I felt indignant when the French street workers in our neighborhood stopped what they were doing and stared at us as we went by. So what if my two kids were decked out in swimsuits and carrying gaudy inflatable pool paraphernalia?
It was a warm summer day (or what we would have liked to imagine was one, living in the chilly north of France as we were) and afterall, they were only children going to a friend's swimming pool two doors away.
After we passed the crew, I glanced back to see if they were still leaning on their shovels and then understood what had provoked their gawking. Walking in single file behind me were the children, our dog, our house cat and the family duck, Nini, pulling up the rear. I'll say parenthetically that sights like this one only gave locals one more reason to whisper as I went in and out of our small town's shops, "C'est l'americaine!" It's the American!
Whenever it begins to turn cold like it is now, the French pull out the "Il fait un froid de canard" expression. It literally means, "It's duck cold," or to the French mind and palette, "It's biting cold." The reference is to winter duck hunting season. Some say the term originated when empty-handed hunters coming home would make excuses for their missed shots. "It was so cold (un froid de canard) that we couldn't sit motionless any longer outside, waiting for the ducks."
The French have another favorite expression in the form of a rhetorical question, "Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué?" Why do something simply when you can do it complicatedly?"
For years I've slapped together grilled cheese sandwiches the simple American way, but have taken to complicating the process by doing it the French way; by making a béchamel sauce first to spread on the inside of one slice of bread before adding the ham and either emmental or gruyère cheese. The béchamel is again spread on the outside of the top slice, before adding more cheese, then broiled. Un froid de canard comfort food called a Croque-Monsieur . . . served en guise de sandwich--or sort of.
©2010 P.B. Lecron