Archive for the ‘French’ category

“I’m still thinking about that pizza…”

July 19, 2011

“I’m still thinking about that pizza…”

These words were said in French, but that’s what they meant. A couple of weeks earlier a friend and I had split a margherita pizza at a small joint in Sete, France (known for its famous poet Paul Valery, pink cliffs and water jousting competitions).

Sete, France

The pizza, which we ate with a fork and a knife, was very good, but were it not for my friend, the thought of it would have vanished from my mind within 24 hours. What’s the point of remembering a pizza when its purpose has long been served?

So when my friend made the comment about remembering the pizza two weeks later, I was caught off guard. What a different way of looking at life, I thought. Not just drawing  quick pleasure from everything, and forgetting it, but actually making the pleasurable experience live on.

I liked that– it made me feel special to be in his presence (even if the American idea of “you’re special” is not really part of French culture). If he remembered a particular pizza with fondness weeks later, he’d surely keep me in his mind for a while, right? Yes, I was comparing myself with a pizza.

Another statement he would make that sort of changed my paradigm was “C’est normal,” which is “It’s normal” in English. He would do me a favor like bring me a bouquet of handpicked flowers, help me completely rearrange my messy bookshelves, or surprise me with some homemade oreillettes, and I would enthusiastically voice my appreciation. To this he’d say “C’est normal.”

This struck me as funny because no one says this in English in this context (at least no one I know). You use the word normal to describe a heartbeat, a person’s upbringing, and a person’s psychological state of mind, but not to justify a romantic act.

As different as I thought it was, the expression sort of grew on me  It’s like people are so used to doing kind things for the ones they love that they don’t think they’re doing anything special.

My new Eiffel Tower bag

July 11, 2011

 

A birthday gift from my fiance's mom!

What we can learn from the French

February 25, 2011

What we can learn from the French

It’s been seven years since I last lived in France, but I picked up on a lot while I was there. Plus, I’ve visited France a few times since 2004. I know you can’t clump everyone together and say they’re all one particular way. But you can point out things you noticed about many of the people you encountered.

  • The French know how to eat healthily.

This has been written about a lot (e.g. French Women Don’t Get Fat) so I’ll stick to what I observed personally. I noticed that French people (in general):

  • Don’t snack between meals (and when they snack they just have a cookie or a few pieces of chocolate)
  • Eat big lunches and relatively small dinners (That way, they have something to look forward to during the work day AND don’t go to bed on a full stomach.)
  • Have small breakfasts with coffee (Because they have big lunches, they don’t need a huge breakfast. And, coffee helps suppress your hunger).
  • Drink water with their meals (much healthier than soda, of course)
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Eat a wide variety of foods (For example, they don’t just eat chicken and beef. They eat chicken, beef, ham, pork, duck, rabbit, horse, fish, bull, boar, guinea fowl, oysters, mussels, shrimp, sea urchins, etc.).
  • Finish most meals with a dairy item (yogurt or cheese) and a piece of fruit
  • Take their time eating

I think all of these habits are good for you.

  • The French exercise less than we do.

But, because they eat healthily they don’t really need to exercise. I mean, their daily activities (walking, doing chores, etc.) are enough for them to get their daily dose of movement. Maybe we should follow their lead given this recent Wall Street Journal article.

  • The French take time to cook.

Obviously, this point relates to the first point I made. But I will expand on it a little here. Most of the French people I encountered just go out to eat for special occasions. The rest of the time they make their own meals. This allows them to control what goes into their bodies, save money, and go out to nicer places when they do go out. They also have a fair amount of dinner parties; those provide a great opportunity to see their friends and share their favorite recipes.

  • The French are polite.

OK, maybe this is a real stretch. And maybe their politeness often masks their true feelings. But frequently I observed French people saying (or doing) the right thing at the right time. Say your brother-in-law just died, for example. The next time they saw you they’d start off the interaction with a “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” Or when they are invited to a dinner party they bring along a gift. While these might seem like obvious things to do, I’ve noticed this type of behavior isn’t always practiced here (and yes, I’m guilty of not being polite as well).

  • The French are experts in their fields.

In France, it’s really hard to get into a particular field when your degree is in something else. So, you’re forced to find a job in your area of expertise. While this certainly limits you choices, it helps ensure you’re good at your profession (or at least better at it than your average bear). Here, you might just get a sales job because you’re deemed friendly. But you don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to be an effective salesperson.

  • The French are into equality.

I’ll always remember this one particular experience I had while teaching English in France. I was in a fifth-grade classroom, quizzing the children on their knowledge of animal vocabulary. One of the students– Yoan (pronounced “Yo-on”)– was answering practically every question correctly. Each time I interrogated the pupils, his arm would shoot up in the air. Sometimes no one else would raise their hand, so I had to pick him. He’d get the answer right, and I’d congratulate him.

Well the class’s main teacher (a French woman) was not a fan of Yoan’s behavior. Whereas I viewed his ability and willingness to answer the questions as a positive thing, she viewed it as a horrible thing. She started screaming at him, saying it was not his place to answer so many questions. The others deserved a chance, she said, adding that he couldn’t participate any more. While most Americans would consider her reaction unfair or harsh (I think), it actually worked. Once he stopped raising his hand, the other students began participating in the exercise.

  • The French are fashionable.

They don’t necessarily have many clothes, but they know how to pick out items that fit them right. Sometimes this means spending more money on individual garments, but overall they might even spend less than your average American.

In a future post, I will write about what the French can learn from Americans.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2036413105

New Year’s resolution #6 (or was it #7 or #10?): Join a French conversation group

January 28, 2011

A photo from my first time in France (on a beach in Nice in 2000)

Prior to moving to Boston two and a half years ago, I pretty much spoke French every week. Whether I was conversing with a French friend over the webcam, speaking French with some fellow francophiles where I was living, or thinking out loud in French, the French language was clearly an important part of my life.

Well, since I arrived here I’ve been really bad at keeping up with the language. I initially joined a French conversation Meetup group, but I wasn’t a fan of the setting. I found that Tommy Doyle’s Irish pub in Cambridge’s Harvard Square was too loud and crowded of a backdrop. So after two sessions I stopped attending the group. I began working as a reporter, and found my evenings taken up with public meetings and article assignments.

When I stopped working as a reporter, I thought I might be able to get involved with another conversation group. But I ended up taking on a part-time restaurant job and signing up for an evening class, eliminating my ability to attend the groups I knew of. Well, my schedule is now more normal, and I see there’s a group that meets one Sunday per month at 5 p.m., a good day and time for me.

The group gathers at The Asgard Irish pub in Cambridge’s Central Square. Because they meet during the day, I’m hoping the clientele isn’t too rowdy. I’m trying out the group this Sunday, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck (I’ll surely need it with my out-of-practice French)!

Some funny French expressions

September 21, 2010

Because I don’t currently have much of an opportunity to use my French, I instead subject my boyfriend and various friends to the English versions of my French expressions. They sounds quite ridiculous, but that doesn’t bother me.

Here’s the first expression:

  • “I have the ants.”

When the French have a body party that’s asleep, they say “J’ai les fourmis,” or “I have the ants” in English. It sounds hilarious, but I can see why they’d say this. A body part that’s fallen asleep kind of also feels like it’s been invaded by ants. It’s like there’s a bunch of ants scurrying around inside of your body.

Here’s the next expression I anglicize:

  • “I am a poor pilgrim.”

When a French person is feeling like a loser, either after doing something stupid or befalling a negative circumstance, he or she says “Je suis un pauvre pélérin,” or “I am a poor pilgrim” in English. One time a Frenchman called me a poor pilgrim immediately after I had gotten caught in the pouring rain, broken my umbrella, and dropped my book into a muddy puddle.

I suppose this expression also makes sense. Pilgrims likely faced many obstacles on their way to the holy land, some of which probably made them feel pretty uncomfortable, frustrated, or hopeless. They were poor pilgrims!

The next expression is:

  • “He gave me a rabbit.”

When a man stands a girl up, the girl says “Il m’a posé un lapin,” or “He gave me a rabbit.” This one really doesn’t make sense to us English speakers, and I would reckon most French speakers don’t know the origin of the expression. I found several explanations, but this one made the most sense to me. It says that “rabbit” used to signify “the refusal to pay.” It was, for example, used to explain the act of traveling (say, by train) without paying. The expression was “voyager en lapin,” or “travel like a rabbit.”

I’m not sure why a rabbit reference was used for someone who didn’t pay, and not a reference to a bird, turtle or squirrel. Maybe because rabbits are especially sneaky.  But anyway, I guess the French then started saying “Il l’a posé un lapin,” or “He gave her a rabbit,” when a man didn’t end up paying a prostitute. Basically the man “gave her a refusal of payment.” The expression evolved over time, and now means someone didn’t respect a planned rendezvous.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/cplapied/1278788003

Some recent acquisitions

September 1, 2010

A cute key holder from Montreal:

A back massager (works quite well, though it doesn’t go as high as I’d like it too):

A ceramic coin holder (well at least that’s what I made it) from an antiques store in Plymouth:

A lighthouse piece of art (boyfriend loves lighthouses) from Plymouth:

Mums from my sister:

Stop & Shop cookies from my sister (I wouldn’t normally mention grocery store-brand cookies, but these ones are amazing! Almost as good as cookies from Weggies!):

A Frenchy shirt from Montreal (yeah, I know it needs to be ironed):

I’m so lucky with all this cool stuff!

South End birthday outing

June 11, 2010

Last night my boyfriend took me out to the South End for my 29th birthday. Here are some pictures:

It was sprinkling at first.

Nice brick sidewalks

Vespas are my dream vehicle.

View of downtown

Boyfriend in front of outdoor cafe seating

Cool stairs

We each had a drink at the Union Bar and Grille on Washington Street. I had an “it’s about time,” which consists of gin, a thyme infusion, citrus, and champagne. It was amazing! He had a “union smash,” which had bourbon, mint, citrus and ginger beer. He liked his, too!

For dinner we went to the Gaslight Brasserie, a French restaurant on Harrison Avenue. The meal started off with a perfect baguette (very crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside) with creamy butter.

For an appetizer we had fried artichokes “a la greque” (don’t ask me what was in the sauce but it kind of tasted like a high-end tarter sauce). So yummy! For dinner I had choucroute (my favorite French dish!), and he had the roasted salmon filet with garlic braised escarole and a vinaigrette of lemon confit.

Both of our meals were delicious. His was significantly smaller than mine so he got a side of mushrooms. In case you are wondering, my choucroute included baked apples, potatoes, sauerkraut, two types of sausages, and two types of pork. It was in an amazing white wine sauce.

We had two carafes of ’07 Reserve St. Martin (Languedoc region of France) Cabernet Sauvignon, For dessert I had a slice of apple and caramel cake with cider maple sauce, and he had a molten chocolate cake with “creme chantilly” (whipped cream). Both were “incroyable” (incredible).

Then he had a cappuccino and I had an espresso. Wow, we ate like kings (or a king and queen in this case). What a wonderful birthday dinner!

And my bf game me two awesome gifts: a copy of my favorite movie “Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain” that actually works in the U.S. (I got my other version in France and it doesn’t work with U.S. DVD players), and a bag of chocolate Madeleines (they’re my favorite breakfast food…perfect for dunking in coffee!).

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.