Here we have Tomatoes Farcies Au Fromage de Chevre,
which means, of course, tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese.
(Disclaimer: If you speak French and you are tempted to take out your red pen to start marking the mistakes riddling this post, you need to know that I’m just fooling around. I do vaguely know a few French words, and I do know them from my cookbooks, but I have no idea whatsoever about grammar or structure or anything else regarding the language.)
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If you had asked me before this week if I knew any French, I would have said, “Non” in my best Pink Panther accent because I couldn’t have imagined making any kind of communicative connection with a French person beyond a smile. But I have discovered that I do know just the tiniest smidge of French, and it came in handy this past week.
La petite French mademoiselle is staying with my sister’s family for two weeks. She doesn’t speak much English (at all), and my sister’s family doesn’t parlez-vous francais very well, either, so both parties constantly refer to their respective translation dictionaries to communicate. I sat at the dinner table with them one evening, and when gaps in communication occurred—voila!—I, to everyone’s surprise, including my own, began to fill in a few of them. And when my sister listed the French names of the ingredients of their Salade Nicoise, I didn’t tell her that I already knew most of them.
What do you know? I speak French! And I explained to everyone round the table that, “I learned it from my cookbooks!” My nephew Conner thought this was hilarious. He laughed so hard I thought he was going to fall off his chair. He kept bending over in hysterics: “From your cookbooks! Ha-ha.”
Well, here, let me show you:
This is a great big, bowl of chocolat. (It looks like a ganache, which is a frosting, you know.) Chocolat obviously means chocolate, but we all know it really means “yum.”
Above is Poireaux Vinaigrette, so now I know how to say leek in French (or at least spell it).
It’s not hard to pick up some French when cookbooks have pages and pages of this kind of thing. The English translation is right under the French title, so, after reading enough of these, it almost subliminally goes into the subconscious that beurre is butter and blanc is white (and rouge is red and on and on).
And this is “confiture.” Jam. The front jar in the picture doesn’t count (that’s rose petal jelly—or gelee), but the jars behind it on the right are filled with Confiture D’Abricots Aux Amandes, which I really did know meant Apricot Jam with Almonds (but I don’t know how aux fits because doesn’t it mean “to”? I’m sure I’ll eventually understand—I’ll just keep reading my cookbooks!). Confiture is one of the words I pulled out of my repertoire for at my sister’s family dinner table the other night.
And this is “Daube de Bouef Provencale,” which I already know generally means Provencal Beef Stew, which, in the book says “Beef Stew with Vegetables and Olives.” Oh, and there’s “gremolata” on top of the stew, which is an Italian word, so I am clearly becoming multilingual.
Aw, do they have to photograph the cochon so sweetly? And the adorable agneau,(not to be mistaken for gigot, which is just that cute little leg—gigot d’agneau a la menthe, anyone?) too? In a cookbook?! We all know the destiny of those cute little farm animals. Can’t we just pretend they make meat in the back room of the grocery store?
And, finally, this is cuisine magnifique. I love this photo. I will move to France if they will let this kitchen be mine.
And it’s not just French. Because of the cookbook reading I do, I think I can speak a little Italian, some Thai, some Bengali, and Greek, and Spanish, and even some Turkish. Suddenly, my designation of one entire bookcase for cookbooks alone seems justified. The books have made me culturally and linguistically literate! (Not to mention that, thanks to them, some pretty tasty dishes have been offered to those sitting at my kitchen table).
So, maybe the world would be a better place if we all spent more time reading cookbooks.
***All of the pictures in this post are photos I snapped from the pages of the gorgeous and excellent cookbook The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan.