French? No, Jane Goodall speaks Chimpanzee!

How serendipitous to write about Jane Goodall--on the 215 anniversary of British paleontologist Mary Anning! Cheers to all the dirt-beneath-their fingernails women who help us understand, appreciate and consciously care for the world we live in. 

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.

une place (plass)

    : seat

réserver une place = to book a seat

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

    On arrivera un peu en retard : tu nous garderas deux places?
    We'll arrive a little late. Can you hold two seats for us?

See the French man behind these husky sound recordings and read about the job he once offered me, before I corraled him into recording for me! Read First French Essais.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

When Nancy offered to hold a seat for me at the Jane Goodall talk in Aix-en-Provence, I began to stutter (if one can bégayer via email). It was a thoughtful offer from my new friend, but, quickly doing the math, I realized 5 more amies--and my husband--also needed seats! I could not ask Nancy to sprawl out across 7 seats--lounging inconspicuously at a sold-out event (even if I sensed she was gutsy and would probably do it!)

Standing in line with Jean-Marc, a crowd encircling us, I wondered would there be any good spots left? My telephone suddenly rang with the answer! It was my longtime pal Chris. Turns out she was inside the auditorium. She'd already tossed her coat over two seats, suggesting we get to them before she could no longer fend off the crowd!

My savior! So far the night had begun with two assertive women, and now a third was soon to appear--all but beating her chest with her fists!

As the speaker acknowledged her audience, Chris and I looked at each other. We were amazed by Jane Goodall's foreign language greeting--in Chimpanzee! There stood, center stage, a cultural icon--an 80-year-old esteemed scientist--grunting like the "primitive" heroes she had befriended years ago!

The crowd roared as they clapped, delighted by the unusual bonjour. Talk about down-to-earth! Elbowing Chris, I shouted, "That was so cool!"--my own language as simple as uncultured as a chimp's. But who's to say apes are so simple?

For the next hour Jane Goodall talked about our closest relatives: they made and used tools like us, fought like us, loved and empathized like us. Madame Goodall's affection and respect for chimpanzees was palpable, and she couldn't resist holding hands, from time to time, with the dashing chimpanzee seated beside her--a wonderful creation by sculptor Aurélien Raynaud. (Psst! Mom, are you reading? You're going to love this artist's studio! and his statement:

The animal touches what is deepest in us. This is to regain what we have lost, rather than trying to humanize it. Learn to be guided by another form of intelligence and win humility lacking in our civilization. --Aurélien Raynaud (pictured, right, below).

Aurelien Raynaud

For the second half of the two-hour talk, the soft-spoken anthropologist shared her love of plants. And here is where my interest in Jane Goodall began! As a budding gardener with a growing interest in permaculture and food forest design, I came to listen to what Jane Goodall has to say about seeds, "weeds," and trees: the one in danger of disparition, the second often considered a menace (instead of medecine), and the third--well, what would life be like if you couldn't nap beneath an old oak?).

Jane began with a question -- one I had been so curious to know the answer. "Why, you may be asking, would an 80-year-old woman spend 300 days of the year travelling and lecturing? Why wouldn't I just stay at my beloved Gombe (where Jane studied chimpanzees), and continue learning?"

Here we learn that in 1985, during a conference, Jane learned about the shocking conditions of zoo animals. Seeing her friends, the apes, caged, turned Jane the scientist into Jane the Activist!

In addition to being a voice for animals, she speaks out about the environment. Citing the fires in San Diego and the record sècheresse in California, Jane talked about the agricultural practices that were leading to global warming. 

The subject turned dark, but Jane managed to keep things light, using humor and props to keep us encouraged. My favorite prop was one of the stuffed animals that tag along with her during her talks. This one was la vache. (See the little cow in the background, beside the little French girl who presented Jane with a glorious bouquet after the talk).

  Jane Goodall translator cow

 Jane and her translator are charmed by the sweet French girl who offered a bouquet after the talk.

The cow is her spokesperson against factory farming. As she held up her cuddly friend, I slunked down, little by little, in my chair--thinking of my own dear friend, my tireless supporter, the one who gets me out of bed and through the day. Her name? Café-au-lait....

My mind filled with images of factory farmed cows, crammed one against the other. As thoughts began to torture me, an American in the audience spoke up: 

What can we do to help, Jane?

It was such a simple question and Jane, who has the ability to answer questions as fast as they are fired off, didn't disappoint:

Each person can use their skills and abilities to change things!

As Jane's words soaked in, I looked around the auditorium. There was the sculptor, Aurélien, who had devoted his career to representing the voiceless ones... and there was my friend, Chris, who had brought two of her daughters to listen to the environmental talk. And Nancy (who I hoped had found a seat...) was busy photographing what remained of the bees, intent on sharing her findings.

And then there was me. Too chicken to even save a friend a seat! (I thought about my friends Cari and Andrea who were running late to the event.... They finally made it and were perched high above in the rafters. Cari is an artist and Andrea a psychologist--they were bound to incorporate tonight's talk into their work--on canvas and sur le canapé!

This reminded me of my medium--my keyboard! I could get the word out too. Share Jane's message about how if each one of us did even a tiny bit, the result--multipied by billions of earth dwellers--would result in undoing some of the damage we have caused.

"When I see young children today," Jane shared, "I think about the world we have left them to grow up in."  The environmentalist's comment caused my skin to prickle, as I remembered thinking the same when my son was born 19-years-ago....

And that was before we were aware of GMOs.

To respond to this story, click here.

Check out Jane Goodall's latest book Jane Goodall's latest: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. I will announce the winner soon (Sorry I didn't get a signed copy).

Interested in permaculture? Check out this book.


My 19-year-old, Max, helping to buy a grapefruit tree for our permaculture garden. Now, each time Mother's Day, Christmas, my birthday or you-name-it-celebration comes along, I ask for a plant or a tree or seeds :-) To comment on this post, click here.

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. 

Have you read Chef Alain's award-winning book?: Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food yet? Yum!


Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse

Me and my date for the Jane Goodall talk. Photo taken a day before, at a family picnic. Thanks, Cousin Audrey, for the picture. To comment on this edition, go here.

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Max Espinasse
In a nearby calanque... I'm counting on our 17-year-old, Max, to bring home more "fruits of the sea"... because I sure don't trust some of the fruits they're selling us at the supermarket! Read on, in today's story column. (Photos in today's post are by Jean-Marc)

nourrir (noo-reer)

    : to feed, to nourish

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this vocab list: Download MP3 or Wav file

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!
And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself.

se nourrir = to feed oneself
nourrir des espérances
 = to cherish hopes
nourrir au sein = to breastfeed
une conversation nourrie = a lively conversation 
mal nourri = ill-nourished
bien nourri = well-fed
nourrir une rancune = to nurse a grudge


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

Seated at the dining room table, a basket of nuts separating us, Jean-Marc and I were having one of those highly animated arguments that arise when one spouse's neurosis butts heads with the other spouse's neurosis.

Him: Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité.
Me: Ha! You mean the truth according to you

Him: Hmph!
Me: Hmph!

When there seemed to be no resolution in sight—so red were our faces, so steaming were our ears—one of us did a remarkably sensible thing... by dipping his hand back into the hat of sujets à aborder, or "stuff we need to talk about", and drawing another ticket!

His defensive tone gone, my husband's voice remained firm:

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!

I listened to my husband's French and, translating his words, I was hit by their deeper meaning: 

"And it isn't by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to feed yourself!"

This remark wasn't some sort of idiomatic low-blow. Jean-Marc literally meant what he said, and his concerned tone sent a steel ball spiraling towards my mur de défense

There was a tightening sensation in my throat, which felt as though someone were squeezing it. Tears pushed up from out of nowhere.  The more the tightening, the more tears were extracted until my face was streaming with them.


"Do you ever cry openly?" A loved one once asked, while helping me with relationship issues. I considered her question. Capable of spontaneous tears when suprised by an image of vulnerability (a defenseless human or animal), I don't often have the same tear-ejecting response when confronted with my own helplessness. Maybe that's because I'm not always aware of it.

This time my husband's words hit the emotional release button. I sat facing him, silently dissolving into a puddle of larmes

Jean-Marc was right. I haven't been eating lately—not after discovering that even the French have let genetically modified organisms into the marketplace! What had been a gradual awakening to the reality of the food industry... has rapidly become a full-out phobia in which every carrot is suspect and every grape sits taunting me from the produce aisle and every package of chèvre bleats, "You sure this goat hasn't grazed on pesticides?" And forget about meat when the cows are eating the animals that are eating the chemically altered corn!

Afraid even of endives, I've been madly sowing seeds in the potager, but the vegetables growing there aren't yet mature; this has me impatiently picking the beet's leaves and other leafy beginnings—when all the crickets don't beat me to them.

For the kids and Jean-Marc, I buy organic fruit, arsenic-free rice, and charcuterie labelled SANS OGM. I quit buying Chocopops and replaced Nutella with a biologique version.. All dishes are made from scratch but the more I research food news the more it becomes complicated to come up with "safe" meals and I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.


Back at the confrontation table, Jean-Marc tries to be encouraging. "You can eat some of this baguette," he offers, pointing to the two loaves, just beyond the basket of nuts.

But there are pesticides in that fresh-baked baguette. Didn't he watch the film?!... And besides, the carbohydrates in bread break down into sugars... and sugar feeds cancer! 

Mon dieu! What's got into me? Food safety is enough to drive you crazy. Looking down at that basket of noix that separates me and my husband, suddenly those nuts are looking more than organic... they are looking like a good warning of what can happen when you get carried away with fear.


To comment on this post, click here.


French vocabulary

Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité = you don't want to hear the truth
sujets à aborder = subjects to address
Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir! = And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself 
le mur de défense = wall of defence
une larme = a tear
la chèvre = goat
la charcuterie = processed meats
biologique = organic 
la noix = walnut 


  Max Espinasse
At this rate it's going to take a while to nourrir our family. Come on, Max, get back in there and catch Mom a giant daurade!

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

OGM + organic seed giveaway!

An artichoke plant grown from seed. Once it flowered, more graines were collected; with them I hope to grow a new plant in our garden. Is it true that seed collection--from our own gardens--may one day be illegal? Or is this just one of those conspiracy-theory rumors? By the way (and not in the same breath as conspiracy!), the film Genetic Roulette is free for viewing today (Friday), after which you will have to pay to see it! 

For those waiting to read the English translation to Jean-Marc's story, click here.

OGM (oh-zhay-em)

    : un organisme génétiquement modifié
    : a genetically modified organism (a "GMO"); a plant, such as corn, that has been genetically modified 


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

In the past month, apart from enjoying every moment with my dear mom (Jules left yesterday...), I have been learning about food, specifically genetically modified food--something that is banned here in France (due to the need for further testing regarding health risks...).

In the United States, genetically modified foods are prevalent, having been silently introduced into the market place in the 1990s. Found in fruits and vegetables, GMOs are in everything from ketchup to peanut butter to kids' breakfast cereal, and are served in restaurants, on airplanes, and in school cafeterias. Currently genetically modified foods do not require labelling (in the States) so there's no knowing whether or not an apple or a cookie or a jar of peanut butter contains them. 

Because the following topic could be a touchy or emotional one... I'm going to play it safe and assign myself the role of debate moderator--rather than debate participant! (go ahead and call me une poule mouillée or wet chicken--anything in order to hear your personal view on this GMO topic!)

So please share with us now your opinion on GMOs: would you eat a fruit or a vegetable that has been genetically modified? Yes or no--and why? 

Thanks for adding any related links (to documentaries, websites, books) that might persuade some of us to agree with you!

Share your view here, and enter to win seeds from this amazing artichoke plant, grown in my garden in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes... and soon to be planted here in our new garden near Bandol.

Click here to enter the discussion: "For or against GMOs".


One of the most exciting days of my life was seeing this gorgeous artichoke plant arise... from a single seed!

Thanks for forwarding this post to 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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.