un steak haché = hamburger (the French say hamburger when the burger is served on a bun; sans bun and it's called un steak haché)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristin Espinasse
My friend Ann wrote a new book called Mastering the Art of French Eating. Now there's a book I could have used when coming to France. Then, the world of food and dining was as foreign to me as the bon vivants who lived there.
Over the years I've had to paste together my own version of l'Art de Manger Française. Here are just a few gleanings:
Get your order right or end up with a marijuana burger
It's easy to flub up an order, or une commande--but a command of the French language will save you the embarrassment. Take your time when ordering and avoid the mistake I made when, as a young recruit at the chamber of commerce in Marseilles, I slipped out to lunch at a nearby burger joint and ordered a steak hashish....
Don't stock beans or other things
While playing house with my then boyfriend, I was lining up the cans of haricots verts and thon and maïs when I received a polite request: Essayons de ne pas stocker la nourriture, Jean-Marc suggested. It was true, why hoard food when the market was nearby? By buying only what we needed we could eat fresher meals and save money (by not having to toss out expired food).
Is French milk older than a toddler?
One of the things the French do stock is milk. So much so that it has a creepy-long shelf life! (the French keep their milk in the cupboard until opening the bottle, at which point it's stored in the fridge).
It is an acquired taste le lait UHT (sterilized, longue durée) but one thing's sure: a café au lait made in France is appreciated far and wide. Americans love it! So if you've ever wondered why you couldn't recreate the creamy taste back home, now you know: fresh milk's the culprit.
6 o'clock is when the birds eat
Isn't there a rule about keeping your elbows off the table and left hand in your lap when dining? It's practically the opposite in France, where a hand that disappears beneath the table might be up to no good (feeding the hostesse's escargots to the dog, are you? Or maybe, as in olden times, you're reaching for your gun?! Best to keep your hands to the sides of your plate so the hostess can relax.
(When I first learned this rule, I didn't know about hungry dogs or outlaws, or the history behind the "hands on table" etiquette. My guess was that French innuendo was at play again--and that the French were always imagining the racy side of things. In America we call below the table "hanky-panky" footsies.)
It's lovely in any culture to wish each other bon appetit, but the French go as far as blessing complete strangers. Bon appétit, they'll call out, when you're seated on a park bench chowing down on un sandwich au fromage. Bon appétit, they'll shout, when you're stopped at a traffic light, inhaling a croissant, late for work. Bon appétit, you'll hear, when strolling down the street, window-shopping and munching on a slice of pizza. It can be embarrassing... or deeply charming. Depends on how you take things.
le haricot vert = green bean
le thon = tuna
le maïs = corn
essayons de ne pas stocker de la nourriture = let's try not to stock food
I leave you with a few recipes--in case you missed them:
Make the fruit salad I told you about (I've made it three more times since posting the recipe--and discovered that it is the ripe honeydew melon that really makes it good!)
Tomato Tart -- don't miss this favorite! It's tomato season here in France and time to make this easy, fast recipe that everyone loves!
No Grudge Fudge : you won't be mad at yourself after eating this organic 4-ingredient sweet treat. I've made it several times since posting the recipe (the latest version is a Reese's knock off! Just add peanut butter...)
Braise (above left) and I in 2009. One of these 6 pups is Smokey.
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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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