Tag Archives: French people

Frenchie and le Marché

14 Jul

In honor of le 14 juillet – Bastille Day in English – a post about France and something very French would be in order for today.

Markets! French markets that is. And not all markets either. Food markets. They’re my favorite. Not that I don’t like the other markets – flowers, flea, antiques, rare books. Au contraire! But the important tradition of the French food markets is anchored very deep in the culture and they are such a unique experience.

Seen from the U.S., they make France… well, so French!

If you missed the market on Wednesday mornings, or Fridays, there is always one somewhere in town on Sunday mornings.

Sunday mornings don’t all start with a trip to the market. No, they start with a grasse matinée – yes, sleeping in is a “fat morning”! Another idiom. To this day, I am still unsure if it’s supposed to mean that after 8:00 am you’ll magically gain weight from staying in bed, salivating about 2 or 3 crispy butter croissants.

In any case, once the nutritious coffee-baguette-jam-butter-croissant breakfast is over, with 3 wicker baskets around the arm, the call for the marché is heard loud and clear like a first crusade. And all roads lead to the market.

Just follow the French – they know where to go. And they all walk in the same direction too.

The discreet hubbub of le marché already surrounds me even though I am still walking towards it. Entangled voices of shoppers are intertwined with louder voices promoting a cheaper kilo of shiny red tomatoes and a dozen fresh farm eggs.

The melodic church bells are ringing – it’s 10:00 am. It’s always better to go earlier rather than later. By noon, markets become overly crowded and not as enjoyable to navigate through.

The place smells of everything and anything. Floating scents of garlic, curly parsley, ripe peaches, moldy Roquefort and greasy spit-roasted chicken as I walk past the different farmers. My nostrils are filled with appetizing flavors – it feels like having a fancy 4-course meal by just walking aimlessly and smelling the air.

I want to look at the prices first, let’s walk around. I never buy right on the spot. I want to see what each farmer has to offer and the quality of the food.

Le fromager is whistling as he cuts through a colossal round wheel of holey Gruyère cheese. Et avec ceci, Madame? This lady is not having anything else but I already eyed a big chunk of yellow cantal, which I think would royally pair with this light fruity red wine I still have at home.

The rustle of the thin plastic bags carrying food whispers throughout the market. It’s a sign people are buying. Baskets are full.

Oh, des fraises des bois! It’s not often that you see wild strawberries on the market – strawberries of the forest as we call them. So small, sweet, brightly red and deliciously strong. They’ll be perfect for strawberry tartlets with a lemony cream in the center. They’re expensive though. C’est une folie!

The French always “complain” about splurging and love to say out loud that it’s “crazy”. But they secretly love it nonetheless.

It’s a whole process for them – first, acknowledge the price, then announce the word “une folie” out loud, and finally, appear to find some comfort: ok, just for once – yes, pour une fois. Let’s get the strawberries! <shoulder shrug>

Le boucher has a great rôtisserie oven next to his booth-truck. Un poulet, s’il vous plaît, Monsieur. The skin of this slow turning chicken looks so crispy, I will make a meal out of it. Eggs, we need eggs! I know where to get them.

I prefer not to give my money away to the big farmers in their fancy food trucks. No, I buy from my favorite adorable 78 year-old grandpa in the corner there… next to La Poste and the Café Bar Tabac. He does not have much with him – eggs, some tomatoes, cherries, plums and green beans. I always buy a dozen from him. His wife Léonne is not here today, I hope everything is ok.

She’s taking care of Jolie, my best egg-layer. Something happened. I think the fox scared her last night. You’re not buying Jolie’s eggs today. These were laid by Picorette.

As he’s searching inside his rusty metal coin box to break my 20 €, the noises of loose change hitting the box with other coins echo sounds of empty cardboard fruit crates being tossed on the side.

The church bells are ringing again. This time it’s noon! Where did 11:00 go? And I did not have time to make it to the fish and seafood booths. They’re my favorite too.

Do we buy something to eat here or just go home? In all honesty, I want my crispy chicken now. The green beans with parsley and a bit of butter will be just enough. We’ll cook them in the pressure cooker – so much faster and they’ll be crisp, just how I like them. We’ll make a plum tart too.

The wild strawberry tartlets will be for tonight then. For dessert. Une folie!

Farmers already actively packed up and left.

Some abandoned wooden and cardboard crates stayed behind.

Hissing water sprays are cleaning the market ground.

Lively homes now sparkle with colorful fresh veggies and fruits.

We’ll go back next Sunday, c’est sûr!

Joyeux 14 juillet!

Frenchie and the American Face(s)

15 Jun

Ever since I wrote about the French faces and facial expressions, I suddenly turned into this French circus animal despite all my best efforts to remove myself from the ring and ignore all performance requests. Aww come on, do a Horsey Blow again. And do it, like, like you mean it. Can you combine it with, like, a Face Fart? Yes, parties and friends’ gatherings where I should have been a willing, witty – and full of charm! – guest became my own nightmarish scenario where I was suddenly an unwilling game participant tortured to demonstrate innate pouts of frustration to other staring guests during an evening that would unfold to be catastrophic due to my unfathomable stage fright. Oops! Someone’s being French faces-shy! The inability to perform French faces under pressure. This is just my luck! But what I’ve learned all these years living in this country is that no matter what happens and how bad it looks, just smile. Smile and you’ll be rewarded – the reward here being that after 2 more glasses of wine everyone will have completely forgotten about the lack of French mouth fart performance.

So in preparing for this part deux of the facial expressions, I asked around about American facial traits. It became very clear that no one was able to give me examples for something that would make an interesting post. Americans don’t have any facial expressions like Europeans do – not due to heavy Botox use – but because they’re too busy smiling and thinking about how wide(r) their smiles can get. With that said, let’s get started:

– The Frozen Smile: Europeans speak and express themselves with their mouths and noises coming out of them. Americans haven’t learned yet how to do so due to the fact that their mouths are frozen smiling. It is achieved by opening your mouth wide and spreading your lips apart just like at a casting call for a Colgate commercial. The wider the better. And when you think you can’t get any wider, there’s always an extra half an inch to gain by stretching and prying. The automatic Frozen Smile is very useful: happy, confused, terrified, uncomfortable, speechless… smile, smile and smile again. And when you have no clue what someone is talking about and you either don’t care to find out nor don’t want to ask for more details… (vacantly) smile! It speaks volumes.

– The Aww-kward Aww: Tilt your head to the side with compassion, show pleading eyebrows and express a prolonged Aww. Congrats! You have just expressed an appreciative sound of sweetness sprinkled with an exclamation of pity mixed with warm feelings. A climactic draww-n out Aww will win you points for most-annoying-sound-that-doesn’t-mean-anything-in-particular. Whether talking about babies, puppies, a layoff or a broken leg – use your best Aww. Practice, rewind, replay, repeat.

– The Ecstatic High-Five: happy, happier and happiest – and it shows! The EHF is achieved by arching up the eyebrows way up high, opening the mouth really wide in surprise, happiness, excitement – decide depending on the situation – and raising the hand – does not matter which one. The sound attached to the EHF tends to be a pleasurable exclamation and a sense of elation also known as YAY! The EHF’s victorious goal is when the raised hand meets with another raised hand in a clap as palms hit one another. Note: it can be and often is combined with an open Frozen Smile, same as described above but wider and airier.

If, and only if, the EHF is not attached to a YAY! but to a Hi!… careful! – because it becomes:

– The Salutation Syndrome: same trick, same patterns – the motion stays the same. It looks identical as an EHF but can be very deceitful if unaware of the difference. If the person talking blurts out a Hi! then this is not a high-five even though the hand is raised. Do not, I repeat DO NOT high-five. The slight cunning variation in sound can cause tremendous clumsy and embarrassing situations, which would result in an Aww if you were to clap the raised hand offered to you – but if this is what you are after, go for it, it always makes a good story.

This syndrome is observed in all small to medium-sized cities. A bit more rarely in big metropolitan areas but not so uncommon nonetheless. 80% of the locals are affected by this syndrome and the best appropriate reaction is to mirror what you observe – meaning a combination of all facial expressions learned in this lesson: beginning with an Ecstatic High-Five combined with an open Frozen Smile but ending in a Salutation Syndrome by saying Hi! Note: if the answer to your Hi! is How are you? and you have never seen that person before, for now just mirror the locals and repeat How are you? At this point, remember to walk faster and leave the scene of the crime – you can run too if you want! We haven’t tackled yet the best way to approach the Empty Greeting Zone and the Small Talk Universe.

I was really hoping for French faces cut-out masks for Halloween because those faces are a bit more expressive than Americans’. I can’t seem to see an Aww-kward Aww mask. However, if someone out there is into recording American facial expressions and speech patterns and make ring tones, I want one!

Do you have more examples of American facial expressions? Share them in the Comments section below.

Frenchie and the Idio(t)matic Expressions

8 Jun

*** When he brought back his strawberry in the house, he thought she was a super owl girl. Even though she boxed him up, he did not have a tooth against her. He wanted to apologize but had other cats to whip after all. So he put his feet in the plate and sold the wick. Yes, he had been throwing money out of the window for months and knew deep inside that she was leading him by the tip of his nose. When she finally slapped him, he saw 36 candles.

No, you are not reading the detailed account of a crazy frenglish dream. These are just idioms – French idioms – which obviously don’t have the same meaning in English.

A funny zebra (FR) / A peculiar person (ENG)

At least a million blog posts could be written about idioms, their usage and silly examples of mistakes made along the way. According to my trusted Oxford dictionary, an idiom is “a phrase/sentence whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its individual words and which must be learnt as a whole unit” – meaning these are words or expressions that are grammatically unusual and their meaning cannot be taken literally. In my book, this screams “big belly laughs while learning strange idio(ma)tic expressions.” So if you want to be cool as a cucumber, use your noodle to learn metaphorical expressions and be the cream of the crop.

I am pretty certain that the first idiom French students learn in English class is the famous “it’s raining cats and dogs“, which for a 12 year-old kid is one of the most abstract and bizarre thing to hear. Do English speakers really think that a heavy rain looks like St. Bernards, German Shepherds along with Burmese and Maine Coon cats falling from the sky and crashing on umbrellas? Not pretty. Because the French equivalent “il pleut des cordes” (it’s raining ropes) makes so much more sense… to the French!

It is not pie (FR) / It is not easy (ENG)

For me, learning idioms was like pulling teeth. I was lucky enough to learn straight from the horse’s mouth because of the move to the U.S. – always best to learn a language in the country. At first, it was all Greek to me and I did get cold feet. But I played it by ear, learned and made mistakes, and despite the butterflies in my stomach I tackled this hot potato and had a field day. Now, once in a blue moon, I still stumble on unknown idioms but no need to cry for bloody murder. And to this day, I still make the same mistake when I say that someone’s been pulling my legs… yes, both of them!

[Sorry French readers, I couldn’t help but include a paragraph full of English idioms]

A storm in a teacup (ENG) / A storm in a glass of water (FR)

Idioms are like a fun game to learn and reuse in conversations. It actually makes you sound more “native” and somehow proves that you’ve mastered another intricate level of the language. So what are your favorite idioms in your native language and in the languages you learned? The most difficult idioms to learn or remember? What are the strangest ones you’ve heard? Share in the Comments section below.

*** Translation of the first paragraph

When he showed up at the house, he thought she was a fantastic girl. Even though she pulled his leg, he did not have anything against her. He wanted to apologize but he had other fish to fry after all. So he spilled the beans and let the cat out of the bag. Yes, he had been throwing money down the drain for months and knew deep inside that she had him wrapped around her little finger. When she finally slapped him, he saw stars.

To count your chickens before they are hatched (ENG) / To sell the bear's skin before killing it (FR)

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