I snapped this photo in Rochegude, while running early to a luncheon.* Those sunny shutters remind me of our hostesse's character. More about le repas in today's story column.
*(By the way, while it is most-often French words that bestill a Francophile's heart, have you ever let yourself linger over the word "luncheon"? It is quite delightful in its own right, n'est pas?)
I never had an imaginary friend as a child, though I have always had imaginary words. Please allow me to introduce you to the latest... (For those of you who do not want to play along, who would rather take from these posts "useful words only!," then you'll find plenty in the "Vocabulary" section below. Now, back to make-believing and to today's missive...)
déjouper (day-zhoo-pay) noun, masculine
: a typical French meal that begins, roughly, around Sunday lunchtime (1:30 p.m.) and ends, roughly, around American dinnertime (5:30 pm)
[from "déjeuner" (lunch) and "souper" (dinner)]
Note: for those smartypants types, who're sure to write in: No, "déjouper" does not mean, even in imagined vocabulary, "to take off one's skirt"!
I learned several new words yesterday, at Aurore and Alain's, where we had Sunday "lunch" (or--sort of like the English "brunch"--might "déjouper" be a more descriptive word? After all, the meal began at lunchtime [déjeuner] and ended at the dinner hour [souper!]).
Wearing a chef's tablier,* Alain greeted us at the porte-fenêtre,* which leads to the kitchen, where his velouté de champignons* reeled us in by our cold noses. Beyond the soup, a massive marmite* took up the remaining three burners, allowing a chasseur's* civet* to simmer.
Jean-Marc and I arrived embarrassingly early, so when Aurore appeared from the salle de bains* I threw out a pair of helping hands and asked for directions.
"Go and get the goo-zhers and we'll reheat them," she offered. I wasn't sure what goo-zhers were, but followed her pointed finger which led me to a charming checkered cloth above a table laden with colorful apéritifs. By deduction (it couldn't be the radishes or the Kiri*-stuffed celery... ), I discovered the puff pastries ("gougères"*).
"Je les ai ratées!"* Aurore despaired. Soon the guests arrived, putting an end to any self-doubting. "The gougères look fine," neighbor Laetitia assured her and, there and then, I decided that gougères weren't some exotic apéro, but familiar fare for the French.
More invités* arrived, some carrying cooking contraptions, including a Cocotte Minute* and a couple of vegetable mills. Inside the trusty minute cooker, 30 potatoes awaited mashing à la Française (enter a mashed potato's best friend: la moulinette!* Note: You have not tasted fluffy mashed potatoes until you have tasted them from the other end of a vegetable mill!).
Aurore studied the plan de table* and, before long, all twelve of us were seated, rust-colored tulips tempering the stark white tablecloth and the embroidered napkins behind which we settled. After the amuse-bouche* (Alain's mushroom soup), followed by a marinated salad trio (carottes râpées,* choux rouge râpé,* and chickpeas...), two of the guests jumped up and disappeared into the cuisine* followed by our hosts, one of whom signaled for me to follow suit....
Photo: Aurore (second to left), before she traded places with Christine (second to right). Click on photos to enlarge images.
That is when I learned that it takes four Frenchmen to make mashed potatoes! I watched as Christine and Gilles, local doctors, churned their moulinettes. Aurore systematically fed the steamed potatoes into the contraptions (two mills were needed). Alain's presence was accounted for under "moral support".
The potatoes, now mashed (and still hot!), were gently turned in on themselves after a truffled butter* was added to them. Within minutes, we were back at the table eating the still-piping hot purée de pommes de terre* alongside the chasseur's civet. The chasseur in question, David, sat to my right, looking pleased with chef Alain's flair... for cooking the former's hare.
After the fourth course (a platter of cheese), out came those French floating islands or "îles flottantes"--this in a meringue-capped sea of crème anglaise!* I wish I could report that we eventually floated home, weightless as those whipped egg whites. Instead, we left, heavy as the potatoes... before they met their fate at the médecins'* mill.
Comments, corrections, or stories of your own--are always welcome in the comments box. Thanks!
le tablier (m) = apron; la porte-fenêtre (f) ("door-window) = French window; le champignon (m) = mushroom; la marmite (f) = pot; le chasseur (m) = hunter; le civet (m) = stew; la salle de bain(s) = bathroom; Kiri = brand of creamy cheese; je les ai ratées! = I made a mess of them!; la gougère** (f) (recipe follows) = gruyère-based puff pastry; un invité (une invitée) = guest; la Cocotte Minute (R) = pressure cooker; la moulinette (f) = vegetable mill; le plan (m) de table = table map (placements); l'amuse-bouche (m) (also "amuse-gueule") = appetizer, snack; la carotte (f) râpée = grated carrot; le chou rouge (m) râpé = shredded red cabbage; la cuisine (f) = kitchen; truffled butter** (recipe follows); la purée (f) de pommes de terre = mashed potatoes; crème anglaise ("English cream") = "a custard sauce flavored with vanilla or sometimes with rum, orange liqueur, kirsch, etc." --Dictionary.com; le médecin (m) = doctor, physician
**Christine's Truffled Butter (easy!): put one truffle--alongside one or two sticks of butter--into a plastic container. Let the truffle infuse the butter overnight. Cut the truffle in half. Use one half, chopped, for the potato purée mixture, add the other half to the boiling water (when first cooking the
potatoes.... Do not discard this half, but add it to the purée, along with the other, and the truffled butter).
Here is a recipe for gougères in the New York Times:
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (about 7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup freshly grated Emmenthal, Gruyère, Cantal or Cheddar cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese.
For instructions, click here:
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