Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pie a la mode, and Emily as a contestant on Survivor: France

Ever noticed how many French words we Americans use (and butcher?) every day?  While it’s certainly la mode to use French words in English conversation, it’s hardly avant-garde.  French words have been part of English conversations since the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror of France became King of England in 1066.  For 300 years French was the language of the court and of culture in England, during which time more than 10,000 French words were adopted into the English lexicon.

But enough with the history! (If you’re wondering, I’m working on a cross-cultural article for a French magazine…)  I just adore the fact that there is such a relationship between French and English.

Of course, we English speakers do have to put our own spin on the vocabulary, sometimes changing the meaning altogether.

Take, for example, the expression à la mode. Most Americans envision a piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream on top.  You know, “pie allah modie,” as Steve Carell says in Little Miss Sunshine.  How in the world did it become common knowledge that a scoop of ice cream on top was the “fashionable” way to eat pie?  I’d like to know what would happen if I ordered a pie “démodé.” 

{Oversize sunglasses inside: definitely à la mode in the traditional sense.}

So, you might be wondering what I am up to these days?  (I have cleverly been posting on France/French culture from afar…)  Long story short, I’m looking square in the face of “Challenge 2011”: three months, one tourist visa, a few connections, and one goal.  Yes, you could call Challenge 2011 a job-search.  A highly motivated, slightly daunting, more-or-less experimental, loosely organized, foreign country job-search with a Christmas present deadline (otherwise known as the expiration of my tourist visa).

After three months on the Kentucky farm, I’ve decided that this Survivor-style challenge is what I need (also known as: the only choice I have to return to France).  At the end of September, I’ll be packing my bags.

You remember Jason from the plane? I’m reflecting on his words right now.  This is my “something drastic,” my “something scary.”  But I’m trying to replace my fear of the unknown with curiosity.  We’ll see what I come up with.

I’m glad you’ll be along for the ride!

…P.S. Click here for Destiny’s Child’s totally American take on pie a la mode, and a laugh.

Photo Credits (images 1 and 3): Google images



Filed under Adventure, Culture, Inspiration, No Excuses

My day Monday

Well, this little note (from thx thx thx) sure gives “a case of the Mondays” a new ring!  I never thought of it like this, but now I doubt I’ll ever think of Mondays in the same way.

After a great weekend spent with a friend from college, I’m ready for a promising new week.  The days are shorter, the air is cooler, and my time on the farm is now limited to the few last weeks of summer.

Then, back to France, where Monday turns into Lundi!

More soon…


Filed under Gratitude, Home, Inspiration, Just for laughs, Kentucky, Unconventional Wisdom

Advice from the dictionary: savoir faire

savoir faire \, sav-, wär-‘fer\n.m. 1:Know-how.  French savoir-faire, literally, knowing (savoir) how to do (faire). 2: Competence, experience. 3: The ready knowledge of the right course of action: knowing what to do and say when and how to do so. 4: Habilité dans un art quelquonque. 1784 “Pour gagner du bien, le savoir-faire vaux mieux que le savoir.”  In order to succeed, savoir faire is more important than knowledge.  Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Le Mariage de Figaro, V, 3. 5: To be up to snuff with wit of a thing or two. 1815 “He had great confidence in his savoir-faire.” Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering. 6: Operating knowledge of business sense and sensibility.

In order to succeed, savoir faire is more important than knowledge.

In order to succeed, savoir faire is more important than knowledge.

In order to succeed, savoir faire is more important than knowledge.


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Filed under Culture, Inspiration, No Excuses, Photography, Unconventional Wisdom

And you thought French class was hard!

Ode to the English Plural

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship…
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?


(With special thanks to Sandy Smiley for sending this my way.)

Photo Credits:, Robert Doisneau via


Filed under Just for laughs, Miscellaneous, Unconventional Wisdom

“And I wanted to live like the French”

As America celebrates Alice Waters’ cutting-edge contribution to the Organic, Slow-Food movement and her forty years at Chez Panisse — one of the most famous restaurants in America, named after Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny — Alice Waters celebrates her inspiration: France.

Tonight my Dad called me from the barn — where he was bent under his horse, hammering shoes into place — to let me know that “you might want to tune-in to NPR.”  Alice Waters was on, he said.

I had to laugh a little to think of him listening with one ear to the sound of nails in hooves and with the other to the  “dreamy” (his — appropriate — word, not mine) voice of Alice Waters.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about her, although I know she’s basically the Mother of the modern Organic movement.  No tomatoes in her restaurant before July, and all that jazz.  I have yet to visit her restaurant…and it looks like I’d need a pretty penny to do so.  Given what I heard tonight, though, I think the two of us would get along great.

Here’s my favorite part of tonight’s interview:

Alice Waters: I went to France in 1965 and it was an awakening for me. I felt like I had never really eaten before. I had liked certain things but I didn’t understand how it fit into peoples’ lives in a delicious way.  When I went there and I walked to schools, past the markets, and ate in the little restaurants in Paris, it was like a revelation…there was always something very political happening at the table in terms of conversation.  It was a whole cultural experience that I had there that really impressed me and so when I came home I felt like I could make this happen in my own life…I went about looking for the food, and cooking dinners at my house for friends.

Terry Gross: Did you think that the delicious food had to be French cuisine?

Alice Waters (Laughing): I’m afraid I did.  I loved the way the French ate: they had small courses, always had a salad with the meal, and some cheese.  It seemed so well considered, I would say.  I absorbed it, as if by osmosis.  And I wanted to live like the French.

Interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Photo Credits: Google Images


Filed under Cool Characters, Culture, Food, Inspiration, Recipes/Cooking

Les Etats-Unis, according to Cyprien

I just know I am going to be teased for doing this (probably by my French readers more than the ‘Mericans), but I have to admit, I am sort of obsessed with Cyprien.

I could say I watch his videos to keep up with my French while I’m in the States.  But then, who checks a website once a day for a month, waiting for the next post and worrying about the blogger’s welfare when this unhealthy amount of time has passed if she is only watching the videos for the vocabulary?

He’s hysterical, okay?

I’m willing to bet even you people who don’t speak French will laugh at his take on the U.S.A. (He happened to be on vacation last month, which explains the lack of videos.  Needless to say, I was relieved to know he hadn’t fallen off the face of the earth.)

Check out the video and then scroll down to see my translation.  Maybe you’ll get hooked too.

A loose translation/summary:

I just got back from vacation.  I went to the United State of America for the first time.  I went without my parents…yea, there’s a slight difference between going on vacation with your parents and going on your own…Especially when you get back from vacation.  (Looks in empty wallet.)  Okay, so…this month we’re going to eat…water.  I’m actually a little hungry. (Drinks water.) Ah, that’s better.

And even before leaving, I got to discover the best American invention: the ESTA.  Nothing to do with “como esta?”  The ESTA is the survey of weird questions that you have to fill out in order to go to the U.S.  You can do it on the internet now; I thought these kind of things only existed in ‘One Man Shows’ but no, I got to respond to their bizarre questions.

Have you ever been involved in espionage or sabotage, in terrorism, genocide, or, between 1933 and 1945 did you participate in any way in the persecutions perpetrated by Nazi Germany or its allies?

Let me think about that.  What was I doing in 1933? … Where was I?

WHO on this earth is going to respond “yes” to that question? Tell me….maybe jokers…although I’m not sure it would be very funny…Ah, America! (Police: Put your hands on your head!) Crap! How do you say ‘it was a joke’ in English? It was a “blague”…”blog”…haha…a joke! It was a joke!

Yea, it’s better to go to America when you know how to speak English.  Me, for example, I speak video game English: yes, no, new game, try again…that’s not really gonna cut it.  One thing I didn’t know was “do you want a Coca Cola” is “do you want a coke” in English.  Do I want cocaine?  Euuuhh…this must be some kind of American trap…euuuh…no, I would like a Coca Cola. Ha! Didn’t get me!

Speaking of Coca Cola, I have a little question for you, the Americans.  What is your problem with drinks?!  Over there it’s impossible to ask for a glass.  They give you a barrel.  (Holds up trash can) I ordered a small…(Response: That is a small.)  Oh yea.  So, what’s a large?

A public swimming pool.  A public swimming pool of coke.  Only in the States…

And, like all self-respecting Frenchmen who go to the States, I participated in the little ritual of buying a pair of Levi’s jeans.  Of course I did!  In France the least expensive pair costs 90 euros and the least expensive in America is 39 dollars, which is 27 euros…wait, let me calculate…that means it’s about…three times less expensive?  For the same jeans?  “We mess around with you, the French!”

No, really, I loved the United States! BUT, the guy who invented the New York metro is sadistic.  And likes to make his legs ache.  In New York, there are metro stations that go in only one direction.  If you go in the other direction you have to walk at least a half-kilometer — take a taxi, even — to get to the correct station. And in New York it’s not one train equals one metro line.  No! That would be too simple! It’s a Parisian thing. In New York you wait on the platform but you don’t know which train is going to arrive.  The C, the A, the E — you don’t know, it’s a surprise!

And when you find the right train that goes in the right direction…

Excuse me, this is the E train, right?


Thanks. (Hops on.)

….But it’s the Express Line.  It only stops at the end.

The “Express Line?”  Oh, I get it: it’s so much more fun to take a train that skips random stations…WHY?!


Filed under Culture, Just for laughs

Do you write a gratitude journal? Memories of senior prom and heartbreaks, among other things

Senior year of high school.  March some-teenth.  Days before the prom, my first love broke my heart.  He was thin and awkward, a bit of a show-off who spoke with an accent and gave me Romeo and Juliet for my birthday because he knew I liked English class best.  I overlooked that — and other things — because he made my heart race with the excitement of being loved in a different, more grown-up way.  But then, for a reason I didn’t understand at the time, it was over — just before prom (something that had never meant anything to me before I met him).

I went to the dance anyway.  With a date, no less.  I wore the pair of earrings he had given me for Valentine’s Day and smiled extra-wide in all the pictures, just in case he happened to see any of them.

And then, the week after prom I wrote a thank you note that he never read in my gratitude journal.

It was a seemingly silly practice imposed on me (and my classmates) at our all-girls high school.  We were to keep a journal all year and each entry had to include three things we were thankful for.  I began the year with writer’s block, scribbling the names of family members to fill the lines.  By the end, however, I’d gotten more creative.  An actual entry, for example:

— Tests taken and worries gone
— The confidence to speak out about what I believe
— Statistics class, which gets me out of taking Calculus

Yes, I even found a way to be grateful for Statistics, which — after Chemistry — was my least favorite subject.

So, it’s not too surprising (is it?) that I was able to write with gratitude and not bitterness about my first love gone bad.  On Tuesday, March 14 I wrote, “I am thankful for my resilience.”  On March 20 I was more direct: “Thank you that my heart breaks because I love.”

How dramatic and important are these high school loves!

All this to say that I think it’s time I pick up my gratitude journal again.

Here I am, overwhelmed with the possible twists and turns of life, troubled by the economy (and nearly every headline, for that matter) and wondering about jobs and countries and just what I am supposed to do with this life I know is such a gift.

And yet, at the end of my senior year when my first boyfriend told me he wouldn’t be going to prom with me, I managed to scrounge up the courage to write that at least the pain in my heart meant I loved with everything I had.

Call it looking on the bright side, but I’m not sure I’d have done it if it hadn’t been for this silly, imposed habit of looking for the good in all things.

Since I just came back from a wonderful vacation — and am still feeling a bit topsy-turvy nonetheless — here’s a little gratitude poem for someone who kept the trip chock full of things to be thankful for.

Do you know that the smell of a white tuberose
Will always make me think of you?
As will farmers’ markets and chocolate eclairs,
Especially if I have to pay two dollars for one
(To support a young baker with an underground cafe.)

The taste of crystallized ginger will bring to mind
Granola, which makes me think of
Vanilla yogurt, soft blueberries, a fourth of a banana,
And homemade cappuccinos,
The microwaved milk turned to foam with a wand.

When I separate eggs I remember the way
You taught me before I knew
Why one would separate white from yolk.
The way you tap the container of your secret ingredient
Just so.

The scent of horse sweat and western sand:
A foreign enough combination that when it fills my nostrils
I can’t help but see Junebug and Chiave,
Bucky, Hurde, Haviland, and now Ravi –
The other horses of my childhood, though faraway.

And oh, the dog!
If ever a dog sits beside me in the backseat
And barks in my ear, I’ll think of Cody,
With his small ears and small paws
And a character that demands attention.

Bestamore’s Lemonade – will you save some for me?
Spun honey, French cheese, Foxen wine.
The Greyhound à la Jimmy and TJ’s Carmenère.
Picking tomatoes, roasting beets, going too heavy on
The coconut for our warm (and crunchy) kale salad.

Baking bread – the smell of yeast
And homemade blackberry jam.
Animal theme songs to the tune of Christmas carols,
Dressing up cowgirl style and
Slow, slow, quick-quick slow; Slow, quick-quick, slow.

Do you know that the smell of a white tuberose
Will always make me think of you?
This, and about a thousand other things
That can’t be counted or measured
But mean so much to the little girl
who has always called you “Auntie Linds.”


Filed under Food, Gratitude, Inspiration, Laugh it off, No Excuses, Unconventional Wisdom