Miam! Courge Marron Soup (Butternut Squash and Chestnut soup) & We're going to Spain!

Butternut-and-chestnut-soup
"Miam"  is a French word used to designate the appreciation of something, generally a culinary preparation. It is a word that comes from a child's language but one adults use, too, as a part of their appetite. Definition from Internaute.com

Miam est un terme utilisé pour désigner l'appréciation d'une chose, généralement une préparation culinaire. C'est un mot qui provient du langage enfantin mais dont les adultes se servent également pour faire part de leur appétit. Miam-miam! = yum yum!


ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and definition: Download Miam



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristi Espinasse

The first thing I ate when I returned to France, from the Mexican Riviera, was a garden-fresh courge! Before even a pain au chocolat or a slice of comté cheese, I ate that butternut squash and I've eaten two more since. I thought that by eating something grown right in front of our home--by ingesting so many vitamins and minerals from the good French earth--I might be forgiven of all those airport muffins (blueberry, chocolate, pumpkin...) consumed in transit.

Whether airport comfort food or garden comfort food, la nourriture (if you can call airport muffins that) does more than nourish us--it calms or inspires or warms us. Here's a recipe that does all three. Bon appétit!

La Soupe de Courge aux Marrons
Butternut squash and chestnut soup

    Butternut squash
    chestnuts, peeled (find peeled chestnuts here)
    celery
    parsley
    onion
    garlic   

    paprika
    salt and pepper

This is a recipe you will do au pif (by guesswork). Don't worry, it will all work out! Cut up a cup or two of butternut squash, add the same amount (or less, depending on how much you like chestnuts) to the roasting pan (see photo above). Add a small quartered onion (optional) and 2 or 3 garlic cloves. Toss in a few sprigs of parsley and a little celery (optional). Sprinkle paprika, salt and pepper on vegetables. Drizzle olive oil on top and toss all ingredients. Put in the oven at 175C (350F) for 30 or so minutes. Remove from oven and, after it cools, put vegetables in a mixing bowl (or saucepan) with water enough to cover them and a stock cube (or use canned soup stock). Use a handy immersion blender to mix all ingredients into a soup.

I love the rich texture and slight sweetness of this soup--and after a trip, I crave it. It is a good thing there are 5 giant squash remaining in my front garden--because we are going on a road trip tomorrow, and you know what that means...muffins! If there's one thing our family secretly enjoys while traveling, it's all that rest-stop nourishment, aisles and aisles of temptations! (And, arriving home on Sunday, it will be bonjour soup!)

See you next week. And if you would like to follow us on our family road trip to Spain, keep your eye on this Instagram account and bon voyage!

2cv
RELATED POSTS
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Gâteau Yaourt - everyone in France knows how to make this simple cake, by heart. Do you? Click here

Tarte Tomate. Last of the season's tomatoes? Delicious Tomato pie recipe! Click here.



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FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Order here.

Courge-butternut
Thank you for reading this word journal. A bientôt!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Tarte Tomate : that seasonal French recipe you love and have been asking for!

Tomatoes-in-biarritz
I know this tomato picture is crooked. Just tilt your head and carry on. A good recipe awaits you!

TODAY'S WORD: cocher (ko-shay) verb

  : to check off, to tick (off); to score

cocher la bonne réponse = to check the correct answer


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse


(Note: The following story was written in the fall of 2007.)

The kids and I are sitting at the kitchen table, polishing off a tomato tarte. My son insists that this is one of his favorites.

"Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman," Max suggests. His sister seconds that, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and managing to nod at the same time.
"Thanks, Jackie. Use your napkin!" I remind my daughter.

In my brain, I travel over to the "meals" department, where I uncheck the "pot-au-feu" box, and je coche the square that reads "tarte à la tomate". (The first was fade, the second, flavorful.) I'll get the menus right one day. In the meantime, there's nothing like encouragement from your twelve-year-old boy.

...and there's nothing like constructive criticism from your ten-year-old:
"Less mustard next time," Jackie advises, swiping her mouth again.
"Use your napkin!" I repeat, filing away my daughter's tip. She's right about la moutarde.

As I fine-tune my mental menu, checking and unchecking boxes, noting my family's likes and dislikes, I feel a cold, wet nose knocking at my elbow. That would be our dog, Braise (brez), reminding me to tick the "more scraps" box.

"Merci, Braise!" I say, rubbing my wet elbow. "Now won't you use your napkin, too?"

                          *     *     *

Tomato Pie / La Tarte à la Tomate

This recipe comes from a French friend, and not my mother-in-law. Rachel (rah-shel) is also la marraine (godmother) to our daughter. The ingredients and mode d'emploi were huffed and puffed to me during a grueling hike (we'd finished the tomato pie during a rest stop) somewhere near the town of Martigues... or was it Marseilles... or Marignane? Memory fails me, but the recipe is too simple (and too delicious) to forget! Here it is. Enjoy it and share it:

1 store-bought pie crust (or make this fast, easy shortcrust pastry)
2 or 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 cup of shredded Emmental cheese (or Gruyère)
2 or 3 large tomatoes, sliced

Tomato-tart

Instructions:
Roll out the store-bought crust (if rollable). Make sure the crust base is pre-cooked or the tart may turn out doughy-bottomed... Slather mustard across the dough's surface. Sprinkle cheese over the mustard and set the sliced tomatoes across the top. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and a filet or "swirl" of olive oil to taste. Cook the tomato pie in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes.

*variation: try tapenade (crushed olive spread) in the place of the mustard.
 
French Vocabulary

la tarte = pie; Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman = You should make this more often, Mom; le pot-au-feu = boiled beef with vegetables; coche (cocher ) = to check off (box); la tarte (f) à la tomate = tomato pie; fade = (pronounced "fad") bland, insipid; le mode d'emploi = how to, directions; merci = thanks

Cherry-tomato-tart
This one was made with cherry tomatoes! Here are some helpful tools for your tart!

Tarte-tomate-tomato-tart
Chair with cherry tomatoes

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Rondelle + Recipe everyone's asking for! My Mother-in-Law's Summer Pizza!

Eggplant-tart
Michèle-France's Pizza d'Ete. Summer Pizza.

TODAY'S WORD: une rondelle

    : slice

Note: rondelle, in this sense, is used for slices of tomato, zucchini, lemon, sausage etc. Careful not to ask for a rondelle de pizza! Instead, ask for une part de pizza.

ECOUTEZ - hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and read his mother's recipe.
First, listen to the soundfile, then check the text (in the story below) to test your comprehension.
Download MP3 or Download Rondelle

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristi Espinasse

A favorite comfort food of mine is toast--and toast, in French, is pain grillé (think of it, "grilled pain"! No wonder it is so effective!).

My second favorite comfort food (nourriture de soulagement?) is anything my mother-in-law makes.  Lately, I am loving Michèle-France's summertime tart (really a pizza), and she recently posted the recipe on Facebook! For those who missed it, here's the recipe in French and English. Enjoy it and share it!:

LA RECETTE
Pour vous je donne la recette que j'ai improvisée...
Au lieu de coulis, j'ai mis une sauce avec tomates, ail, oignon, thym sur fond de tarte.
Ensuite, rondelles de courgettes, aubergines, rondelles de tomates, et au dessus quelques olives
Arroser d'un peu d'huile d'olive, du thym parsemé, sel, poivre.
Préchauffer le four. 180C degrés .
Laisser cuire en surveillant la cuisson. Bon appétit. !!!

RECIPE
For you I am offering the recipe I have improvised...
Instead of coulis, I put tomato sauce with garlic, onion, and thyme at the bottom of the tart (pizza dough)
Next, slices of zucchini, eggplant, slices of tomatoes, and a few olives on top.
Drizzle a little olive oil, and sprinkle thyme, salt, pepper on top.
Preheat the oven at 350F.
Keep an eye on it while it cooks. Enjoy!


COMMENTS
To leave a comment click here.

Smokey-reads
Smokey's reading recommendation (ebook, Kindle version here) and a few selected products for summertime. He is also dreaming of baking and his own French baguette pan, to help mold the ideal gallic loaf. A selection of French loaf pans here.

Jackie-fair

Congratulations to our 18-year-old daughter, Jackie, who received her Baccalauréat yesterday! She will go on to university in Aix-en-Provence, continuing her studies in Fashion Design.

Did you know...
International schools following the French Curriculum of education may offer the Baccalauréat (Le Bac) in lieu of or alongside a traditional high school diploma. The Baccalauréat is the traditional school-leaving qualification of French schools. The Baccalauréat is offered in several streams; subjects chosen for the Baccalauréat depend on the stream chosen by the student. (Wikipedia, "High School Diploma")

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Marianne's Easy Lasagna & favorite French phrase

DSC_0030

We returned home last night from our family ski vacation to find poppies blossoming along the railroad tracks in our village. Bonjour Printemps! Are you here to stay?

TODAY'S EXPRESSION

    "Ça ne mange pas de pain" = it doesn't cost a thing

* literally, "It doesn't eat bread". I heard Jean-Marc say this while we were on our family vacation this week. Since, I've been saying it everyday!, ie:

"Jackie, send your fashion article to France Today or French Provencal magazine"- ça ne mange pas de pain! You've got nothing to lose!


Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…
Click here.

FRENCH PRONUNCIATION
Learn how to speak French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

La compassion, la tolerance, le respet pour l'autre... ça ne mange pas de pain.
Compassion, tolerance, respect for others... it doesn't cost a thing.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristi Espinasse

Home now from a 3-day family getaway to the French Alps, the first thing I want to do--before even unpacking my valise, is to make Marianne's delicious lasagna! I've already been to the store this morning, to get the short list of ingredients for this easy, 6-ingredient recipe!


Chalet-clothesline
                      L'Art de vivre en montagne


MARIANNE'S FASTOCHE LASAGNE
(Marianne's Easy-Peasy Lasagne)

Twenty-three years ago, sitting at Marianne's convivial dinner table, I would not have thought to ask for the recette. But I've grown up, since, and rearranged my priorities! While I still stare at all the French guests--losing my attention span to daydreaming as my gaze picks up all kinds of inspiration from those seated around the table--I can now punctuate these lapses with pertinent questions, such as, Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... or May I have the recipe for this delicious dish? 

Monday night, as I stared at the stuffed squirrel on the chalet's wall, Marianne served up lasagna for thirteen, and Michel, Marianne's husband, explained: "The squirrel came from Alsace...."

I thought to ask Why?, when another, more pressing question came to mind: "Marianne, est-ce que je peux avoir la recette de ce lasagne?" And here, dear readers, is what she answered (my notes and questions are in parenthesis, in case you want to give me any pointers before I go to make this recipe this afternoon!) :


First make an easy bolognaise sauce...
Sauté some onions, add ground beef (around 100 grams or 3.5 ounces per person) and continue to cook, separating the beef with a spatula,  mixing it up with the onions. Add salt and pepper and a can or so of tomatoes (or tomatoe paste). 
 
Then add cream.... Marianne says she added two cartons of crême fraîche liquide (she held up her hands to give me an idea of the carton size, which I guess is about 8 ounces per carton. This will depend on how much beef you use, so just do it by guesswork, which is my plan! (As for me, I bought 3 small tubs of sour cream. Do you think this will work?) 

Now put down the first layer of lasagna noodles --precooked, directly from package, followed by one layer of the meat/cream sauce and one layer of shredded gruyère cheese. Repeat until you reach the top  of the pan. (Do you line the pan? I think I'll butter it or add sauce first... let me know!) 

Into the oven at 150-180C (300-350F) for 25 minutes... and voilà, fini!


KRISTI'S NOTES

I love the idea of this basic lasagna recipe, which gives me courage to make lasagna for the very first time. With an easy 6-ingredient base, I am free to be creative, adding chopped carrots to sauté along with the onions, or adding nutmeg and a lump of butter to the cream and meat sauce.... I may also add some leftover parmesan along with the shredded cheese. 

What would you add? Let me know this-and any other tips in the comments. I am so excited to finally be making lasagna, as it will be a very practical recipe at harvest time!

Check out these casserole dishes at Amazon.

COMMENTS

Marianne-michel
Everybody had seconds! Thanks, Marianne and Michel! For another easy, quick, and delicious recipe by Marianne, click here.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
valise = suitcase
recette = recipe
Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... tell me about that (stuffed) squirrel on the wall


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Max-and-antoine
Vacation is over. This morning Max and Antoine are pulling out large stones from the vineyard floor and piling them at the end of the vine row, where an ancient restanque (Provencal stone wall) hints at a new purpose for these heavy rocks.

Smokey-snow
P.S. Smokey had a blast in the snow, chased tennis balls and ate plenty of snowballs too!

FORWARD THIS POST TO A FRIEND.
Thanks and see you next week!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Cheez Whiz + The 3-ingredient dessert my French guests raved about

French chestnut cake recipe

Make this easy chestnut cream cake and your guests, like mine, will be dipping their spoons into the pan for more! (Cuillères, because the French do not eat cake with fourchettes, as we do back home in Arizona.)

TODAY'S WORD: le marron

    1. brown or chestnut (color)
    2. chestnut 
    3.  black-eye (slang)

Mas-de-perdrix-kitchenMas de la Perdrix-the perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…click here.

 


ECOUTER 
Listen to Jean-Marc and improve your French pronunciation: Download MP3

C’est en 1882 alors que l'économie locale ardéchoise dans l’élevage du ver à soie traverse une crise due à une épidémie, que Clément Faugier, jeune homme du terroir, crée à Privas la première fabrique de Marrons Glacés.

It was in 1882, during a time when silkworm farming in the Ardèche was in a state of crisis due to an epidemic, that Clément Faugier, a young man from the region, created the first candied chestnut factory in Privas.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristin Espinasse

When I first moved to France I began to notice all kinds of unusual behavior among the French, most of it coming from my husband-to-be. Jean-Marc loves the outdoors and we would often hike down the jagged calanques, to the sea, where we enjoyed picnicking. Jean-Marc's favorite things to eat included the traditional baguette and cheese... and a brown paste that he would suck from a tube. (I know that last phrase lacks elegance, unlike my then-boyfriend).

It turned out he was relishing his favorite childhood goûter, or snack: chestnut cream in a tube! And who was I to judge the way in which he ate it--when my favorite childhood snack was Cheez Whiz? For those unfamiliar with the product, French Wikipedia offers some incite:

    Il se présente sous la forme d'une pâte de couleur jaune et est conditionné dans des pots en verre.
    It is presented in the form of a yellow-colored paste, and packaged in glass pots.

Not my Cheez Whiz! Mine came in an aerosol can--all the better for spraying directly into the mouth before replacing it in my grandmother's cupboard, beside her canned green beans from my grandfather's garden.

An ocean away from those delightful gastronomic episodes, I now cultivate beans in my own garden, and compensate for so much healthy eating by punctuated indulgements. (Did you know you can now buy Cheez Whiz in France?)

One of my all-time favorite, decadent desserts is this French chestnut cake that Jean-Marc's aunt often made us during harvest time at her vineyard. And when we began our own vineyard, Marie-Françoise (that's her handwriting in the opening photo) brought this beloved gâteau de marrons to our harvest picnics, to help us out. Everyone loves it and so will you! 

 

FRENCH CHESTNUT CAKE
Le Gâteau aux Marrons

Note: you can purchase the chestnut cream here at Amazon. It's pricey, but only three ingredients are needed for this cake, which costs around $15. (I served 8 people). Also, you may notice how Aunt Marie-Françoise handwritten recipe (pictured) calls for beating the egg whites and gently folding them in. Up to you. (I'd rather spend the effort pulling weeds near my fava beans. Grandpa, you would be proud!)

INGREDIENTS

    => 500 grams or 1 can(about 2 cups) of Crème de Marrons vanillé (vanilla chestnut spread)
    =>100 grams of butter (about 7 tablespoons)
    => 3 eggs

In a pan, over medium heat, combine the chestnut spread and the butter until softened. Remove from stovetop and let cool before adding three beaten eggs. Stir to combine. Pour into cake pan.

Cook 45 minutes at 150C (300F)

Note: my cake seemed ready after only 20 minutes! It is a thin cake. I served it plain, but you could frost it or put a chocolate sauce on top! Sliced strawberries would be nice. Here's a picture of one I topped simply, with pecans and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Why not share this post with a friend? Thanks and enjoy. Et bon appétit!


COMMENTS
To leave a comment or to read one, click here

French Chestnut cake gateau aux marrons

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Making-parsley-pesto

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Gratin & Traditional French zucchini casserole

Jm-prunning
My slowcooker has been on nonstop these past two weeks, as I've made a daily lunch for Jean-Marc and his stagiaire, or intern. For  today's recipe, however, you'll need an oven..... 

TODAY'S WORD: le gratin

    : a cheese-topped dish (also a dish topped with breadcrumbs)
    

In addition to being a dish topped with a browned crust, le gratin also refers to the upper crust of society. Another definition has it as "anybody who's anybody." Wikipedia adds:

The etymology of gratin is from the French language in which the word gratter meaning "to scrape" or "to grate" as of the "scrapings" of bread or cheese, and gratiné, from the transitive verb form of the word for crust or skin.

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

Les oeufs au gratin Ne donnent pas de poussins.
Eggs in a casserole dish don't make chicks.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

"Eggs in a Casserole Dish Don't Make Chicks"

    by Kristin Espinasse


I think I've correctly translated today's quote, and yet I still can't make out the meaning. Furthermore, I wonder if the traditional French gratin de courgettes calls for eggs or not....

Marianne had given me the recipe, verbally...but I don't remember her mentioning eggs...which, come to think of it, helps me to understand today's citation: it could be that it's a rhyme, helping cooks to remember whether or not to put an egg into a casserole recipe! 

So no eggs in Marianne's gratin. But I feel like adding eggs, so I will... (Does that mean we need to rewrite the popular dicton?)

    => Eggs in a casserole don't make FRENCH chicks. 
 

Smokey-reflection

Being an American chick, I crack three eggs into a bowl, as Smokey observes the scene from the other side of the kitchen window.

Next, I add the contents of a small tub of crème fraîche , or sour cream. I salt and pepper this when a light goes off: noix musçade! A few grates of nutmeg might enhance this dish, just as nutmeg makes potato gratin so good!

In a frying pan, I sauté 4 cut-up zucchini and one chopped onion (yellow), adding more salt and pepper. When the vegetables are soft, I let them cool before mixing in the eggs and cream. 

Greasing a casserole dish with butter (or oil), I pour in the zucchini-onion-egg-cream mixture, and top it off with grated gruyère (swiss cheese will work, or name another....).

Because I cook au pifomètre, by guesswork, I'm never sure how hot I'll set the oven. I go for 175C (around 350F) and set the timer for 20 minutes (adding another 10 when a glance through the stove window shows the gratin is not yet golden.

*    *    *

The zucchini casserole made a delicious Saturday night dinner... and on Day Two, Jackie and her friends, back from clubbing all night near Toulon, happily ate some for lunch. (When a French kid likes my cooking, the recipe gets marked with stars!) On Day Three, Monday, I served the rest of the casserole to Jean-Marc, his stagiare, and me, placing a spatula full of gratin along side a plate of spaghetti and slow-cooked gigot (leg of lamb).

A French woman would never ever mix up food like that. But I am not a French chick. I am an American poussin!


Spagetti-gratin
Thanks for reading and for sharing this post.

Jean-marc-and-laurent

I have gotten a lot of use out of my slow-cooker and my gratin dishes this week. If you are in the market for one of these and you shop at Amazon, please use one of the highlighted links, above, to enter the store. For your purchases, this word journal will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you! 

Lemons-kristi-smokey
(Her) "Lemon pie, lemon curd, lemonade..."
(Him) "Tennis ball, tennis ball, tennis ball..."

Max-in-aix
Some of you commented that Max has really grown up. Our son was 7-years-old when this blog began. He turns 21 in a few months.

Max-apt
Jackie was 5... She is thinking of pursuing her studies in Aix, this fall. And she hopes to move into her brother's apartment (seen here), as he may be moving to another city.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Glaçon: A Wife's Revenge + Ratatouillaisse recipe

Mr-sacks-in-italy

Just discovered another photo of Jean-Marc and his side-kick Mr. Sacks, in Italy. Don't miss the collection of Mr Sacks photos!

JEAN-MARC IN WINE SPECTATOR - Please read about Jean-Marc in this week's online edition of Wine Spectator! The story is called Parched in Provence.


 

TODAY'S WORD: le glaçon

    : ice cube

French definition of ice cubes from Wikipedia:

Les glaçons domestiques se réalisent en plaçant un bac à glaçons dans un congélateur. Sous l’action du froid, l'eau du bac (de préférence de l'eau chaude selon l'effet Mpemba) gèle dans le bac, puis il suffit de démouler les glaçons.

Domestic ice cubes are made by placing an ice tray in the freezer. Activated by the cold, the water in the tray (preferably from hot water according to the Mpemba effect ) freezes in the tray, then simply remove the ice from the mold.


 

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

The other night, I crawled into bed with a tall glass of freezing cold water. I had forgotten just how much I love ice cubes! And then a heatwave hit France - sending me back to the nostalgic past. Sitting in front of a cheap fan (air conditioning is as rare as ice cubes here), looking out the window at the parched countryside,  glimmers from my Southwest American childhood come back, reminding me of how we managed to keep cool in the Valley of the Sun.

ICE CUBES- Everyone used them in their cups, adding sun-brewed tea or pop from the fridge. You either bought your bag of ice cubes at the store, or your refrigerator door magically produced them (as at my friend Vanessa's house). Some people made their own ice cubes, bien sûr.

NO ICE CUBES IN FRANCE-is an exaggerated statement, but not that far from the truth. If you have been to France, you know exactly what I mean. Restaurants serve one (maybe two?) ice cubes when you order a soft drink. But forget about ice in your water!

Indeed, forgetting about ice became my coping mechanism when I moved from Arizona to France. So much so that now, 23 years later, it just wouldn't even occur to me to offer you an ice cube in your drink. My unconscious reasoning? The ice tea has already been chilled... in the frigo!

Press me and I might offer another explanation: Have you seen our ice cube trays in France? I've tried the plastic sack molds, only to watch a piece of blue plastic break off with each individual cube. I've used the built-in trays (in a new freezer we once had) but the "tray-flip" mechanism never worked...and was broken when it was banged on the counter in frustration. And I've attempted the "flexible" molds (you bend them inside out and still the tiny ice cubes cling on for dear life!!). All such effort produces a few broken cubes (the rest end up on the floor) and several frozen fingers. Might as well stick those in your cup!

ICE CUBE STASH
But when the temperatures hit triple digits last month, I was desperate to cool down and so resorted to using those crappy flexible molds to make a small cachette of cubes (hey, each for his own. If you want ice cubes around here--make them yourself. Suffer icy fingerburn!).

IT'S BAD KARMA TO HOARD ICE CUBES
Then, last week, Jean-Marc took my precious, Rare Ice Cube Collection and dumped it into a bucket to chill a bottle of his rosé! Hell hath no fury that describes the degenerative effect this had on me. (Because we had a guest at the time, I could not dump the icy bucket over my husband's head and pour his rosé into the Mediterranean!

PLAN B
The next day, I decided to see what French store-bought ice cubes are like--and they're huge! That evening, I carefully chose four--enough to fill a small canteen. I took the accoustic, stainless steel canteen to bed with me (see opening paragraph) and, each time Jean-Marc nodded off to sleep, I jiggled my drink, smiling when a percussion of cubes sounded off in sweet revenge.

Done with my evening reading (and drinking), I shut off the lights. No matter how many times I read my well-worn prayer book, I'm still just a little devil. 

                                   *    *    *

Smokey-our father
Smokey's prayer: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Rainbow Bridge come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Dog Heaven...

Generous-neighbors

Another picture from my Instagram, titled "Generous Neighbors". Now read on for what to do with summer vegetables...

Hamburger-ratatouille

YVON'S "RATATOUILLAISSE" - and ANN MAH'S post
My friend and artist Yvon Kergal posted his delicious Provençal recipe. I made it an my family loved it. Now see Ann Mah's post for the hit recipe in English .

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Illegal Alien, Moi? Sans papiers? Carte de sejour & Lettre de motivation + Ratatouilasse recipe (ratatouille + hamburger)

Hamburger-ratatouille golden retriever smokey
This deliciousness you are seeing, above, is French artist and friend Yvon Kergal's recipe for caramelized "Ratatouillasse" (apparently a valid scrabble word, though no other definition found...) It's the most delicious hamburger-ratatouille combo ever, find the recipe here!  


TODAY'S WORD: une carte de séjour

    : residence permit

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc:
Download MP3 or Download Wav file


Pour obtenir ma carte de séjour, je dois faire une lettre de motivation.
To obtain my resident's permit, I must write a letter of motivation. 


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


There comes a time in every parent's life when they want to run away. But this morning's escape wish comes at an inopportune time. Far from leaving my home, I am scheduled, tomorrow, to ask the French government for a new carte de séjour: my 10 year resident's permit has expired for the second time and I am once again in a precarious sans-papiers situation, no more than an étranger en situation irrégulière.

Add to that this morning's meltdown after my flesh-n-blood French counterparts returned from the States only to glander for days...while Mom does the cooking, cleaning and laundry rattrapage. And while caring for my kids actually releases endorphins in my body--the comfort I get in being able care for my children while I still can--it is for the very same reason (their burgeoning adulthood) that I am at odds with their relaxed attitudes: in order for them to succeed in life, they must learn to organize! 

But I should talk! Lack of organization is what has put me in this clandestin situation with the French authorities. "You do realize that your residence permit expired 3 weeks ago?" The woman behind the security window is not smiling. 

"Yes," I admit. "Veuillez m'excuser. I have been caring for a family member... who has since passed away." (I felt guilty using this information to my advantage, but surely Breizh would want to help in keeping me united with my children and my husband,  the family she looked after for nine golden years. Come to think of it, this may explain the sudden onslaught of emotions on entering the Préfecture in Toulon. As Jean-Marc and I sat down with an audience of immigrants (all waiting impatiently for their number to be called by a French authority), I burst out in tears.

"What is wrong?" Jean-Marc asked.

"I don't know! Je suis très émotive....."

Maybe it was the sight of so many people waiting to plead for residency... a 6-year-old boy, oblivious to his situation... a young mother wearing a headscarf... an older couple looking as fragile as the numbered ticket, somewhat wet and crumbled, in my hand.

I used to be awed by the expats in literature and yearned to be one of them. Decades later and I am a part of the expatriate community in France. But a funny thing happened the moment I became an official expat: the term suddenly didn't fit me at all. It sounded unpatriotic. Though I had left the States, I felt no less an American.

I once heard the term "immigrant" used by Americans in online expat forum. My first reaction was, how can you consider yourself an immigrant? Have you fled a war-torn country? Isn't an immigrant someone who comes to a country for a better quality of life?

Back at the Immigrations waiting room in Toulon's Préfecture, I look up at the surveillance camera and imagine what the authorities are seeing among the group of immigrés: a woman with tears streaming down her face,  sandwiched between a 6-year-old and an older couple. The tears are misleading given the catharsis taking place. I am so grateful to be here in France, having come here 23 years ago pour une meilleure qualité de vie. And it is the very reason I wish to stay here: to help my children understand the gift they've been given and to share this culture with others, by talking about the French way of life.

As I type this letter to you, I hear dishes clattering and silverware falling into the kitchen drawer. My daughter is done vegetating from her jetlag. When she's finished with the dishes, she has promised to help me with my lettre de motivation (A document the French government has asked for).  I began practicing with Jackie yesterday, by reading her the first line of my letter....

A l'attention dé Préfécture du Var. Chers Monsieurs. Chers Madame. Je suis très motivée de rester en France car....

 

 "Maman!" Jackie says, "It is called a une lettre de motivation... but that doesn't mean you begin it with "I am motivated." And never use "car"! We quit using car ( "because") after 5th grade!"

"OK. How about parce que... "

"No! Don't use parce que! You must not use "because" at all! In France, you must use argument to convince people!

*    *    *

Looks like I have a lot of work to do to get this letter ready for tomorrow. And I realize, now, I have one more point to add to the list of arguments as to why I should remain in France....

Dear Monsieur le Préfet, would you be so kind to grant me ten more precious years in France, car... parce que... ETANT DONNE QUE ... given that I have so many things to learn and to share.


Postnote:
A parent tries her best to raise considerate and responsible kids. I was so touched to receive, just after writing this story, a lovely note from Gail and Fred, the couple in Portland who allowed Max to stay at their home all on his own. Gail writes:

I just got my computer back and wanted to send Max a thank you for the way he kept the apartment. It was clean and neat...couldn't have had a better intern in the space. Also, he left a bottle of wine and tea set that I will write and thank him for.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
sans papiers = illegal, clandestine
glander
= to veg out
le rattrapage = to catch up
clandestin = clandestine
le préfet = prefect, reeve
étant donné que = given that 

Mother and daughter franco-american Kristin Espinasse Jackie

Picture of me and my daughter, taken 12 years ago in La Ciotat. Everything else that I would like to teach my children is summed up in this famous poem: Read Desiderata in French and in English here

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Meet Morrie & French fruit soup recipe

Mulberry-pendant
   Jean-Marc, returning to his vine fields after delivering me this tree!

Meet Morrie! We welcome to our vineyard a new tree, a morus alba pendula . This weeping mulberry tree, a permaculture gardener's dream, will lend a delicious dimension to today's recipe: French Fruit Soup. Read on!
 
la cueillette
 (kuh yet)

    1. picking, gathering
    2. crop, harvest

Also: cueillir (to pick, gather, pluck) 

AUDIO FILE: hear Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wave file

la cueillette des raisins, des champignons, des pommes et des poires....
  the gathering of grapes, mushrooms, apples and pears... 

la cueillette de la lavande, des fleurs sauvages....
  the gathering of lavender, of wildflowers... 

la cueillette à la ferme, au verger...
  harvesting at the farm, at the orchard... 


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

A Fresh New Perspective on Gardening

Sometime last spring, I looked out to my garden and thought: who are you kidding? You can't grow things - at least not consistenly. True, I've had a glory day or two (that five-pound zucchini and the prolific roma tomato plant. And those ears of corn! But the courgettes and tomatoes this year are weird and I never got around to planting corn, which is like sabotage since it wasn't so hard to grow afterall--and why wouldn't you grow something if you knew you could?

Just look at this mess! On a recent foray out to the back yard, to my three-part garden--a wild part, a tamed part, a wild part--Even my husband pointed it out: "It's a jungle out there. You need to tame it."

It's true, my garden experiment has gone amuck. Even the tamed part was out of control. Standing there, wondering what to do,  I knelt down to pull a few weeds from the base of this jungle. A bright red ball caught my attention, and I turned and yanked a strawberry from the vine, popping it in my mouth. Those random strawberries  didn't seem to amount to much, but, if you stopped and added them all up....  They might equal bushells by the end of summer!

I sat back and took a fresh look at my edible forest. What looked like havoc was, finally, the self-caring garden I had meant to cultivate from the very beginning-- when I began watching every Youtube video on the topic of permaculture and food forests.

Permaculture ("permanent agriculture")  and forest gardening are ways to jardiner by which you observe how plants behave in nature. Nature doesn't have neat rows of tomatoes or straight lines of thyme. Wild fruit trees are surrounded by plants and vines, not more of the same.

A week or so ago I began carrying a small bowl with me to my garden, filling it with whatever could be harvested. Back in the kitchen, I photographed the tiny harvest. When I string all the pictures together - days later, I see my harvest from a new perspective. Instead of the lone fraise, I now have a small bowl of berries.  Determined to come back to the kitchen with a small bounty, I now venture out through my jungle - searching out the hidden cherry tomato and the looming raspberry. This morning I found a pumpkin plant! It must have come out of the pile of compost I tossed at the foot of the kale tree (a veritable arbre!).

These petites cueillettes captured by my camera are wonderfully rewarding visual harvests and further motivation to head out each day and hunt for something ripe. Were it not for this recent return to the forest - the field riot I had so been avoiding - I would have never had the thrill of discovering our first homegrown avocado--here on the seacoast of France! I would have experienced the ironic twist of fate that sometimes happens to those who give up:

Strangely, so many people give up just moments before they would have realized their goal.

Speaking of strange, this brings me back to my weird garden. My weird and WONDERFUL garden. That little avocado would have been dangling out there in the forest, unseen as I headed into the house to hang up my garden gloves for good.

And what about that book I have given up on? Or the pursuit that you have stopped pursuing? Could it be it is well within reach?....


Vegetable garden and nettles patch
  When my garden was tame.

Post Note
I'm glad my husband made that remark, which poked at my stubborn heart. I now return daily to my wild garden, to remind myself it is just as it should be: rambling, uneven, free--and producing! My favorite thing to do with the jungle food -- will the recent micro harvests -- is to make fruit soup (the soup part, admittedly, makes up for all the missing fruit and has the added advantage of being super refreshing at the start of another canicular day).

I leave you with this simple recipe, and wish you bon appétit! 

Fruit-soup


LA SOUPE DE FRUITS

  • selection of fruit including berries, stone fruit, bananas for creaminess
  • teaspoon olive oil*
  • scissored or chopped herb leaves - such as mint, basil, lemon verbena, or the simple-to-grow anise hyssop (see it somewhere in the above photo)
  • squeezes of lemon or orange
  • a dollop of yogurt - optional
  • seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax...), raisins, dried mulberries...
  • a little water  

Olive oil? you say. I know it sounds strange, but think of olive oil's health benefits!  I got the oil tip from Rachel (who taught me the easy Provencal Tomato Tart. She uses canola oil in her fruit salad, mashing it up with a banana and lemon juice for the dressing.)

Directions
Chop up fruit (I leave the strawberry tops on), add chopped herbs and squeezes of citrus, and top with yogurt and seeds. I then put my bowl under the tap and add a quarter cup of water. I know that is very strange and surely amateur -- but have you experience the current heat wave in France? Extra water (now flavored with so much fruit!) can't hurt--and how else to make fruit soup? :-)

Your suggestions
Tell us what you would add to this refreshing soup. Click here to comment.

Morrie
Smokey, Breizh, and Morrie--our new mulberry tree!

P1010798

Red-carrot

It all adds up. Jean-Marc and I once made a meal out of this carrot, frying it with an onion and putting the glazed and sweet topping over rice.
 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Rabbit recipe + How to say DEADLINE in French?

Musician-in-aix
French Word-A-Day goes out twice a week, but the stories continue in pictures over at Instagram. This snapshot, above, is subtitled "Following in a musician's steps, in Aix." I had been hurrying along behind the stranger, on my way to a meeting, when a little voice whispered: Snap out of it. Sometimes we are so clamped down on our track to the future that we are incapable of experiencing the present moment. This is also the theme of today's story. I hope you'll enjoy it.

la date limite

    : deadline, cut-off date

date limite de consommation = best-before date
date limite de conservation = expiration date
date limite de publication =  publication deadline

AUDIO FILE
Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French: Download MP3 or Wav file

La date limite d'utilisation est une date indiquée sur l'emballage de certaines denrées au-delà de laquelle leurs qualités ne sont plus garanties. The expiration date is a date indicated on the package of certain foodstuff beyond which their qualities are no longer guaranteed. (French sentence from Wikipedia)

Improve your French pronunciation with the Exercises in French phonetics book. Click here. 

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

This month marks two years since I began writing the back page column for France Today magazine. In addition to Le Dernier Mot, I have been given the chance to write a three-page feature for their June edition! Though I have finally adapted to a regular deadline (getting lots of practice here in my blog) I am panicked about this week's due date and my tendency is to clamp down and shut everything else out. Like this, I recently missed the chance to meet friends in Cassis, and I missed my dear friend Tessa's painting class. C'est dommage. The friendly breaks would have surely had a positive effect and would not have caused my little publishing empire to come crumbling down! 

By Wednesday this new deadline was looming when another date limite (you need to say those words with a French accent: DAT LEE-MEET) crept into the picture. That is when I remembered the skinned rabbit in my refrigerator

Mon Dieu! It was time to cook it or see it expire for the second time! That would be inimaginable after what Annie--and the rabbit--went though! 

Surfing the internet, I found recipes and diagrams on how to cut up a rabbit. Gosh! I hadn't gotten to that last part yet, couldn't it be cooked whole, like a roast chicken? In the middle of this dilemma, my husband walked in and there, I saw a solution...

Jean-Marc and I stood side-by-side in the kitchen, one of us holding a dull knife (I tried sharpening it), the other waving an instructional diagram through the air, in vain. (Jean-Marc will have nothing to do with convention.) 

In 9 no-nonsense whacks, the rabbit was now ready to be sauteed in pieces... For this, I did as Annie had instructed earlier, when that very morning I had flagged her down in her car as she drove past our house. Reaching for me from her car window, she held my hand as she relayed La recette grand-mère pour Lapin à la Moutarde.


Rabbit-shallots

               (Rabbit, covered with shallots, thyme and ready to cook)

RECETTE DE GRAND-MERE POUR LAPIN A LA MOUTARDE

  • Saisir or fry the pieces in butter
  • coat them with good mustard
  • add fresh thyme, salt, pepper
  • sauteed shallots if you like...
  • a little water into the shallow pan, or a bit of white wine (or both)
  • and into the oven at 175c for 45 minutes, turning several times, during cooking, to coat the rabbit in the pan juices


Squeezing my hand a few more times for courage, Annie added, "When the lapin is done, gently scrape off all the mustard and mix it with cream (I used sour cream), then recoat the morsels with this thick sauce and reheat, adding more liquid if necessary, so the meat doesn't stick to the pan."

As Annie drove off, I reached down and plucked up several branches of flowering thyme and headed back to the kitchen. I was a little confused as to why Annie's recipe called for only 45 minutes of cooking, and most of the online recipes called for hours and hours of slow cooking. And then, by coincidence, a guest last night (Marie, see her vineyard here!), whose son-in-law raises rabbits, explained: old rabbits are cooked longer, to make civet. Young rabbits are cooked quickly).

Bon, back to our story. There remained one question: when to serve Annie's rabbit and to whom

Ines

Because we had two helping hands here at the moment (including Gilbert, who you met here in the asparagus post, along with his dog Inès de la Frange remember her...) the answer was easy. But would there be enough rabbit for three hungry men and one curious cook?

Amidst all the questioning, the thought of how can I ever thank Annie returned. And then I remembered a comment I had read from the morning's blog post, wherein so many of you were writing in with tips and encouragements on what to do with Annie's rabbit.

Cynthia wrote: By all means, do make a rabbit stew and invite Annie for dinner.

Mais bien sûr! This would be the perfect way to thank my neighbor! The only question now was: would there be enough for 5? Annie accepted the invitation and wanted to know if it would be alright if she brought her daughter along....


"Oui, oui!" I insisted, mentally watching our rabbit stretch itself to accommodate lunch for 6. Jean-Marc had cut up 6 pieces hadn't he? And there went my worries, back on the hamster wheel: round and round... 

Returning to the kitchen to finish preparing the rabbit, a miracle occurred. Just like Jesus and the fish, the rabbit multiplied! There seemed to be more pieces than before....

Plated-rabbit

When it came time to sit down for lunch, our garden worker friends were famished from four hours of débroussaillement (clearing the jungle of bushes from our driveway).  Annie and Margot, Annie's daughter, were exhausted from pulling up the lilac bush and an exotic plant from their own garden (which they gifted to me). 

Returning to the kitchen to pull the rabbit out of the oven, I prayed the pieces had not shrunk from the cooking. Arranging the servings with economy, I sent Jean-Marc out with the plates and careful instructions: this one's for Annie... this giant piece is for Roland... and this little one's for you!

At the table I studied everyone's faces until Annie spoke.

"Bravo, Kristin! C'est délicieux!"

Thrilled with the compliment, and seeing my guests' plates were empty (good sign indeed!), I returned to the kitchen to serve up more rice. Peering into the oven I saw another miracle. Three servings of rabbit remained.

***
Crawling into bed for an after-lunch nap, I relived the previous moment in my mind's eye. There had been two ways to spend my morning: nailed to my keyboard, overworking my story (due in a few days...), or preparing a meal for some lovely characters.  

The true miracle was to have chosen the second. 

 

The-cook

Sitting down to lunch with my guests.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety