convive
Mealtime and How to say "I'm full" in French

veuve de la vendange

Winter Cabanon (c) Kristin Espinasse
I wrote the story "crush widow" two years ago. Were you reading then? (Photo of a modern cabanon with its carpet of white flowers taken in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. In wintertime, the old, leafless vines always look, to me, like upended chicken feet—as do all the pollarded trees.)

la veuve de la vendange (lah vuv deuh lah von danzh)

    : crush widow

Audio file: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words below: MP3 file or Wav file

On les appelle "les veuves de la vendange", ces femmes qui "perdent" leur mari chaque année en septembre, pendant le ramassage des raisins. We call them "crush widows", these women who "lose" their husbands each year, in September, during the grape harvest.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I learned a new term last fall, while guiding yet another enthusiastic and brave bénévole out to the vine fields to help my husband, Chief Grape, with the work load.

"Yeah," said Eugenia, sympathetically, as she speed-walked (wouldn't want to keep the Wine Chief waiting!) beside me in well-worn jeans and a grape-stained tee. "There is even a term for it!" 

It must have been in the way I looked: a little desperate? I hadn't meant to show any evidence of exasperation. After all, the harvest and its flurry were over... and yet we were still soliciting helping hands to tie up any harvest loose ends. 

"The harvest just keeps on going... and going... and going... At first it was two weeks, then four, then six. We began this vendange eight weeks ago!" I told our latest helper, as we hurried out to the field, buckets and sécateurs in hand. (I would soon leave Eugenia with Jean-Marc and another volunteer, Jeffrey, in time to dash back to the kitchen and stare into the fridge, wondering just what to throw together for an impromptu lunch for the assistants. I didn't dare serve last night's noodles: a collection of scraped-from-the-kids'-plates pasta... fit for a close-knit family, but nowhere near appropriate for our volunteers! 

Huffing and puffing our way out to the field farthest from the house, Eugenia disclosed to me the well-known term used in the wine industry. "They call women like you "crush widows".

Crush widows! It was one of those aha! moments. So I was not alone in this very lonely state, the grape harvest, when vintners disappear from their wives and from the home and can be found somewhere out in the field or in the "cave" for the remains of the day. 

But what Eugenia didn't tell me was that crush widows don't suddenly lose their status—and regain their lost love—after the grape crush. No! They wear their vine veils on into winter.... when their husbands are busy juggling the sales of their wine, the accounting, the bottling, the PR, and the pruning of their vines!
 
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Pulling into the driveway last night I stopped in front of the cellar and lowered my window. I was lucky to find Jean-Marc outside and not lost to the depths of his cave

"Want to eat early tonight?" I had in mind a movie on T.V., one we could watch after an early meal... 
"I'll be at the vintners' meet-up. Remember?"
"Oh... that's right! (How I managed each time to forget...) Do you want us to wait for you for dinner?"
"I don't know when I'll be back..."
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Voilà, une petite illustration of the term crush widow, which could well be a song by Ani DiFranco. I'd love to sing it now, with a feisty French accent!

This morning I woke up and checked the pan on the stove. His portion of rumsteak aux champignons was still waiting for him. I imagined Chief Grape had filled up on crackers, olives, and nuts during last night's vigneron meeting. This was all he needed to do! Join another Cercle de Vignerons!!!
 
Just then, my inner "Fairness Mediator" cleared her throat in time to remind me of the thousands of hours that I had given to starting up a website and filling it with stories. I remembered the day when Jean-Marc marched up to my computer and mumbled something about all my time being thrown into cyberspace... and for what benefit?!
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I could be patient with Chief Grape. I could learn, as he eventually had to, to allow another's dream, and to do so encouragingly. And for what benefit? As Ani says, for the joy it brings.

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Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse (c) Sophie Roussel Bourreli 
He loves me. He loves those grapes. He loves me. He loves those grapes!
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FRENCH VOCABULARY

bénévole = volunteer
la vendange = harvest (read about a typical vendange, here!)
le sécateur = pruning shears 
la cave = wine cellar
le rumsteak = round or rump steak
le vigneron = wine maker 
aux champignons = with mushrooms
cercle de vignerons = wine society
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DSC_0060-1 
What Smokey looking for? Click here to share a guess. (It's not snowing here in the south, near Bandol. Photo taken in Sainte Cécile, where it snowed a few years ago!).
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When you shop at Amazon, entering the store via any of the links below, your purchases help to support this free word journal at no extra cost to you! Thanks for keeping this in mind, next time you shop online. Here are some on my picks:
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
The Widow Clicquot. Highly recommended! Both Jean-Marc and I loved this book, and took turned yanking it out of each other's hands during summer vacation. Click to see the reviews.
Kissing Bench
A cozy kissing bench for the garden. I'm looking for one of these in France, meantime, for US readers, you can get one at Amazon!

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