31 March 2016

Jean-Pierre Coffe, a clever clown

One of the funniest, smartest, and most influential men in France died on Tuesday. His name was Jean-Pierre Coffe, and he was a television personality, a comedian, a cook, a prolific author, and a major force in the world of French cooking and gastronomy. He was 78 years old.

Coffe's comic schtick was to use gros mots (plain, sometimes crude language) for comic effect and shock value in calling the public's attention to how the French diet is changing, and not for the better. He was famous for the derision he heaped on junk food and on people who don't understand that younger generations in France need to be taught by example what good, healthy food is all about. Of bad food products or cooking methods, he would say, simply, C'est de la merde ! And of famous people he disdained (including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy): C'est un con ! or C'est minable ! Everybody would laugh, but they knew he was serious.

Photo credit: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP - Radio France Internationale

In a way, Coffe (pronounced in one syllable, something between "cuff" or "cough") was the Coluche of his time. (If you don't know who Coluche was, sorry...) He affected the look and style of a clown, but there was a fine brain lurking inside his bald head, behind his outlandish round eyeglasses. Actually, he looked a little like Mr. Magoo, of cartoon fame. He was what is called a bon vivant, as well as a grande gueule (a loudmouth, in the best sense of the term). Here are some clips of his television appearances and performances:

Coffe was a major influence on (and — my impression — a kind of father figure to) Julie Andrieu, whose series of TV shows about the different regions of France, their products and recipes, is called Les Carnets de Julie.  I've written about her shows before, and recommend them to people interested in France and French food and cooking.

Coffe was also a fixture on the 30-year-old daily radio show called Les Grosses Têtes, hosted for years by the journalist Philippe Bouvard and more recently by the comedian  and TV host Laurent Ruquier. On that show, a panel of celebrities (writers, comedians, actors, journalists) answer questions submitted by listeners, which is an excuse for comedic ranting and raving and displaying a quick wit. There, Coffe was known for what were called called his coups de gueule (rants) and crises de colère (rages), all for comic effect.

Meanwhile, Coffe was the author of dozens of books on food, cooking, and gardening. In our small library, we have his book Le Potager Plaisir about vegetable gardening, and his collection of essays about food and its history called Le Bon Vivre and Le Vrai Vivre. I often pick these up when I am curious about some French cheese, poultry product, potato variety, shellfish, or regional specialty.

Jean-Pierre Coffe was awarded one of France's highest decorations, the Légion d'Honneur, in 2014 for his contributions to French culture as a journaliste gastronomique. He was also an important figure in French culture because he came out as bisexual a few years back, and lived out the last years of his life in a same-sex relationship. In short, he was an activist for progressive causes, and a very good one who will be missed. He was a unique figure, and I can't see anybody who might replace him.

30 March 2016

Scenes from a dog's walk

Ugh. It's raining again this morning. And I have to take the dog out in it. Speaking of that, here are a few scenes from one of our recent walks.

For a dog, it's all about smells. For me, it's all about photos. Here we have just stepped out of the house and we're walking out to the back gate. Callie is already sniffing.

The first thing we see as we go out the back gate is the pond. It's mostly gray at this time of year. When there's no wind, the reflections are good, though. Look how much mistletoe is growing in that apple tree.

Callie and I don't usually walk along the road that you can see in the pond picture above. We wander up and down rows of vines. Right now, the vineyard is fairly skeletal in look. It goes on beyond the horizon.

There's one small wooded area that Callie really likes to walk through. There's a lot to smell of in there. We've actually worn a path through the woods by walking in there on so many mornings.

29 March 2016

Scenes of the season

We had stormy weather yesterday, with a lot of wind but not really very much rain. There were showers, though, on and off all day long. Today is supposed to be showery too.

I guess that is typical for late March, a month which seems to be going out like a lion this year after coming in like a lion earlier. Callie and I went out for a walk in the rain yesterday morning. The weather woman on Télématin just said that it's supposed to rain again tomorrow but then the end of the week will be fairly pleasant.

Yesterday's sunset was pretty, as you can see from my photos. And the tree out front, just off the terrace, is in full flower right now. It's an ornamental cherry tree and doesn't bear fruit. That's a big plum tree, with white blossoms, sort of behind it. It does bear fruit.

I noticed that our potted tarragon plant is coming to life again, for its third or fourth season. I left the pot outside all winter — we never had a hard freeze and the plant wasn't at risk. Oregano is coming up in another pot that stayed out in the cold all winter. Yesterday I planted dinosaur and red Russian kale in two little pots and I'm hoping those seeds will be quick to come up. Then they can be transplanted out in the garden when the weather is warmer.

28 March 2016

Cooking rabbit in springtime

If you don't live in France, you probably don't cook or eat rabbit very often — if at all. It's a standard item in France, the way duck is. Over here, people don't just eat chicken and turkey, but also guinea fowl and pheasant and quail. And rabbit.

We cooked our lapin de Pâques yesterday. Walt and I have been cooking rabbit at Easter for more than 30 years now. It all started two or three years after we met back in 1981 in Paris. In 1982 we went back to live in the U.S., in Washington DC.

Here you can see the two "saddle" or filet sections on the left, and the liver and thigh sections toward the top.

Then in 1984 or 1985, Easter rolled around and there were pictures and stories about Easter bunnies all around us. That reminded us that we had really enjoyed having rabbit for dinner in restaurants when we lived in Paris. I went on a search and actually found rabbit in a market (maybe Eastern Market?) or supermarket in the DC area. I don't remember where exactly.

So we started our own "tradition" of cooking rabbit every year for our Easter dinner. Yesterday was no exception. On Saturday I went to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan and bought a nice locally raised rabbit, all prepared for cooking. All I had to do was cut it up. Basically, you get two big fat back leg-thigh sections, two pieces of "breast" (the saddle or filets), and two smaller front legs when you finish carving. Rabbit meat is very lean and not gamey. We are talking about rabbits that are raised for food, not wild animals. I did a couple of detailed posts about lapin en gibelotte a few years ago.

Cooked with the rabbit are onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, smoked bacon, and white wine, with bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

One of the simplest and most delicious ways to cook rabbit is to make what is called a gibelotte (a kind of fricassée). You brown some onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a pan along with some lardons fumés (chunks of smoked bacon or ham). Take all that out of the pan, set it aside, and brown the rabbit pieces in the same pan.

Then put the onions and all back in the pan and add in some wine and some chicken or rabbit broth — just enough to not quite cover the rabbit pieces. You want them braised and browned, not boiled. Put the pan on to simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven for an hour or so. Serve with rice, millet, quinoa, or boiled potatoes and either a salad or a vegetable like haricots verts, broccoli, kale, or collard greens.

27 March 2016

Reds and greens

Today we are up later because the hour is advanced. In other words, what would have been six o'clock is now seven o'clock. Usually I'm on my computer by six or six-thirty, but probably not today. In fact, right now it's yesterday — Saturday night.

First photo (above): I've managed to keep my coleus plants going for another year. They have survived, in three big pots, all winter, indoors. Now I'll cut the tops out of them and root those in water, so I'll have plenty of them for the summer, in pots outdoors.

Second photo: I've planted some of my hens and chicks in the open spaces in concrete blocks and have them out on the gravel walkway that runs down the middle of the back yard. I love plants that are hardy and mostly take care of themselves, with little or no futzing on my part.

Third photo: One of the nice things we acquired when we bought this house is a big plot of land on the north side where primroses come up every spring. They were "planted" out there by the woman we bought the house from. She's nearly 90 years old now. She said people kept giving her pots of primroses in springtime, and then she would just throw the plants, with their rootballs, out in the yard. They always come back up in March or April.

Fourth photo: One more shot of the hens and chicks, which were first given to me by a woman in the village who is also nearing the age of 90. She called them « petits artichauts » — "little artichokes."

26 March 2016

Whites and yellows

Today is our last day on winter time. Now if the weather would just warm up... We spring forward overnight tonight so we'll get back to our normal time difference with the U.S. (+6 hours compared to NY and NC; +9 compared to LA and SF).

To brighten up another gray morning (at least here in Saint-Aignan), I'm posting photos of a few of the flowers we have in our yard right now — hyacinths, jonquils, and plum blossoms. At least it's not raining right now. It's time for me to go tromp around in the vineyard with Callie the collie.

25 March 2016

Here comes the rain again

Bertie just came in from outdoors. It's raining, because the cat is a little damp. It's still dark, and I haven't stuck my head out yet to see what the weather is, but a wet cat is a sure sign. It also seems warmer this morning than it has been recently.

We got a lot of gardening and yard work done this week. Walt planted radishes, chard, and snow peas in part of the garden plot that I tilled up a few days ago. The next plantings will be kale — this year I have two varieties, Dinosaur and Red Russian. A friend in California tells me Dinosaur kale (a.k.a. Lacinato) is the best kind. I've never planted it before. I brought the seeds back from North Carolina a few weeks ago.

I just opened the shutter on the kitchen window and sure enough, it is raining. And it has rained overnight, because there are big puddles on the road. The seeds Walt put in the ground this week will be happy.

Oh, and when I was tilling the garden plot a few days ago, I noticed some little collard green seedlings growing out there. At least I think they're collards. They must have grown from seeds I planted last November and then more or less forgot about.

I thought slugs and snails had eaten them all, but collard plants are very hardy. I dug them up and transplanted them into two window boxes for now. There are about a dozen of them altogether— plenty for the coming season. I'll transplant them back into the ground before too long.

24 March 2016

Thinking about Cheddar and Cantal cheeses

Tim, an Englishman who lives about an hour south of here in France and frequently leaves comments here, shared some information about Cheddar cheese after Susan on Days on the Claise mentioned in one of her blog posts about having an abundance of the cheese. People bring it to her from England. I'm sure it's very good. (Here's a link to Tim and Pauline's food and cooking blog.)

I was reading about Cheddar yesterday. The true Cheddar comes from the Cheddar Valley in Somerset, in southwestern England. Cheddar is also made elsewhere in England, and in Scotland. And in Ireland and Australia, I imagine. Not to mention New Zealand and South Africa. I don't claim to be an expert.

Cheddar is also made in North America. The Cheddar producers in England never applied for any kind of protection, geographical or in terms of methods, for their cheese, so anybody anywhere can make cheese and call it Cheddar. As a result, the U.S. produces three or four times as much cheese labeled as Cheddar as the United Kingdom does. Much of U.S. Cheddar in colored orange, but in Vermont a good white Cheddar is a regional specialty.

Slightly more than half the cheese sold in the U.K. is Cheddar, I've read. That seems so different from the situation in France, where I'm sure no one cheese (out of the 200 or 300 or more made around the country) dominates the market that way. People to buy and eat a lot of Emmenthal, Camembert, Brie, and Comté, but then they buy and eat of lot of Cantal, Saint-Nectaire, Reblochon, Sainte-Maure, Valençay, Abondance, Munster, Maroilles, Livarot, Neufchâtel, Epoisses... I'd better stop, because the list is nearly endless. Look at this page on Wikipedia.

Another Wikipedia article I read says that experts believe that it was the Romans who took cheese-making techniques to Great Britain. They discovered people in France's Massif Central — the mountainous area now called L'Auvergne — making cheese when they invaded 2,000 years ago. They shared techniques and methods with people in Great Britain, and what is now called Cantal cheese became the basis for Cheddar. The two cheeses are similar.

One difference, I think, is that Cheddar is "cooked" cheese like Comté, whereas Cantal is not cooked. In other words, the milk curds are heated up to make Cheddar, but they are used "raw" in making Cantal. The "cooking" temperature for cheddar is only about 40ºC, just over 100ºF, but it's bound to be enough to affect the taste and texture of the cheese.

In Cantal — I blogged about the process (five posts) a few years ago — the milk curds stay at an even temperature all through the process. No cultures are added — they are natural, present in the air in Auvergne and in the chestnut wood vats that the hold the milk as it curdles.

In Saint-Aignan and all around France, it is easy to find the three or even four types of Cantal, which are cheeses sold at different stages of maturation. There's tomme fraîche, which isn't aged at all. Then there's Cantal Jeune, Cantal Entre-Deux, and Cantal Vieux. As for Cheddar, the only example I've found around here is a little brick of white cheese sold at the SuperU supermarket in town. Tim says it's not real Cheddar but a knock-off made in Scotland.

I've thrown in a few recent photos as decoration... Click or tap on them to enlarge them.

23 March 2016

Where we ate in Montrichard: La Villa

It's been a week already. Last Wednesday, we went over to Montrichard and had lunch. Our original plan was to have hamburgers, but the new burger joint we had read about turned out to be exactly that. It's mostly a carry-out place, apparently.

Here is the signboard outside on the sidewalk that advertises the daily special. The price is 13.50 euros, as you see. That's about $15 (U.S.). Noontime menus are often called "formulas" in France — this is the formula that will be your lunch solution today.

It's made up of a first course of a "shirred" or baked egg with bacon (the word lard in French means bacon or pork belly, and poitrine [breast] is a synonym — the meat is often smoked or fumé). A shirred egg might also be called an egg en cocotte; it's baked in a ramekin. The verb is "to shirr."

The second course is a French classic, Blanquette de Veau. That's a white veal stew. (My recipe is unconventional because I put carrots in it. You can leave them out.) First you simmer the veal for a couple of hours with aromatic vegetables in white wine, and then you make a white sauce with that liquid, some butter, and some flour. At the end you put the veal back into the white sauce, add some button mushrooms and cooked pearl onions, and then squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to perk it all up. It's often eaten with rice, but potatoes or pasta are not unusual with a blanquette. At La Villa, the side dish is pommes boulangère, which is what we call in plain English "scalloped" or "au gratin" potatoes — probably without cheese. ("Scalloped" means thin-sliced.)

The dessert of the day is a slice of cream pie called a Flan Pâtissier. I've posted the recipe here before. I've never been able to make a flan as good as the ones you get in pastry shops or restaurant, however. The secret must be gelatin.

Anyway, here's the restaurant. La Villa has a full offering of French dishes on its carte, which means "menu" in English. You can have the formule or you can order à la carte. I just looked it up on Trip Advisor, and there it is rated as the no. 1 restaurant in Montrichard. It was very good, including the atmosphere and the service, which was friendly and fast, but not brusque. The couple who run the place (and maybe own it) both speak very good English.

So what did we end up eating? Remember the fancy burger menu I posted a few days ago? Well, three of us let ourselves be tempted and had a La Villa hamburger for lunch, with ice cream for dessert. There's my hamburger above. It's the one called the Viennois on the signboard and came with slow-roasted onion slices, some shavings of Parmesan cheese, and a black-pepper sauce. It was cooked very rare. In France, it's normal to eat your hamburger with a knife and fork. The fries were house-made and good. Pain viennois is tender, Viennese-style bread made with milk, butter, and a pinch of sugar — that was the bun. For the price of the burger, we could have had the three-course lunch menu. Oh well.

22 March 2016

Meanwhile, back in Saint-Aignan...

Montrichard was a good outing last week and I'll post some more about it, but you must be wondering what is going on in Saint-Aignan these days. Same old, same old, really, and it's all seasonal — welcome to springtime. Right now, that means doing the last of the winter yard chores and also preparing the ground in the vegetable garden for the coming growing season.

The biggest early springtime chore is tilling up the soil in the vegetable garden plot. You might remember this photo of it that I took last week. It wasn't covered in tall grass or weeds then, but a lot of the invasive plants that had taken hold had deep roots. I knew that getting them out of there before they could grow even more was the right thing to do. So I did it.

Luckily, we've had a good dry spell in March, so the heavy clay soil isn't just a big mud pie. It's had time to dry out enough that I could work it with the rototiller. It's hard work (for a 67-year-old man), but it only has to be done once or twice a year. The garden plot these days is about 1000 sq. ft (100 sq. meters). Our plan is to enlarge it by another third or so this spring, before we start planting in May.

And then there was work to do on this little apple tree out by the back gate. I don't know why, but there are five apple trees — two in our yard and three just outside, on the edge of the vineyard — that seem to be mistletoe magnets. There are two other apple trees in our yard that don't have any mistletoe in them at all. Who knows why?

To the right is the pile of mistletoe that we managed to cut out of this little apple tree, which is the one in our yard that produces the tastiest apples. Half of the balls of mistletoe were covered in yellow flowers, and the other half were covered in white berries. If left, the mistletoe, which is a parasite, will eventually kill the tree, I think.

And here's what the tree looked like last week. We couldn't get all the mistletoe out of it, or at least we haven't been able to get it all so far. But we got a lot of it. Now, looking at the larger photo above, I realize that the tree is really lopsided and needs further trimming.

21 March 2016

Restaurant « Les Tuffeaux » in Montrichard

Once we decided that we'd leave trying the Mont Burger for another day, we looked at the three other restaurants nearby. Here's one: Les Tuffeaux. We have eaten there before once or twice, but it's been a while. It's the restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger and a bacon burger on one of its blackboards. (I just discovered that there is another new hamburger joint in Montrichard: L'Atelier du Burger — the burger workshop. They've gone burger-mad over there.)

Here's the lunch menu for the day. For "just" 13.50 €, you get three courses: starter, main, and dessert. If you just want two courses — starter + main course, or main course + dessert — it's 12 €. And finally, if you just want the main course, that's 9 €. It all depends on how hungry you are, of whether you're on a diet. (The euro is worth just a little more than the U.S. dollar right now, so plan to spend between $15 and $20 for the full lunch if you decide to have wine and coffee.)

And what are the choices? They are very traditional French. The starter is a Belgian endive salad with ham — salads in France often come with meat, and sometimes with meat and cheese. The main course is the red-wine stew that's called Bœuf Bourguignon, or Beef Burgundy. It's usually made with lardons fumés (chunks of smoked bacon), onion, and button mushrooms. This one is served with tagliatelles, which are egg noodles that resemble fettucine. And dessert is a Poire Belle-Hélène — a poached pear served with vanilla ice cream and a warm chocolate sauce. That's a classic of French cuisine dating back to the mid-19th century.

20 March 2016

Not burgers

Here is the kind of sign you might reasonably expect to see in a town like Montrichard. It's not advertising hamburgers.

Produits du terroir means regional specialties. Terroir is a concept that combines notions of the specific soil and climate conditions that give an area its special character and difference. The sign is one I saw outside a shop selling, among other local products, the wines produced around here. Rillons (cooked chunks of fresh pork belly) and rillettes (rillons that have been shredded and cooked down even further, eaten like a pâté, which is potted meat) are Loire Valley pork preparations. Terrine is another word for pâté, and the ones advertised here are made from of wild game like boars, pheasants, or hares — hunting is a big part of the Loire Valley culture. Fish from the Loire, butter cookies from the nearby Sologne sub-region, and "tapped" pears, dried, flattened, and put up in jars, fill out the list.

I took photos of flowers for sale in a florist's shop on Montrichar's main street, la rue Nationale. There is a whiff of revolutionary fervor in the street name, and most towns around here have a rue Nationale. The one in Tours is the most famous. Before the 1789 revolution, it was called la rue Royale. Anyway, the florist's flowers were too pretty to pass up.

I described Montrichard as "bustling" a couple of days ago. You might not thinks that's true when you look at this photo of the main street. But, remember, it was lunchtime. A lot of businesses still close their doors for a couple of hours at noontime. People aren't out on the street — they are sitting at the table either at home or in a restaurant, enjoying some of those regional specialties. That's what we are going to do at noon today. I'll be cooking a pintade, which is French for guinea hen.

19 March 2016

« Burger local »

Un pain de boulanger brioché et une viande hachée au moment de la commande. Le sandwich rond de Lionel Furcy n'est pas que beau, il est bon ! Son secret ? Il utilise du fromage de Pontlevoy, des tomates d'Indre-et-Loire et surtout de la viande locale, originaire de Vallières-les-Grandes...*
That's what we had read in the February issue of Loir-et-Cher Info, a magazine published by our local authorities up in Blois. It was describing a new restaurant over in Montrichard. Four of us decided to drive over from Saint-Aignan and try it out.

Montrichard seems to be caught up in some kind of hamburger craze right now. Looking around the square where the new restaurant is located, we saw that two of the other restaurants over there, ones where we have enjoyed a few meals over the past fifteen years, are also prominently featuring burgers among their offerings.

We were surprised to see that the new restaurant, called Montburger, is not so much a full-service restaurant as a take-out joint. We didn't try it — it wasn't what we had in mind. We wanted to sit down and be waited on in a real restaurant with tablecloths and a selection of local wines. So we got a table at a place called La Villa. Its burger menu is the second, more elaborate one in the photo just above, and includes a salmon burger along with two beef burgers.
* A bun made with butter and eggs by a local baker and meat that is freshly ground when an order comes in. Lionel Furcy's round sandwich isn't just beautiful, it's delicious! The secret? He uses cheese from nearby Pontlevoy, tomatoes from the neighboring Indre-et-Loire, and, especially, beef produced locally in the village of Vallières-les-Grandes...

18 March 2016

It started in Montrichard

In a way, this whole life started in Montrichard. We had heard of it earlier, but we had been there only once, or maybe twice.  In 2000, and again, probably, in 2001. It's hard to remember. But we knew where it was.

In October 2002, I had quit my job in Silicon Valley. I just couldn't stand the long commute from San Francisco any more, and I got tired of having to put up with my company's weird workplace environment. I didn't know what would happen next, but I found myself at home with a lot of free time on my hands. We had a decent internet connection. In autumn, a man's mind turns to France. I must say bread had something to do with that, along with cheese and wine. You know, the regular stuff that people like about France.

I just occurred to me, writing this, that the movers came and emptied our San Francisco house of all our belongings 13 years ago today — March 18, 2003. We had sold it in February, after finding a house to buy in France, with the help of a real estate agent in Montrichard. We had decided to get the heck out of California, and we couldn't think of a place in America that attracted us a much as France did.

Why Montrichard? Well, we had recently spent a couple of vacations in the area, in Vouvray. So in 2002 I contacted a couple of real estate agents in the bigger town of Amboise to see if somebody would show us, for real, some of the houses I'd seen for sale on their internet sites. An agent who had offices in both Amboise and Montrichard answered my mail. He set up an appointment in Montrichard for early December. Away we went. No, I haven't forgotten about lunch.

17 March 2016

Lunch in Montrichard

We read a short article about a new restaurant over in Montrichard, just 10 miles downriver from Saint-Aignan on the Cher. It was a magazine published and sent out by the conseil départemental. I happened to talk with American friends about it, and we decided to go try it out one day. That day was yesterday. Walt and I needed to go to our bank over in Montrichard too, to straighten out a few things concerning online purchases using our French debit card.

In some ways, Montrichard seems like a more bustling and attractive place than Saint-Aignan. The two towns are about the same size. It goes in cycles, local people tell me. One decade sees Montrichard on the upswing, and then it stalls, for whatever reason. Saint-Aignan starts to improve and bustle a little. Right now, Saint-Aignan seems to have stalled as lots of changes, mostly having to do with the big Beauval zoological park, which is expanding and attracting more and more tourists. The town of Saint-Aignan is adapting and evolving.

The old houses in these photos that I took in Montrichard were renovated and repainted several years ago now. As the paint fades a little, they look better and better. We walked past them on the way to the bank, and we took note of quite a few changes — new businesses here and there, empty storefronts, and so on. We don't go to Montrichard much. Yesterday, we got our business done at the bank quickly so we had time to sit down and have a little apéritif in a café before meeting our friends at the restaurant. It was like being a tourist again for a few minutes.

We ended up not going to eat at the restaurant we had read about. It wasn't what the article had led us to believe it would be. Luckily, there were three other restaurants on the little square where we had planned to meet. We chose one of those for our get-together. We'd all been there a few times before, and the menu looked good. The place was full of people, which we took as a sign that the food and atmosphere are pleasant. More tomorrow...

16 March 2016

Parlez-vous franglish ?

This week is officially the Semaine de la langue française. On Télématin this morning they are saying that about 10% of the everyday vocabulary in France (meaning mostly Paris and the media) is made up of words only recently borrowed from English, both British and American. Sometimes it appears nothing in France can be really stylish, exciting, important, or interesting unless there is an English name for it that those "in the know" use liberally. That's really nothing new here — I can testify to that after spending the last 50 years learning to speak French.

Of course, the terms often get re-made into something almost unrecognizable when they pass into French. One example they gave this morning is the word "buzz," meaning a lot of talk and noise around some exciting event or concept. In French, the expression is faire le buzz — "to make the buzz" — which is what you'd say about a successful film or fashion that everybody is talking about. There used to be a popular TV show here called Tout le monde en parle ("everybody's talking about it"), about current trends. I guess today that would be Ça fait le buzz. (The word "buzz" is pronounced plus ou moins as in English.)

Back in the 1960s a Sorbonne professor coined the term « franglais » to give a name to the kind of faddish and affected French littered with English terms that people had begun speaking. Plus ça change... now the preferred term seems to be « le franglish ». If you heard that a man was en smoking would you know that means he was wearing a tuxedo? Here's a list of 50 common anglicismes that I just found on the internet. Most are recognizable. One you hear all the time is, well, le timing. Any English word ending in -ing is a good candidate for adoption into franglish.

It's too bad the regular host of Télématin, William (is that a franglish name?) Leymergie, is on vacation this week. His show consist of a series of reports about current trends and events presented by a crew of young, mostly hip and smart chroniqueurs, with news and weather reports interspersed. He's been the host for more than 30 years. It's all very Parisian and everybody says vous to everybody else during the show, even though in real life you know they'd be tutoyer-ing each other freely. Le pauvre William spends a good amount of his time on the air just correcting the younger set's French, suggesting French translations for all the franglish they love to spout. He missed his opportunity this time.

It's hard to imagine such a situation in America. We have French names for a few typically French things — a croissant is one example — but otherwise newly-borrowed French terms are rare, aren't they? And we have our "English-only" fanatics, but can you imagine an English Language Week in the States? I guess it just means that the French are paying more attention to what's happening outside France than we are paying to what's going on outside the United States.

15 March 2016

Images of the season

March came in like a lion, with heavy rain and snow showers, quite a bit of wind, and basically miserable weather. Now the month seems to have settled down. Early spring brings cold mornings but pleasant afternoons.

There's no sign yet of any new growth out in the vineyard. The vines are pruned back and when there's a shower or a heavy dew, drops of water on the support wires sparkle in the morning sun.

Sunsets like the one above are both blindingly bright and slightly hazy gray. Even so, the sun is slowly drying out the soggy ground, and the hours of daylight are longer and longer as the days pass.

Above you see the state of the vegetable garden. I'm thinking about trying to till up the soil in a couple of days. It might still be too wet underneath the dry-looking surface, but only by working in the dirt will I know. One of the local people's main occupations here is planning, planting, tending, and harvesting the annual jardin potager.