How to say chopped in French? + gift giveaway

Mastering the Art French Eating by Ann Mah

Ann Mah is giving away three advance copies of her new book Mastering the Art of French EatingLessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris. Enter to win here.

haché (ha-shay)
    : minced, ground; chopped

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)


    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
This is a long-standing joke between my husband and me. Tu manges a l'heure d'oiseau, Chérie? he teases, now that I've gone back the American dinner hour. Tweet tweet! I love eating early but will gladly accept a dinner invitation--and be prepared to eat at l'heure de grillon, or the cricket hour.
Wandering Hands & Footsies
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.) 

Bon ap'!
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.
So bon ap' (if that's the case) and bon courage as well. I hope these insights will help you next time you tuck a napkin in your shirt collar (do the French do that? Let me think about it... I'll get back to you when I've got the answer (or share yours below...).
French Vocabulary
le haricot = bean (click here for haricot post)
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...)

  Door in Vinsobres (Var) (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Where's your favorite place to dine? On the front porch or on the beach or at a restaurant?

Kristin and Braise and golden retriever puppies (c) Jackie Espinasse

Braise (above left) and I in 2009. One of these 6 pups is Smokey.

This blog turns 11-years-old in a few months. 1500 stories are found in the archives, or pick up an edited collection here or here. Your book purchase is a great support to this free word journal. Thanks for reading and for sharing this website with a friend.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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A lesson in adjectives: windows are "charmante", women are "canon". You wouldn't say a window is canon, but you could say a woman is charmante. Read on and learn about the French art of complimenting. Photo taken this week in Orange (Vaucluse).

canon [kah noh(n)]

    : gorgeous

There are other senses of the word.. for today we'll focus on the one above

elle/il est canon = she/he's gorgeous
les canons de la beauté = canons of beauty 

Audio File: listen to today's French word and phrase: Elle est canon Download MP3 or Wav

Check out Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills. Click here to order.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

How to Compliment a Frenchwoman

Mom and I are in the village pharmacy, having made a beeline here from the doctor's office. We're in luck when one of the three counter stations instantly opens. We step up to the comptoir and I hand over the scribbled ordonnances.

As the pharmacist studies the doctor's prescriptions, Mom studies the pharmacist and when the latter turns and disappears into the stock room Mom is breathless. "My God. She's beautiful!"

"I know," I respond, matter-of-factly.

"She looks as though she could walk right out of this vineyard town... and onto the big screen!" Mom is wowed.

"Did you see her hair?" Mom continues, and I recall the thick brown boucles that fall to the pharmacist's waist.

"Chestnut-colored," I guess.

"With golden highlights!" Mom corrects. "And not a stitch of makeup. She is a classic beauty -- like Audrey Hepburn--only, she must be 5'11!"

"I know, Mom. She is gorgeous." I conclude.

"Well, haven't you ever told her that?"...

I think about the pharmacist -- she is what the French would classify as canon. If she is this beautiful... chances are she is the last one to have heard about it. After all, the French do not dish out compliments as the folks back home do--at least not to strangers. But this isn't to say that they do not praise one another, or strangers--they just do so discreetly, almost imperceivably.

How to explain this to my mom, who is poised to shower compliments just as soon as the pharmacist returns? Mom has already done the impossible (by reaching for those chestnut curls! I can't believe she ran her fingers through the pharmacist's hair, as a mother would her own daughter!).

"Mom, the French are..." (and here I pause to find the correct word...) "...the French are a little reserved that way!"

Mom is not impressed with this latest French-etiquette lesson, which is quickly dismissed, and, by the time the pharmacist returns, I feel the need to explain the goggle-eyed woman to my right. If I don't say something right away, Mom will say it for me--in her own extravagant way.

And so I blurt it out. "Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique!"

As if Mom could understand my French (which she cannot) she looks at me expectantly, until I've coughed up the entire compliment:

" c'est vrai!"

Were we French, Mom and I would have waited until the pharmacist walked off and, while she was still within earshot, we would have let her hear our admiring thoughts: qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette fille! Elle est charmante!

Though we have yet to master the French art of complimenting, our Mom-thinks-this approach seemed to have the same effect... and that palpable French reserve that I had so often felt began to break a little bit in time to soften or melt.

Le Coin Commentaires
The Comments Corner 

What is the most memorable compliment you have ever received? Conversely, what is most recent compliment that you have given someone? If you admire a stranger, do you tell them? Have you ever received a odd response after praising someone? Click here to comment.

French Vocabulary

le comptoir = counter

une ordonnance = prescription

une boucle = curl

Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique! = My mother thinks you are magnificent

Qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette femme! = She is so beautiful, this woman!

Elle est charmante! = She is charming!

Everyone thinks their mom is canon - and I, especially so! Sorry for the dark image (I should have used the camera flash!). This photo of Mom, aka Jules, was taken just this morning, before she left on her 24-hour voyage home to Mexico! Here she is readjusting her turtleneck (earlier, she had on a camisole beneath her Frida cape! I told her to cover up - because I know she gets cold on airplanes).


Capture plein écran 20052011 094508

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.

After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history.

Order The Greater Journey here.


  French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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zone de confort

Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here. Pictured: our daughter, Jackie, at the écurie, where today's story takes place... By the way, is anybody else as terrified by horses as I am?

zone de confort (zown deuh kohn fohr)

    : comfort zone

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

sortir de votre zone de confort = move out of your comfort zone
oser quitter votre zone de confort = dare to leave your comfort zone

Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the 5 star reviews, and order, here.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Out of One's Comfort Zone

At the horse stables where my daughter has her riding lesson, Jules and I are sitting on the freshly-mowed pelouse. Mom is wearing her bubblegum-blue poncho and her panama hat with the red silk roses. She has spread out her Mexican tapis, the bright blue one with all the giant red fish, making our trespass even more conspicuous.

I try to hold my tongue, after all, I have recited enough rules for the day (earlier, in the village of Tulette, I noticed Mom making a beeline toward the café, where two Moroccan men sat smoking. "Let's not talk to anyone!" I suggested, not wanting to get involved in another names-and-telephone-numbers exchange.  Mom indicated she wouldn't, but eventually, mon adorable chipie de maman, left me at the table in order to chat with the shopkeepers, making friends and appointments as she went...)

Back on the grass at the stables, I spoke: "This isn't such a good idea," I said, of the blanket and the feather oreillers that Mom had dragged out to the lawn beside the horse arena. "In France people don't lie on the grass!" 

Mom's response was to rap on the feather pillow, ordering me to take a seat! Next, like a starfish, she threw out her arms and legs, fell back on the pillow, and sky-gazed. "AHHHHHH!"

My back toward the barn and to the riders who were surely reporting us, I sat there, crookedly, unwilling to relax into the comfortable pillow beside me. Leaning sharply on my elbow, my eyes scanned the horse park, where I began questioning the quality of grass....

Perhaps different grass has different rules? I wondered. This grass here, with its wheat tones and dry patches... was different, wasn't it?, from Paris Luxembourg Gardens grass. There, you wouldn't dare relax (...or have the pelouse police on your back!).

My elbow grew sore and my back, at such a crooked angle, tired... along with my rules and resolutions. "Go ahead. Lie back!" Mom suggested, eager to share the world from her eyes-to-the-sky perspective.

When my head hit the pillow the first thing I noticed were the leaves in the tree above me. SUCH GREEN LEAVES! With the sun shining down through them, the tips were saturated with color.

The feuilles, shaped like giant outstretched hands, waved in the breeze, capturing all of my attention so that when the stable-owner marched up and towered over me, I could not see her for the tree leaves!

I scrambled to a seated position in time to be read my rights. Surely we were in trouble for suffocating the grass!

But, instead of a reprimand, all I heard were these inviting words: Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée. With that, the stable owner slipped by, a smile and kindness still sparkling in her eyes.


Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, feedback, and stories of your own are most welcome here, in the comments box.  

Let's create a fun list together....

100 (or so) Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I'll begin - with a few goals of my own:

1.  Ask the baker whether you might take her picture!

2. Go on a solo road trip

3. Give a talk at a library (or a school), sharing an idea or a hobby

4. Plant bird-of-paradise next to your mailbox

5. Stop the car next time something catches your eye (like the lady who sat out in front of her home, knitting)

6. Paint happy stars on a door, chez vous!

7. Tuck wildflowers into your hatband

8. Write a 40-page novel... for your eyes only and just for fun!

9... (Your turn to leave some tips here in the comments box!)


French Vocabulary

une écurie = horse stable

la pelouse (also le gazon) = grass

le tapis = rug

la chipie (pronounced "she-pee") = rascal, little devil

mon adorable chipie de maman =  my lively, mischievious, light-hearted and charming Mom

un oreiller = pillow

la feuille = leaf

Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée = Seize and enjoy this magnificent day!


On a recent walk near the river, Mom gathered wildflowers (chèvrefeuille, or honeysuckle, and genêt, or broom) for her hatband, or ruban de chapeau.

When you purchase any item from Amazon, using the following links to enter the store, your purchase helps to support this free language journal. Merci d'avance!

French Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide 

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Read review for this memoir

  Capture plein écran 16052011 090119
Wicker basket. For the farmer's market, for the beach, for a carry-on, for a picnic... (that's my mom, Jules's basket, pictured below!) Buy this multipurpose "panier" here.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


         The seaside town of Agay, near Fréjus and just east of St-Raphael.

gaver (gah-vay) verb

  1. to force-feed; to fill up (with)

...and in English there is the noun "gavage" (gah-vazh): a feeding for someone who will not or cannot eat.

Expressions and Related Terms:

en avoir jusqu'au gaviot = to be stuffed, to have eaten too much
gaver quelqu'un = to stuff someone with food
se gaver de = to stuff oneself with
une gavade = (a synonym would be "un goinfrerie" or piggery)
Tu me gaves = (I am fed up with you (talking)).

L'éducation ne consiste pas à gaver, mais à donner faim.
Education consists not in stuffing, but in giving one an appetite.--Michel Tardy

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

What? The French Pig Out? 

Eighteen transats are lined up across the Mediterranean seafront. We loungers sit in clusters surrounded by an arsenal of sun cream, stacks of magazines, and our twenty sand-cloaked offspring. Welcome to the rendez-vous Agay, where Jean-Marc and eight of his high school pals--and their wives--reunite once a year in a cozy seaside escape just east of Marseilles.

Two of the nine wives are wearing the top half of their swimsuit; the others are seins nus. We flip through Madame Figaro, Elle and Marie-Claire.

"Tiens!" my neighbor says, pointing to her magazine. "It seems one-pieces are à la mode this season."

I nervously adjust my haut. Just when I've set aside insecurites--and donned a two-piece--the fashion authorities are now touting one pieces! 

Never mind. I never know what to wear anyway. Might as well practice social skills. I turn to Sophie who is applying cream to her daughter. After a decade in France, I'm still tongue-tied when it comes to a natural conversation with my husband's high school friends. I wish I could be as breezy and as funny as the women in this group. I can always try....

"T'as vu comme on s'est jetté sur la nourriture hier soir? Did you see how we threw ourselves on the food last night?" I say to the mom next to me. 

"C'était une vraie gavade! It was a real pig-out!" Sophie laughed, recapping the sun cream and pitching the bottle into a wicker beach tote.

Ouf! I'd made my friend laugh and learned something in the process--a new French word: gavade. I recognized the delightful sounding noun as a Marseillais term (from the verb "gaver"--to stuff). I'll bet you didn't think such a verb existed in the French language what with so many figure-conscious Frenchies? Oh, si!

I was now laughing along with Sophie, thinking of the previous night when seventeen positively chic French citizens and one American "resident of France" turned into one spinning, clawing mass of arms and mouths--Hunger personified....

Panick had arisen after someone miscalculated the number of pizzas needed for all of us adults and our kids! That's when our normally laid-back friends became a human pizza tornado.

We had begun with our ethics intact, serving the kids first until somehow the lines between where the children's meal ended and our repas began became blurred. I noticed that 6 bottles of wine remained untouched as the French turned their attention to the boxes of pizza and to the few remaining pies inside them. Next, all pride was set aside.

When the unseemly gavade was over the French returned to their more disciplined selves--reaching for the sopalin and wiping the corners of their mouths. With all evidence erased someone popped a cork and, for most, memories of the pig out were washed away with the rosé.

*    *    *

More stories in the book Blossoming in Provence. Makes a great gift for a language learner or traveler. Click here to order.

French Vocabulary

le transat = deck chair
les seins nus = topless
tiens = take a look at this
à la mode = in fashion
le haut = top
Marseillais = from/of Marseilles
si = yes ("si" indicates a positive response to a negative question. Ex.: "Vous n'avez pas faim?" "Si! J'ai faim."
le repas = meal
le sopalin = paper towel
le rosé, rouge, blanc = rose, red, white

La ROCHE-POSAY sunscreen is rated top by Consumer Reports

THE FRENCH LOVE THESE BEACH TOWELS - quick drying, good-looking

Bonjour AuRevoir doormat

To order "Bonjour/Au Revoir doormat", click here

Agay coastline (c) Kristin Espinasse
The coastline, or le littoral, in the seaside town of Agay.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


La Vannerie = Wickerwork (c) Kristin Espinasse
                    Les paniers for sale in Aix-en-Provence 

petit sac pour emporter les restes
noun, masculine
doggy bag


One of the first cultural differences I encountered after moving to the land of bistros was this: they don't do doggy bags in la France! 

In 1990, in Aix-en-Provence, a plate of egg rolls separated me from my future husband. Egg rolls in France are different from those in the States. In France, Asian restaurants serve the fried rouleaux with sprigs of mint and leaves of lettuce in which to roll them. Les Nems, as they are called, are Jean-Marc's and my favorite entrée, and we usually order so many that by the time the main course arrives we are too full to finish it.

At the end of that first shared meal in the restaurant chinois, we had our first leftovers. I explained to Jean-Marc that les restes in America go into doggy bags.  Jean-Marc was amused by the funny term and  his practical side was quickly won over by the concept. But when he tried out the idea on the waitress, asking her to wrap up the remaining food on our plates, she showed neither amusement nor practicality. In fact, she looked a bit put out by the request. 

After Jean-Marc persisted, the waitress returned with an empty plastic tub which, judging from the label, had formerly held pistachio ice cream. She pried open the container and slid the contents of both plates inside. I watched doubtfully as the sweet-and-sour shrimp was poured right over the canard laqué, and the riz cantonais was heaped directly on top. 

"Ça ira?" As the waitress scraped off the last grain of rice from the plates, her exaggerated gesture embarrassed me, cheapening an otherwise romantic evening. 

Walking down Aix's narrow and winding cobblestone streets after the meal, I suggested to Jean-Marc that maybe it was not a good idea, after all, to ask restaurants to wrap up food. It was too awkward for everyone involved when the servers had to go scavenging for odd containers in order to be accommodating.

Jean-Marc disagreed. It was a very good idea, he assured me—no more wasted food. The French would do well to adopt the practice of asking for a doggy bag!

"But they are not doggy-bag equipped here, so there's no use trying to save the food!" As I argued my point, I walked right into a street beggar. Suddenly, three sets of eyes bounced off each other.

"Bonsoir, monsieur," Jean-Marc spoke first. 

I watched my date, who smiled as he crouched to the ground, offering the homeless man the "useless" invention. Le doggy bag

The homeless man nodded his appreciation. A long pause ended, and Jean-Marc and I walked on. I pulled my boyfriend's arm close. This one was a keeper.



Your edits appreciated. Does the story read clearly? Should it be included in the book? See the comments box at the end of this edition to leave an edit or feedback.

French Vocabulary

le rouleau

le nem
a kind of fried egg roll

une entrée
starter, hors d'oeuvre

le restaurant chinois
Chinese restaurant

les restes (mpl)

le canard laqué
Peking Duck 

le riz cantonais
fried rice 

ça ira
will that do?

Bonsoir, monsieur
Good evening, sir


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


salut (sa-lew) exclamation
1. hello!

[can also mean "bye bye!"]

salut (noun, masculine)
1. greeting. 2. wave (of hand) 3. nod (of head) 4. salute (military) 5. safety 6. salvation

un port de salut = a haven of refuge
L'Armée du Salut = the Salvation Army.

salut à tous! = hi everyone!
faire son salut = to find salvation
travailler à son salut = to work out one's own salvation
chercher son salut dans la fuite = to run for dear life
faire le salut militaire = to salute

A bon entendeur salut!
A word to the wise is enough!*

(lit. To the good listener, salvation)

A Day in a French Life...

In France, if you want to seem odd to the French, just say "Hello" one time too many in the course of a day. Les Français* don't understand the Anglophone affinity for repeating "Hello" at another point in a 24 hour time frame; the French say "Bonjour" once, point final.*

That said, the Frenchies have come up with a way to re-greet one another using the popular term "rebonjour."

Hélas,* after 12 years in this country, I continue to make the repeat-greet faux pas. The following conversation illustrates my point:

At 14 o'clock,* after a two hour lunch break, a colleague returns to the office where I work:

(Moi) "Bonjour Fifi!" * [Our caviste* looks at me perplexed]

(Fifi) "Mais... On ne s'est pas vus encore aujourd'hui?" 'But... haven't we seen each other already today?" he says, pushing a cheek forward to accept my greeting.

(Moi) "Ah oui, c'est vrai" "Oh yes, that's right" I say.

(Fifi) "Rebonjour alors!" "Hello again, then!" he says, content to put the matter straight (or content to be right, I'm never sure which).

*References: the quote, "A word to the wise is enough!" is by Benjamin Franklin; les Français = the French; point final = period; hélas = unfortunately; 14 o'clock = 2 p.m.; Fifi (fee-fee) short for "Philippe"; caviste (m) = cellarman

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.