TODAY'S WORD: Ratiboiser
: to chop
: to plunder, pinch, swipe
Ratiboiser also means "couper à ras" (to cut very short). When you return from the hairdresser's and your locks were cut too short, you could say, "Ils m'ont ratiboisé les cheveux. They completely cut my hair!"
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
This weekend was full, plein, rempli, like the olives trees we picked samedi. "Ils sont cafis !" my friend Sophie remarked, arriving at the field with her bucket and olive rake. Cafi! now there's a cool slang word to add to our repertoire, dear reader! Follow along and we will gather a few more…along with a ton of olives.
Saturday's olive harvest would've been another chance for our new dog to adapt to a different environment, but we decided to leave Ricci at home with Grandma Jules. Une bonne décision as several cats showed up to the oliveraie to check out all the activity.
At Vava and Laurent's in Le Beausset, some 300 olive trees were waiting to be picked for this year's récolte d'olives. Jean-Marc and I were the first volunteers to arrive to la cueillette. We helped to spread out a net on the ground to catch the olives, then we each grabbed a hand rake to comb the olive branches, a technique that is easy on the trees and saves time. The wet ground was already soaking my sneakers and it was chilly out, making me wonder if things were going to get uncomfortable fast. With only 5 pickers, the picking was slow so we eased the pain by joking about when our friends—les renforts—would finally arrive (this happened around 11 a.m., suspiciously close to l'heure de l’apéro…). At that point the sun finally made its way over the hill and the group livened up thanks to some new helpers qui a la tchatche--who have the gift of gab.
Seated on an upturned bucket, raking the cut branches for more olives, I listened to the conversations going on around the olive grove. Topics ranged from age-gap marriage to Japanese toilets (the estate had a "Boku" bidet. The popular brand is a saucy play on the words "beau" and "cul" or "beautiful butt," which refers to the desired outcome after using the fesse-cleaning apparatus). As you can imagine, such talk leads to innuendo--something the French excel at. Even if I didn’t understand all the words lingering in the air above me, there were others up for grabs along with all those olives.
”What do you call this?” Vava's sister, Geraldine, asked, waving a peignes à olives.
"A rake," I answered.
“Rake….” Geraldine repeated, making a few associations to drill the new word into memory. “Rake…Rateau…. Ratiboiser... “
Ratiboiser—that one sounded familiar. It means “to pilfer, plunder, or “to make off with.” After we'd plundered or made off with 200 kilos of olives, it was time for lunch. Jean-Marc headed to the BBQ, to cook some merguez and chipolatas, while Vava beelined over to the kitchen. The long harvest table began to fill with food, including a plateau de charcuterie (featuring sliced salami, rillettes, and pâté. Wine was passed around and my friend Sophie surprised me with a special non-alcoholic drink in a beautiful sangria glass decorated with lots of fresh mint. What a treat! Next, we sat down to homemade eggplant lasagna, sausages, and baked chicken. One of the friends, Jean-Michel, brought along a prized magnum from his collection—a bottle of Jean-Marc’s “Zero Watt,” a wine my husband made “without electricity,” when we moved to St. Cyr-sur-Mer in 2012, to our own olive farm and future vineyard. That wine and today’s olive harvest brought back bittersweet memories, but volunteering at our friend’s harvest helps in its own way: for one, we get to use what skills we gained in the 10 years we harvested our own fields, and one of those skills is, simply, the ability to show up early and prepared.
One thing about arriving first to the olive harvest is... less guilt when leaving early and missing the grueling afternoon shift. As mentioned, we had a full agenda Saturday. It was time now to get ready for a birthday party. So after we plundered the buffet we kissed Vava and Laurent goodbye and waved au revoir et bon après-midi to our friends, the olive-picking crew. “See you next year, bright and early!”
rempli = full
plein = full
cafi = full of
une bonne décision = a good decision
une oliveraie = olive grove
un peigne = comb
la récolte d’olives = olive harvest
la cueillette = harvest
le renfort = the backup crew, the reinforcement
l’heure de l’apéro = cocktail hour
qui à la tchatche = who has the gift of gab
les fesses = butt
ratiboiser = to pilfer, plunder
rillettes = a kind of pâté
Thank you for the most lovely comments following this blog's 21st birthday. Your words are deeply touching and will remain in my heart forever! And sincere thanks to the following readers who sent in a blog donation this past week!
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Kristi and Ricci. Sunday marks 4 weeks since we brought 3-year-old Ricci home from Aveyron. Her appetite has grown, she now barks when strangers come to her home, and she loves the beach. It's a joy to see her personality unfold.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety