Saturday, March 31, 2012


Celui qui sait écouter deviendra celui qu'on écoute.  
He who knows how to listen will become the one who is listened to. -- ancient proverb

écouter:  to listen
devenir:  to become

© 2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, March 29, 2012


The cleanest housekeeper I know is a cheerful and bantering French woman who  says she isn't happy unless she's doing a "nettoyage profond."  (For fun I call that profound cleaning.) The translation is "deep cleaning." I interpret this to mean that for her its spring cleaning every day of the year. À fond.
Do people think like they clean, or clean like they think?

faire le ménage:  to do the housework; also to clear the decks, to clean up
nettoyer à fond:  to clean deeply
à fond:  in depth, thoroughly

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Oh turnips!
Des navets!  Excuse my French, but I can't help but share with you one more of grand-mère's mild expletives. It's a post-WWII oath spurred by the consternation of usually finding only turnips at the then meager markets.

Photo by Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The carrot: "à tout âge et à tout tempérament," wrote the gourmet and gourmand Alexandre Dumas about this vegetable, which is second only to the tomato in popularity among the French.

Nary a bonne maman hasn't perfected her own recipe for the traditional salade de carottes rapées. Here's one from a French chef and his mother:

Grated carrot salad
4 large carrots,  finely grated
1/2 cup of walnuts for garnish

Vinaigrette with walnut oil
3 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (surface layer of sea salt cristals delicately skimmed by hand)
freshly ground black pepper

This recipe comes from one of the best and most practical little French cookbooks I know of, A Week on the Water, Fandango & Tango Cuisine Scrapbook. Available for digital or mail-order delivery from the online boutique at

Photo by Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, March 26, 2012


A gustatory leap of the imagination

Photo credit Craig Howell, via Wikimedia Commons
If the gourmet chili pepper, piment d'Espelette were a car, which one would it be? A French friend's immediate and categoric response: a Facel Vega III. The high-end French luxury car, now a vintage cult item, was driven by the likes of Ringo Starr, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Ava Gardner, Pablo Picasso and, sigh, Fred Astaire. 

If you've never test-driven the flavorful and emblematic Basque country piment d'Espelette on your omelettes, soup or quiche, then it's high-time you did. The Facel Vega was produced only from 1954 through 1964; the smooth non-agressively hot chili pepper from Espelette has been around for four centuries. Sprinkle on foods just before serving. 

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Un sou pour vos pensées
A penny for your thoughts. Pansies or pensées, the French homophone for thoughts, receive much consideration in parks and gardens throughout France. Une fleur très prisée.

une fleur:  a flower
prisé(e):  prized, valued, appreciated

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, March 25, 2012


En vogue:  pre-fab insect datchas on Parisian apartment balconies and terraces to promote and to preserve urban bio-diversity. Multi-insect shelters like this one provide daytime hiding places and winter hibernation quarters for beneficial species like solitary bees, lady bugs and lacewings.

un nichoir à insectes:  an insect nesting box
un arbri d'insectes:  an insect shelter

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Au bord de la mer
A choppy morning at Etretat in Haute-Normandie, not fit for sit-on-top kayaking. Better instead to sit on a counter stool in a seaside bistro.

Tourne le dos au mauvais temps:  Turn your back to bad weather.
Qui écoute le météo reste au bistro:  He who listens to the weather stays at the cafe.

©2012 P.B.Lecron

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


First day of spring at the equestrian center.

La patience est l'art d'espérer. -- Vauvenargues, Réflexions et Maximes

Patience is the art of hoping.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, March 19, 2012


Most French people expect each other to have a certain connaissance of history, culture, geography, philosophy-- and to know how to make a good vinaigrette

The very first thing my French husband taught me was how he liked his. Here's the recipe, which for practical purposes and the reality of making vinaigrette, is slipshod:

Start with a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar (but any vinegar will do). Stir in a teaspoon or so (a tablespoon if you like) of  moutarde de Dijon (il n'y a que Maille qui m'aille...) Beat in a stream of olive oil (or oil of your choice)  until emusified and it looks like you have the right amount. 

Taste and season as you like; vinaigrettes are very personal affairs. And they are best when fresh. Don't make and store in advance!

The proportion of vinegar to oil should be about one to three.
You can beat the mixture with a fork, but a whisk works best; or mix in a screw-top jar and shake vigourously.
If you must add a pinch of salt, dissolve it in the vinegar at the beginning.

une connaissance:  knowledge
un fouet:  a whisk
fouetter:  to whip or beat
le vinaigre:  vinegar
aigre:  sour, acerb

On n'attrape pas les mouches avec du vinaigre:  You don't catch flies with vinegar.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Decorative detail of  a dazzling early twentieth-century
Parisian construction, the Pont Alexandre III.
"J'ai du oublier mon parapluie dans l'ascenseur. Mon parapluie doit être très inquiet de m'avoir perdu." -- Erik Satie

I must have left my umbrella in the elevator. How worried my umbrella must be to have lost me.

Né de la dernière pluie:  wet behind the ears; literally born of the last rain

Read Strange Mr. Satie by M.T. Anderson

©2012 P.B.Lecron

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Melt in your mouth coffee spoons. These are white chocolate, but the same are available in dark and milk chocolate. Autour d'un café, by Daniel Mercier.

une cuillère:  a spoon
une cuillère à café:  a coffee spoon
une cuillère à thé:  a teaspoon (the same as a coffee spoon)
une cuillère à soupe:  a tablespoon
une cuillère à moka:  a very small spoon used to stir Moka coffee or an espresso

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, March 16, 2012


Consume with moderation
Se faire plaisir ne rime pas avec régime minceur.  Pleasing oneself does not rhyme with dieting. The most basic of French desserts, a simple crêpe with sucre cristallisé.  

Look twice at labels when shopping for white sugar in France:

Sucre cristal or sucre cristallisé is a sugar which has granules larger than what you would want for most baking. It's usually stirred into coffee or used in grandmothers' jam recipes. It dissolves more slowly than finely granulated sugar.

Sucre en poudre is a finer sugar used to make  meringues, crèmes Chantilly and most pâtisseries.

Sucre glace is very finely granulated sugar known as confectioner's sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar.

Sucre en grains is a sugar of small, pearl-sized opaque granules ideal for decorating pastries and desserts.

Photo courtesy of Ian Byrd
©2012 P.B. Lecron


un lève-tard:  a late riser
un lève-tot:  an early riser

Faire la grasse matinée:  to sleep or stay in bed late in the morning

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Off the subject

The forty year-old progressive rock song Cat Food may be hors sujet for this blog, but it resonates for this laid-back French cat's cupcake reincarnation of King Crimson.

Cool, Raoul.
À l'aise, Blaise.
Pas de panic, Yannick.
Relaxe, Max.

Looking for more of the same? Click here.

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B.Lecron

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Come again? Yes, that's right. Seventy percent of  French hypermarchés' clients decide to do their grocery shopping when there is no more yogurt in their refrigerators.

The French not only love yogurt, they also love statistics. This one comes from a BFM news report about the number-one dairy producer Danone's relooking (in a chic black) and renaming (Ultra Frais) of its display shelves in larger European supermarkets.

A hypermarché is a giant chain store, also called a grande surface (equal to or more than 2,500 m2), that sells everything from groceries to automotive and dry goods.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


After a visit to the States, one of my Franco-American hybrid teenagers told me that the difference between American and French adolescents was that most French teens study philosophy in secondary school. That's a thoughtful point. And it jives with the "Ne me fais pas la morale!" retort maturing kids here will use here when pressed by their parents...

la morale:  a set of absolute principles defining the criteria of right action in certain systems of ethics
un anniversaire:  a birthday
un ado:  slang for  an adolescent

Ne me fais pas la morale:  Don't give me a lesson in morals

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, March 12, 2012


Another Parisian icon and tourist attraction, the painted-glass Art Nouveau domed ceiling of the neo-Byzantine style Galeries Lafayette, the forever fashionable department store at 40 boulevard Haussmann. Closed Sundays.

un grand magasin:  a department store
un coupole:  a cupola; a dome
prêt-à-porter:  ready-to-wear
luxe:  luxury
les bonnes affaires:   good deals; bargains

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, March 11, 2012


A panel of Monet's Les Nymphéas, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris. For a virtual tour of the galleries, click here.

une orangerie:  construction where potted orange trees are housed for the winter
une serre:  a greenhouse
un nénuphar:  a water lily

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Decorative lambrequin animates an emblematic cabine de plage at Le Crotoy, a village on the Baie de  Somme. It was at Le Crotoy where the young and beautiful American Bessie Coleman attended aviation school in 1920 and became the world's first ever black woman pilot. Because racial segregation and Jim Crow laws had precluded her from learning to fly in the United States, she went to France where only her willingness to learn and aptitude determined her admissibility to flight school.

Bessie Coleman, l'Ange Noir is the title of French biographer Jacques Beal's work on the famous stunt pilot's life. "I refused to take no for an answer," she once said. Face à un non catégorique, je ne l'ai pas accepté.
Salt-marsh fed sheep in front of  Le Crotoy. Photo by Pir6mon, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.
une cabine de plage:  a beach cabin
un mouton:  a sheep
un ange:  an angel

Image credit for photo of Bessie Colman via Creative Commons.
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, March 9, 2012


"La sagesse née du désir calme le poison du désir..." or should it be "La sagesse née du désir calme le poisson du désir...?"  The former is an extrait from Le Livre du Bois by Kon-Tchog Denpai Dronme; the latter is a transmission de pensée from the contemplative mascot of this blog. 

un poison:  a poison
un poisson:  a fish
un extrait:  an excerpt
une transmission de pensée:  transmission of thought;  telepathy
une mascotte:  a mascot

À chacun son poison:  To each his own poison; which is handily deformed to "À chacun son poisson"
La sagesse née du désir calme le poison du désir:  Wisdom born from desire calms the poison of wanting

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Le surfcasting from the beach of Etretat in Haute Normandie. The chalky cliffs in constant erosion have created a craggy coastline where the lapidary action of the sea smooths the fallen rocks into polished, round galets. It's an ideal habitat for shrimp, which in turn attract the coveted European seabass, known as un bar. In the Mediterranean region the same fish is called un loup. On occasion the seabass's nomenclature creates a certain confusion which is often exploited as a conversational icebreaker at dinners where it is being served.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


People are the same everywhere--or just-about-nearly-almost. When French boys and girls pluck daisy petals their chant is not, "He loves me, he loves me not," but rather "Il m'aime un peu, beaucoup, passionément, à la folie, pas du tout..." (He loves me a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all.)

une marguerite:  a daisy
effleurer:  to delicately brush or touch
effleurer la marguerite:  to play "he loves me, he loves me not"

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, March 5, 2012


For years ex-pats in France have substituted the French cream cheese St. Moret in American recipes calling for Philadelphia cream cheese. We've noticed that the Pennsylvania city's namesake cheese, however, has become available in most French chain supermarkets this past year and is being advertised nationally. Coinciding with this widespread Yankee intrusion on the French industrial cheese market has been an upgraded version of the pasteurized St. Moret cream cheese, moulé à la crème and salted with the gourmet fleur de sel. We're emballés, even if for an industrial cheese.

moulé:  molded
fleur de sel:  "flower of salt;" a high-quality French sea salt hand-harvested from the surface of shallow pools of seawater along the coast of France, especially in the Brittany region
emballer:  to wrap up or to envelop; to be enthusiastic about something,  familiar
un emballage:  packaging

©2012 P.B. Lecron