatin) we soaked in more rays.“What do you call someone with no body and no nose?” My son challenged.
“Um, uh...I give up.”
With that Max cracked up as only a francophone who understood English could (later, when I shared the corny joke with Grandma Jules, who got a kick out of it too. And you?)
Luca (not to be confused with toothy Jean-Luc) reappeared and we realized he'd been missing a while. "La plonge? Did they have you doing dishes," Max guessed.
"Every time," Luca laughed, raising his beer, before heading to Jean-Luc's table to pour some into his cup.
This time Max disappeared behind the bar, returning with two grand crèmes. “I made a heart for you,” he said, pointing to the design in my coffee. Appetite satisfied, my cup full, the sun stretching its rays down on us, we were a long way from those cold, indivisible leftovers in our frigo. In two hours my world went from calculated and reduced...to expanded like the open heart floating in my cup.
Just when it seemed things couldn't get any better, I reached into my purse to pay. “Ça y est. C'est fait. It’s all taken care of,” my son smiled, having treated me to lunch.
I hope you enjoyed today's tasty entry. Be sure to eat at La Loco if ever you are in Cassis. You won't have to fight for parking (as you do by the port) and you'll surely find good company in which to casser la dalle. Be ready to help with the dishes :-)
Address: La Loco, 29 Av. des Albizzi, Cassis (right across from the Cassis train station)
casser la dalle = to have a bite eat
une route = road
une bagnole = slang for “car”
une miette = crumbs, scraps, leftovers
l'argot = slang
*ma gâtée = term of endearment, "bro", "dear" (not easy to translate...) This expression is now back in vogue after a certain rapper popularized it.
un taf = job, work(slang)
l’aprèm = short for l’après-midi, afternoon
le vote blanc = blank vote, blank ballot paper
un arbre = tree
le soleil = sun
un casque = helmet
salut = hi
l'ardoise = blackboard, menu
la blette = Swiss chard
un peu dégeu (déguelasse) = a little disgusting
la tarte tatin = upside down apple pie
la plonge = wash dishes
un grand crème (un café crème) = coffee with milk
le frigo = fridge
Ça y est. C’est fait = it’s been taken care of
Max, bringing the café crème he made for me
Seated beside the beautiful plane tree. Max posted this photo on his Instagram, which explains the "Mom" and heart emoji on the tree.
Do you have time for one more story? "Cuellir", written in Les Arcs-sur-Argens when Max was 10-years-old, is a small window into our family life at that time. Though it paints the story of an organized, harmonious "team", we are most often trying to find that elusive balance et c'est la vie.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety