Every cheese has its story: Munster

2016-03-12 14.11.06
Half of a Munster. Photo source: me.

My Saturday morning shopping trip always starts with a visit to the neighborhood cheese shop.  Once I get there, I check the sign in the window to see what’s in season.  If it’s not something that I haven’t tried before, I go in and shop for something interesting.

This weekend a medium-sized, soft, raw cow milk cheese caught my eye.  However: I’ve been focussing on French cheeses, and this one was called Munster–a German place name.  He iz French, this cheese here?, I asked the always-helpful attendant.  Yes, she answered–it’s from Alsace.  That explained the German name–Alsace and Lorraine are regions that go back and forth between France and Germany, depending on who won the most recent war.  At home, people often speak German, but the official language of school, the government, etc. is French.  (Wikipedia says that 43% of adults speak the local dialect of German, but that its use is disappearing among the younger generation.)

Every French cheese has its story–and its particularities.  Munster is thought to be one of the oldest cheeses in the country.  I’ve seen estimates of its date of origin from the 700s to the 800s.  The story is that it had its origin in the village of Munster, currently located near the very easternmost part of France, quite close to Germany.  The village is thought to have taken its name from the Latin word monasterium, meaning a monastery or a monk’s cell in Medieval Latin.  People clustered around the monastery, and in order to ensure the availability of food to the surrounding populace, the monks made this cheese.  (I’m a little skeptical–like any other soft cheese, Munster doesn’t last very long.)  Another story is that the cheese was brought into the region by monks who came to Christianize the area during the time of Charlemagne.  In the 1500s, it became popular outside of the region, being sold not just in Paris, but in Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany as well.  Back in those days, the price of the cheese for the upcoming year was announced every June 23rd at a large fair in the town of Gérardmer–I’ve never heard anything similar about any other cheese.

Some cheeses are defined in part by what the cows have to be fed in order for a cheese to have the right to its name, and Munster is one of those.  The cows have to graze on the grass of the massif of the Vosges, in eastern France.  This is what gives the cheese its terroir, its regional character.  During its preparation, the surface of the cheese is salted, and you can taste that very clearly.  While it ages, it is occasionally washed with beer.  This kind of washing is characteristic of cheeses that originated in monasteries, and specific cheeses have to be washed with specific things.  If it’s not washed with beer, it’s not Munster.

Munster (pronounced, incidentally, [mœ̃stɛʁ]]) smells stronger than it tastes, so it’s actually not a bad cheese for an American who is just starting to explore the stinky cheeses (even the French call them les fromages qui pue, “cheeses that stink”).  Enjoy!

The confusion of thinking about the subjunctive

I got an email today with this question:

Screenshot from 2016-03-16 15:41:59
“Do you think that I should bring it to the English-speaking depositor’s attention that their article is a little short?” Picture source: screen shot of my email.

It’s a nice data point regarding something that’s difficult for us English speakers to remember: penser que (“to think that”) takes the indicative in the present affirmative (that is, when you’re making a statement).  However, it takes the subjunctive when it’s used in a question, and when it’s used in a negative.

The Lawless French web site has a succinct description of how it works at this web page.  Using the example of devoir that showed up in the email, we would have this (hopefully one of you native speakers out there will double-check me):

  • Je pense que tu dois…  I think that you should…  (present affirmative, takes indicative dois)
  • Je ne pense pas que tu doives…  I don’t think that you should… (present negative, takes subjunctive doives)…
  • Penses-tu que je doive…  (present interrogative, takes subjunctive doive)

I hate it when Anglophones complain about the subjunctive–I think it’s charming.  I bring this up only because it’s a corner of the grammar that puzzled the heck out of me today.  How does this work in the future tense?  I have no clue.  I’d love to be able to say “I don’t think that Trump will win the election”–present tense?  Subjunctive?  No clue.  Native speakers?

Vocabulary of the terrorist attack in the Ivory Coast

terrorst attack ivory coast
A man helps an injured child at the site of the March 2016 terrorist attack at a beach resort in Ivory Coast. Picture source: http://heavy.com/news/2016/03/ivory-coast-grand-bassam-hotel-terrorist-attack-photos-pictures-isis-suspect-victims-nationalities/2/.

I swear, it makes my heart ache every time I learn vocabulary from yet another terrorist attack.  On Sunday, March 13, six guys dressed in black showed up at a resort on the beaches of Grand-Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and started shooting people–men, women, and children.  By the end, 22 people were dead–14 civilians, 2 soldiers, and the six gunmen.  Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took credit.  Bastards…

Here is some vocabulary from the Matins de France culture news story.

  • balnéaire: seaside, bathing.
  • la station balnéaire: beach resort.
  • le fusil: [fyzi] rifle.  Also a gunman, a “(good) shot.”
  • le pistolet: pistol.
  • kalash: a pistol, as far as I can tell.  Presumably short for Kalashnikov.  However, from what I can tell from a French slang web site and from a list of synonyms that I turned up, it seems to be a pistol.  Native speakers?  Also, does someone know the gender of this noun?
  • la flingue: pistol (slang).

Plate-lickin’ good: Cafe culture in Paris takes an unexpected turn

cafe arts et the
The Café art et thé on rue de la Roquette. Picture source: Yelp, http://www.yelp.fr/biz/art-et-th%C3%A9-paris-2.

I saw something today that I’ve never seen before: a French person taking food home from a restaurant.  Doggy bags really are not a thing in France at all–there isn’t even a word for them–and it was a moderate scandal last year when the government passed a law requiring restaurants over a certain size to provide them.  So, when the lady a couple tables over told the waiter that she wanted to take her left-over merguez (a kind of sausage) home, he brought her a piece of aluminum foil, and she wrapped them up.

What happened next surprised me even more.  To set the context, you have to realize that this was a perfectly nice little cafe, not some hipster hole in the wall.  Carefully-coiffed middle-aged ladies with pearls and subtle but impressive decolletage (or décolleté, as we say in these parts), silver-haired guys in sports coats and shirts with collars–that kind of thing.  So, imagine that–and then imagine this lady licking her plate.  Wow–I was pretty stunned.  Amazingly, no one else seemed to notice.

I will happily grant that I do not have a complete handle on French table manners.  However, if this is something normal, I definitely haven’t seen or heard of it before, and let me tell you, the French typically take their table manners seriously.  Native speakers, can you enlighten the rest of us?  Incidentally: the lunch was delicious.  Café art et thé, on rue de la Roquette.  A delicious lamb couscous and a glass of Côtes du Rhone set me back 15 euros.  Come at 11 on a Sunday and you may find a large group of people discussing philosophy, depending on where they’re meeting that week.

  • la brochette: a kebab.  Typically lamb, unless otherwise specified, but ask.
  • le couscous: couscous!  Some say that it is becoming one of France’s national dishes.  France has a large North African Arab population, and you can get excellent North African food here–Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, whatever.
  • lécher: to lick.  Yes, this is a relative of the English word lecher, in a not-too-roundabout way.  The Frankish word lekko:n (the o: is a long o) gave rise to the Old French word lichiere/lechier, meaning “to live in debauchery or gluttony,” and also to the verb lécher, “to lick.”  English lecher comes from lichiere/lechier.  Etymology is so much more fun than you might have thought!

Are you taking pictures of the entire world?  Street life in Paris


“Old and used book market of Paris. Every Saturday and Sunday.”  Picture source: me.

As soon as I think I’m getting Paris, something happens to disorient me completely. Just now I pulled out my phone on the street to look for a cafe on Yelp. The French are famously uncomfortable around strangers, and tend not to approach them. So, I was quite surprised when an old man, clearly totally français de souche (of French origin), approached me. Are you taking pictures of the entire world?, he asked me. I search a cafe, I answered.  Which cafe?, he wanted to know.  Some…any…um…, I stumbled.  Go down that way. There are several.   Sure enough, right down the street I found Le boin coin, a popular neighborhood place right across the street from the used book market that I had forgotten about. And so goes my understanding of Paris and the French–two steps forward, one step back.

Managing to get some noodles: tougher than you might think

French spelling and English spelling are equally whack, in that in both systems, the way that a word is spelt doesn’t tell you how to pronounce it–it just gives you hints about how to pronounce it.  If you see lead, do you pronounce it [lid] (present tense of the verb to lead) or [lèd] (the metal)?  What about the first r in February?  Neither language has a goal of reflecting pronunciation in spelling–rather, the writing systems of both languages seek to reflect the meanings of words in the spelling.  So, we spell electric, electrician, and electricity with a c in all three forms, even though that second c is pronounced differently in all three words (k in electric, sh in electrician, and s in electricity)–the spelling reflects the fact that there’s a shared element in the meaning of all three words, rather than trying to reflect the pronunciation.  French spelling works pretty much the same way.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the French letter sequences ouille and ouilles.  They’re actually quite simple to pronounce (for an English speaker)–[uj] in the International Phonetic Alphabet, or something like the oo of food followed by a y.  I think I have a mental block related to my inability to accept the fact that such a long sequence of letters could correspond to such a short sound.  Also, I get tripped up when they’re not at the end of the world.  Um, word.  Here are some examples–a combination of material from Christopher and Theodore Kendris’s Pronounce it perfectly in French and my own random adventures:

  • la nouille: [la nuj] noodle
  • les nouilles: [le nuj] noodles
  • des nouilles: [de nuj] what you actually have to say to the server in the cafeteria at work if you want some noodles
  • la citrouille: [la citruj] pumpkin–there was pumpkin soup all over Paris last fall
  • les citrouilles: [le citruj] pumpkins
  • la grenouille: [gʀənuj] frog. Transcription from WordReference.com.
  • les grenouilles: frogs
  • l’andouillette: [ɑ̃dujɛt] kind of sausage.  Transcription from WordReference.com.
  • se debrouiller: [debruje] to manage, to figure things out for oneself
  • la rouille: [ruj] rust
  • rouiller: [ruje] to rust
  • barbouiller de: [barbuje] to smudge with

Se débrouiller is an especially important verb in my life, as I frequently berate myself for not being able to do it in France.

English note: you probably shouldn’t use the English word whack as an adjective (meaning something like crazy, not sensible, not good) unless you’re a hell of a lot younger than I am, but I include it here for didactic purposes.

Linguistics geekery: we say that a spelling system that mostly tries to reflect pronunciation is phonological.  We say that a spelling system that mostly tries to reflect meaning is morphological.  We say that a spelling system that mostly tries to reflect the history of words is etymological.  The French spelling system is usually described as etymological, particularly with respect to diacritics (accent marks) that reflect sounds that have disappeared over the course of history (a common source of French accent marks in the spelling system).  I think that morphological spelling systems can often also be described as etymological, but can’t swear to that.  Fun ouille words welcomed in the comments, native speakers…


Things about France that I miss when I’m in the US

I recently wrote about the aspects of life in America that I miss when I’m in France.  Turn-about is fair play, so here are some things about France that I miss when I’m in America.  I’m realistic enough about France at this point to not be one of those Americans who maintain that everything is better in France, but there are definitely some things about life here that I really appreciate.

  • French: this is probably trite, obvious, or both, but I miss hearing and speaking French when I’m in America.  Obviously English is my first language, and there’s a certain comfort to hearing it, but to my American ears, French has a poetry that is uniquely its own, as well as some emotional connections that are very dear to me, and I miss it when I’m not surrounded by it.
  • Bread: this is probably the tritest, most obvious thing to miss, but it’s true: French bread really must be the best in the world.  It’s not all great, but a lot of it is, and great French bread really is great bread.
  • Neighborliness: You live in much closer quarters in Paris than anywhere else I’ve ever been, and while this demands a certain interpersonal distance from strangers–and thick walls in apartment buildings–a neighborhood itself can be quite close-knit.  If I get lonely on the weekends, I can hang out near the cafe downstairs and the waiters will come out and say hello if they’re not busy; many of the folks in the local stores know what I’m there for, and just grab it and hand it to me with a smile when I walk in.  This is not because I’m in any way special–I’m just part of the neighborhood.
  • Organ meats: the cafeteria where I work served kidneys in a subtle mustard sauce the other day.  In the US, my impression is that organ meats are pretty much a men’s thing, and even most men won’t touch them, with the exception of the occasional piece of liver.  They’re so disdained that if you can find them in the grocery store at all, they’re close to free.  The concept of serving kidneys in an American cafeteria is not even laughable–it’s inconceivable.
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables: in France, the fruit and vegetables that I buy are rarely from farther away than the rest of western Europe.  The upside of this is that everything is always ripe.  (This is less true in a supermarket, but if you do the right thing and shop with your neighborhood fruit marchand (merchant), it will probably always be true.)  The downside is that you only get fruits and vegetables when they’re in season.  In the summer, there is an amazing selection of beautiful, delicious fruit, but in the winter, it’s mostly apples.  In contrast, in the US, you can buy essentially any fruit or vegetable at any time of the year, but because they are all shipped long distances, they can’t be ripe, lest they rot or bruise in transit, and most fruits and vegetables don’t taste right–that’s the rule, not the exception.
  • Professional service: this is going to shock anyone who has visited France, and undoubtedly most French, who hate the infamous French bureaucracy as much as anyone else.  But, let me relate some anecdotes.  One time I knew that I had some mail coming, but I didn’t have a mailbox.  I left a note for the letter carrier asking her to leave it on top of the mailboxes in the lobby of the apartment building.  She left me a long note explaining that they weren’t allowed to leave mail outside of mailboxes, but telling me which office I could pick up my letter at, and giving me her cell phone number and her boss’s cell phone number.  When I went to pick up the letter, the post office couldn’t find it.  The next day, the letter carrier’s boss called me on my cell phone, told me that he had found it, and arranged a time for me to come and pick it up.  Can you imagine your letter carrier in the US giving you her cell phone number, and her boss’s?  I think not.  People here take their métier (profession) seriously, and everyone has one, whether they’re a researcher, a letter carrier, or an elevator operator.
  • Bookstores: we have very few bookstores in the US today, compared to when I was a child.  In contrast, in Paris there are bookstores everywhere.  I can’t speak for every neighborhood in the city, but the ones that I go to typically have a small general bookstore (I have far too many hilarious interactions with the lady who owns the one in my neighborhood to describe them all here), and you can find bookstores specializing in pretty much everything, particularly in and around the Latin Quarter–language-learning, history, Africa, political science, sociology, law, philosophy, whatever.  A couple very large independent bookstores with mixes of new and used books make it possible to find pretty much anything.
  • Cheese: again, this couldn’t possibly be any more stereotypical, but cheese in the US and cheese in France might as well be entirely different foods–there’s not very much resemblance between them.  In the US, we have maybe 6-8 cheeses.  In the little cheese shop in my neighborhood, they have more kinds of sheep milk cheeses than that.  It took me quite a while to get to know a bit about French cheeses in their many different varieties, but making the effort to do that really opened up a new horizon in eating for me.
  • Diversity of media: French people complain about how crappy, superficial, crisis-of-the-moment-oriented their news media is, and that’s certainly true of some of it, just as it is with much of the US media.  However, there is an amazing diversity of media outlets here, and some really amazing stuff.  You want a magazine on judo, or public health problems in Africa?  You can get one at the newsstand in the train station.  You’re looking for a good philosophy series?  You can pick one up at any news kiosk, along with your Eiffel Tower coasters.  In the US, I live in a city of 2 million people that has just one newspaper.  Here, there’s Libération (left-wing), Le Monde (centrist), Le Figaro (center-right), and a number of smaller papers, including the famous Charlie Hebdo and the less-famous (outside of France, where it sells 700,00 copies a week) Le canard enchaîné (investigative journalism and satire).  In the US, I’m an NPR listener–the equivalent here is France culture, which makes NPR seem positively low-brow.

So: both countries definitely have their own personalities, and both countries have unique things to be appreciated.  Much like people, I guess.

You have to be a little bit Buddhist to live in Paris

a la recherche du temps perdu
“Remembrance of things past,” by Marcel Proust. Picture source: http://www.amazon.fr/recherche-temps-perdu-c%C3%B4t%C3%A9-Swann/dp/2070724905.

I think it was Adam Gopnik who said that in order to be able to live in Paris, you need to be able to simultaneously have a deep appreciation for that which is ancient and familiar, and accept that nothing is forever–sometimes, the things that we love change out from under us.

Doing my first-day-back-in-Paris grocery shopping when I arrived this week, I noticed that the fruit and vegetable stand down the street was closed.  Today, doing my weekly shopping, I saw that it was still closed.  I stopped into the florist’s shop next to the fruit and vegetable stand for my Saturday morning bouquet.  Tell me please, what to itself happened the fruit merchants to the side?  He took my 3 euros.  They closed.  A restaurant is going to open there.  It’s a shame–they were nice. 

Them being French and all, I never knew their names, despite having shopped there whenever I was in Paris for the past year and a half.  When I went there for the first time, I made the classic American rookie mistake at a French fruit and vegetable stand: I picked up a piece of fruit to smell it.  (In America, that’s how we tell whether or not it’s ripe.  I learnt this as a young man, by flirting with little old ladies in the produce section.)  Don’t smell the fruit!, the lady scolded me.  I’ll get it for you.  I asked for some figs.  Do you want wall figs?  I gave her the puzzled look that I give people in France so often.  When are you going to eat them–today?  Tomorrow?  Eventually, I realized that she had not asked me if I wanted figues murs–“wall figs”–but figues mûrs–“ripe figs,”   which is pronounced the same, but which wasn’t a word that I’d heard in a while.  (Zipf’s Law: most words are rare, but they do occur.)  After that, we got along fine.  Once you go back to a French business a few times, they recognize you as a regular, and they are far less formal.  She, or her husband, or her father-in-law, depending on who was working, would often throw some dates or an apple in my bag along with whatever I had purchased.

I guess the whole appreciate-what’s-old, accept-that-things-change thing is a good idea for life in general, just as much as it is for living in Paris.  Wives move on, or you move on, start-ups fail, people die.  I guess that if you can be aware of that impermanent nature of things, you either have to be chronically depressed, or–and this is very fortunate, if you can manage it–resolve to live them fully while they’re around.  The fruit merchants that were such a familiar part of my daily life here are gone.  I’ll miss hearing their kids chattering in Arabic in the stairwell, and seeing their youngest daughter giggle and hide her face when I call her ma belle–“my beauty.”  But, for a while there, they were part of what made this place home, and I am grateful for that.

The sublime and the ridiculous: trash collection vocabulary in French

Picture source: me.

One day in Japan, a few of us Westerners were out with some Japanese guys.  We walked by a weathered old wooden building with beautiful, faded characters written on the side.  It was really quite striking.  “What does it say?,” we asked the Japanese guys.  The answer: “no parking.”

2016-03-10 08.57.08
Picture source: me.

Indeed, just reading the signs that I walk by on the way to work–well, really, on my way anywhere–is a common way for Zipf’s Law to make its appearance in my day.  The picture above shows a sign that I passed on my way to the lab yesterday.  It’s on a pretty pedestrian subject, but I still had to look up a number of the words on it.  And so goes the romance of the experience of learning a language.

  • le décharge: garbage dump.  (Also a shot or a salvo.)
  • l’encombrant: I haven’t been able to find this as a noun, although that seems to be how it’s being used in the sign.  As an adjective, it means “in the way,” or “cumbersome.”
  • le créneau: this can mean a number of related things–a slot, a niche, a crenel, and I guess metaphorically, a time slot.
  • le créneau de collecte: the trash collection time, I think.
  • le conteneur: container.
  • les ordures (n.f.pl.) litter, trash.
  • l’encombrement: blockage.
  • passible de verbalisation: I think this is “subject to reporting.”  Native speakers?

Things about the US that I miss when I’m in France

Although when I’m in the US I’m generally counting the days until I can get back to France, there are definitely things about the US that I miss when I’m in the City of Light.

Picture source: http://www.domesticblisssquared.com/2013/06/how-to-make-old-towels-soft-again.html.

Although when I’m in the US I’m generally counting the days until I can get back to France, there are definitely things about the US that I miss when I’m in the City of Light.

  • Soft towels.  You think I’m kidding?  Do this search on Google and you’ll find that this is a very common issue for Americans in France: “crunchy towels” france.
  • Big cups of coffee, with free refills.  I like to sit in a café with my little cup of espresso as much as the next guy, but I miss the big cups of coffee that we Americans are so used to.
  • Understanding little snatches of conversation in the street.  For me, understanding a discourse about the nature of happiness at a café philo is not nearly as satisfying as walking by people on the street and catching those little snatches of …and then she…so my brother said…no matter how hard you…next Tuesday…
  • Tortillas.  Paris is the New York of Europe, and you can buy anything there–except, for no reason that I can understand, corn tortillas.  When I get on the plane to France, there’s usually a bag of fresh tortillas in my luggage for my Mexican friend who lives there, and those are the last tortillas that I see until I get back to the US.
  • Knowing that no matter how late I stay in the lab, I’ll be able to find a store open on my way home from work.  Very few French stores are open past 7 PM.
  • The customer always being right.  If you’ve spent much time in France and the US, this needs no further explanation–if you haven’t, see here.
  • Casual interactions with strangers.  Americans will talk to anyone, anywhere.  Stand in line with an American at any tourist attraction at Paris, and by the time you get to where you’re going, you’ll know where they’re from, their favorite TV show, and where their kids go to college.  Sit next to any French person on a plane across the Atlantic for several hours, and by the time the plane lands, the extent of your conversation will have been excuse me, may I get up?  In contrast, I once sat next to an American woman on a much shorter flight, from Chicago to Denver, and the next thing I knew, we were married.
  • All of the plugs fitting my gadgets/not having to worry about forgetting that I need a transformer and destroying my gadgets.
  • My minuscule art collection.  I own very little, but do have a number of paintings.  I don’t know of any way to shlep them back and forth, so whatever is on the walls of the apartment that I rent in Paris is what I stare at until I go back to the US.
  • Being able to sound educated when I want to/being able to sound casual when I want to.  In an English-speaking environment, if I want to sound like a professor, I can–I am one.  If I want to sound like a sailor, I can do that, too–I was one, for many years.  In France, I can’t tell the difference between French as spoken by a college professor and French as spoken by the drunk who habitually sits slumped against a stanchion at the metro station by my house, and I know that I mix both kinds of French together all the time, not knowing the difference.
  • Knowing that if I lock myself out of the house, someone can come and let me in.  My biggest fear in France is not a terrorist attack, or a repeat of the 1871 revolution (20,000 Parisians were killed by the French army), or a repeat of the German invasions of 1870, 1914, and 1940, but locking myself out of my apartment in a city in which I know almost no one.  (Side note: I once spent a few days in Jena, the small town in east Germany where Napoleon crushed the German army.  The bridge that leads from the Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower is named after it.  I’ve heard that when the Germans entered Paris in 1940, the first thing that the occupying general wanted to do was blow it up, but they didn’t.  Today you will find at least one shell game scam artist on it pretty much every day of the year–tourists beware.  Jena itself is very nice, despite the fact that we bombed the shit out of it during World War II–there was a factory there that manufactured bomb sights.  The local schwartzbier has to be tasted to be believed, and I cannot say enough good things about the local sausages, which are somewhat comical in that the sausages themselves are quite long, but the bun that comes with them is just this little round thing.)
  • Back yards and front porches.  The stereotypical American life involves lots of sitting in back yards and on front porches, but in Paris, those things don’t exist–everyone lives in apartments, and if you want to sit outside with your friends, or a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper, or your dog, you go to a cafe.
  • 3×5 index cards.  Much of my life is spent sitting with a pile of index cards in my hand, memorizing the many vocabulary items that you read about on this blog.  However, if it’s possible to buy an index card in France, I’m not aware of it.
  • My judo bag.  Along with my paintings, this goes into the category of things that are too bulky to be shlepped back and forth between France and the US, so I usually carry my stuff to practice in a carry-on or something, and I feel silly.
  • Knowing where to buy things.  Need a tablecloth in the US?  I know exactly where to go to buy one, depending on whether you want a nice one, a crappy one, a weird size/shape, or whatever.  Contact lens solution?  Of course.  Socks?  A finger nail file?  I don’t know where to buy any of those in France.
  • Feeling like a competent adult because I understand the basics of how to do things.  If you’ve been following this blog for the past year and a half, you know that in France, I struggle constantly to get and keep phone service.  Trying to pick up my mail is unsuccessful more often than it isn’t.  Checking the balance on my French bank account?  Forget it.  At 54, I can negotiate much more difficult things than that in America without really giving it much thought.  In France?  I’m as helpless as a college freshman with helicopter parents.
  • Stars.  In the US, 4 AM typically finds me outside with one of those big cups of coffee in my hand, checking the position of the Big Dipper and looking for planets.  Everything is spread apart–there’s just more space on this very big continent.  In Paris, only a small patch of sky is visible between the apartment buildings on either side of my street, and in any case, it’s cloudy much of the year.

All of this notwithstanding, I do indeed spend much of my time in the US waiting impatiently to get back to France, and a lot of my energy goes into figuring out how to get back to France as soon as possible and stay there as long as possible.  Watch this space for things about France that I miss when I’m in the US.

  • la Grande Casserole: the Big Dipper.
  • la casserole: pan; stew, casserole; scandal, disgrace; out-of-tune instrument.
  • trimbaler: to shlep.



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