Cooking for the French & the word for "insipid, tastelss, flat"


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to soak

I search the kitchen for récipients. I pull a salad bowl from the cabinet—trop gros. I take a soup bowl from the armoire—pas assez profond. I settle on an old wine glass, a jam jar, a mustard jar, a see-through coffee cup and a tumbler.

As I organize the egg-coloring utensils, my daughter runs up to me. She is wearing a frilly dress with a black velvet haut and a white chiffon bas.

"You'll need to change if you want to help out!" I inform her.
"D'accord!" Jackie agrees, spontaneously obedient.

I measure out ten tablespoons of vinaigre balsamique, annoyed when I can't find the 79 cent bottle of ordinary vinegar. Meantime, Jackie returns with her brother. Both children are wearing faded pajamas, the ones they are allowed to salir.

Max tosses the orange and the blue tablets—one into the wine glass and the other into the jam jar. Jackie plops down the yellow and the red comprimés effervescents, one into the coffee cup and the other into the mustard jar. Three sets of eyes dart to the remaining green tablet.

"That one's mine!" I declare, snapping up the effervescent disk and dropping it into the tumbler.

We watch the tablets fizz in their bains de teinture. The colorful, bubbly display livens up our drab kitchen. Next, we take turns emptying half a cup of eau du robinet into each glass.

"O.K. Stir!" I say, and the kids each take a fork and whisk the water until the tablets are completely dissolved.

"Allez!" I say, bending the wire egg dropper (one egg dropper—two kids! Who put this egg-coloring kit together anyway?) and handing it to Max. Jackie and I watch with bated breath as Max lowers the cooked, brown-shelled eggs into the dye.

"Careful!" I say.

When Max reaches for a third egg, Jackie has a fit.

I have waited until the very last minute before beginning The Project. I estimate we are only about one-third of the way through....

"O.K. Now it's Jackie's turn!" I interject. "Doucement, Jackie..."

The eggs have settled at the bottom of the glasses. Time now to laisser tremper for thirty minutes. (Last year we followed the package instructions for "three minutes" and the eggs surfaced without color. The egg-dying kit is American-made, and it doesn't take into account brown-shelled eggs—the only kind we can get here in our French village.)

Then there'll be decorating to do!... My enthusiasm ebbs as I stare at the tray of messy peinture and all of those tiny stickers (I have a feeling they'll end up everywhere but on the eggshells!). I wish we could skip these next steps. 

Just as I begin to get edgy, Jean-Marc pops into the kitchen.

"It's so nice what you do," he offers, as if I always had this kind of patience. I look down. My cheeks turn the color of the oeuf rouge.


 Edits Welcome! Click here to submit a correction or a suggestion.

French Vocabulary

le récipient = container

trop gros = too big

une armoire = cupboard

pas assez profond = not deep enough

le haut = top

le bas = bottom

d'accord = O.K.

le vinaigre balsamique = balsamic vinegar

salir = to dirty, soil

un comprimé effervescent = effervescent tablet

le bain de teinture = dye bath

l'eau (f) du robinet = tap water

Allez! = Come on! (let's get moving)

doucement = carefully

laisser tremper = to let soak

la peinture = paint

l'oeuf (m) rouge = red egg




Listen: hear the word 'tremper' spoken by Jean-Marc: Download tremper.wav

Terms & Expressions:
se tremper = to have a quick dip
tremper les lèvres = "to wet one's lips," to take a sip
trempé(e) = drenched
verre trempé = tempered glass
avoir une caractère bien trempé = to have a set character
être trempé jusqu'aux os = to be soaking wet

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Sharon Marchisello

"tablespoonfulls" is misspelled
Should be tablespoonfuls (or just tablespoons).

"That one's mine!" I declare, snapping it up the effervescent disk and dropping into the tumbler.
(I don't think you need "it" in this sentence.)


I agree with Sharon about the spelling of "tablespoonfuls" but disagree about the second sentence. I believe the problem is with "it"--I think you meant to say ". . . snapping up the effervescent disk and dropping it into the tumbler."

FWIW, I'm an editor by profession, have been for--let's just say decades--and I find your writing clear, wonderfully put together, and remarkably error-free. And I'm a real nitpicker, the kind of person who can't help editing every book and article I read.

Donc, il ne faut pas te tracasser!


Re the previous comment: the 'it' is just in the wrong place. I'd make it 'snapping up the effervescent disk and dropping it into the tumbler.'

In the first paragraph, it would be better to repeat 'jar' and omit the 'and': 'a jam jar, a mustard jar ...'

In paragraph 6, 'one-half cup' looks odd. I'd say 'we take turns emptying half a cup ...'

Finally, the 3 dots should always have a space before them, and after them unless they are before closing inverted commas as in my previous sentence.

Good luck with the new project!

Maureen McCormick

Kristen -

A bit confusing is "a jam and a mustard jar." Perhaps "a jam jar, a mustard jar, . . ."

Perhaps "to salir" should just be "salir."

"That one's mine!" I declare, snapping it up the effervescent disk and dropping into the tumbler.
move the word "it" from after "snapping" to after "dropping."

There is an asterisk after "Doucement, Jackie" which I'm not sure you need.

Bonne chance !

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Sharon, Jeri, Linda, and Maureen, for the edits. All in now.  Linda, I see what you mean about the three dots. Ive left as is for now, as I think they can be worked out when the book is typeset.

Alanna Strong

How does one self-publish in Kindle? Alanna

Betty Gleason

Oh goody, another book! Will comment more when my time is my own. Kerry is doing fine after her heart valve repair, but I keep busy helping. More when I return home next week.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Alanna, try this link: 

Rebecca Q. T. in Baltimore

Hello! I tried to cull this one for errors but it appears you have written this too well for editorial intervention!

My only comment would be that the "--" in your parenthetical exclamation "(one egg dropper--two kids!)" could be successfully replaced by a preposition, as you do seem to lean heavy on the "--"s in this passage. It's a completely stylistic choice, however, so obviously follow your gut.

By the way, it's worth mentioning that it was this very same sentence that made me laugh out loud. As an only child, sibling rivalry mystifies me. At least they shared the egg dropper nicely. More than writing great stories for your readers, it is so wonderful your children will be able to keep these family memories many years from now in black and white. Someday, as long as they can read English, your grandchildren will get to enjoy these stories! An inspiration for the rest of us to get our acts together and work on recording our memories.

Bisoux, Rebecca

Kristin Espinasse

Rebecca, I like your suggestion and will have another look at that sentence.

I wondered if the intro wasnt too confusing. It takes a sentence or two before the reader understands whats going on (Easter egg coloring). 

Julie Castiglia

I would drop the apostrophe after package. The package instructions would be better. Also I like that what your doing comes as a surprise because I was delighted to find out what mysterious bubbly thing you were working on. I thought of everything else but eggs.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Seems perfect.
And tremper is not at all like
se tromper.
Many lessons there, and charming story of paques.

Maurice Obonsawin

Wonderful stories of everyday life that calls for valuable vocabulary commonly used in conversational French. My Anglophone group uses your vocabulary to devise their own French sentences in describing some of their experiences. Their usage of French is improving noticeably. Continuez votre bonne ouvrage. I do not have any improvements or corrections to suggest, other than to say that it is more useful for us when the stories are short. Merçi Kristin

Audrey Wilson

Lots of helpful advice above . Just one nickpick from me . I think the expression 'O.K-stir' would look better as, 'O.K.Stir!' Omit the hyphen. Looking forward to more of your stories

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Audrey. I agree! Off to fix this one...

Jackie Smith

Reluctantly I suggest omitting this one... of all your stories this one seems at least to me to be the least captivating... no offense intended.

anonymous grammar lover :)

My comment would be the inclusion of the word "stuff" when talking about the vinegar, but that could just be my tendency to write formally, and in the last paragraph, I was wondering if it should be "he says, as if I have always had this kind of patience, instead of had twice. -anonymous

Kristin Espinasse

Jackie, I appreciate your thoughts on leaving this one out. I agree, it isnt the most inspired story... but I remember trying hard to tell it. I hope to keep it (balancing it into the story mix... now to find some stronger stories to surround it.)

Anonymous, good suggestions. All in!


I believe in keeping the story. Placing it properly with in the book will be the challenge. It has a place in every one's life. Balancing fun, control and seasonal rituals. And growth and maturity are shown and reviewed. ? Did the brown eggs collect any color? May be add that? Did not have any white eggs? Why? Just interested- questioning from here in the "egg belt" of Ohio.
Tunis sheep, heritage poultry raiser and home schooling mom, Kathleen

Ellen Perry, East Granby, CT

I was wondering, as Kathleen did, if you were able to color the brown eggs at all. And using balsamic vinegar? I would think that would alter the dye colors also. Although I liked the sentiment at the end about tradition, I kept waiting for a funny or unexpected result to end the story.

Pat, Roanoke, VA

Kristin, another nice aspect to this book-editing process is that we can read postings we have missed earlier, such as this one for me. I like what Kathleen said above. These rituals, like Easter egg dying, become part of the heart and soul of who we become as adults, deeply embedded memories, magical moments that add depth to our spiritual nature. All well worth any "trouble" --messiness, pushing one's patience, etc. J-M was your "guardian angel," entering at the precise moment to help you "see" that which you already knew. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I love this place, rich with the truth of what is important. Mille mercis to all members of famille Espinasse; your efforts, Kristin, are appreciated.

Kristin Espinasse

Ellen, thanks for your helpful thoughts. Perhaps I can keep the ending... but work up to it a bit. I dont think the frustration or the edginess felt by this arts-n-craftt-challenged mom is as strong as it could be, in the story.

Kathleen, excellent questions. Ill try to answer them... which will help me add to the story. 

Pat, Im encouragement by your feedback and now think it is worthwhile to work on this story... by adding a few touches. Thanks for your summary of what this story means to you.

K in OKC

As I can imagine, cutting selections is no easy task or decision taken lightly, but this one could be cut. Or at the least filtered down to a maybe in the event more material is needed for the final book. But, there are so many fantastic episodes, I can't imagine this one would be needed.

Kristin Espinasse

Update: I've moved the following paragraph after Jackie's fit... it's new placement might better hint about patience wearing thin. Here's the sentence that was moved: "I have waited until the very last minute before beginning The Project. I estimate we are only about one-third of the way through."

I might also add " 'the dredded' Egg project". What do you think?

Hi K, I appreciate your thoughts here. Ill keep this in mind.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

dreaded Eater egg project

The surprise ending to me is your husband, saying you are so good with your children -- when you are filled with negative emotions about yourself and the event. Your children were simply excited, or egg-cited, and unaware of your dread, right?

A mother blossoming with the observations of her thoughtful, direct husband.

I really like this story.

A few details on pretty brown shelled eggs would not hurt -- I only had white shells in my era of egg dyeing, so your insight on dyeing the brown shells was a handy bit of family skills to learn. Just sit in the dye longer.

Now I ubderstand more of your intent, Volume 2 in essence, this works vey well.

Then you will be ready for stories of life in the vineyard, the next chapter in your life.


Kristin Espinasse

Hi Sarah, thanks for your helpful thoughts! Ill see if I can add to the brown egg description.

Natalie branchini

Definitely a keeper. I love that Jean Marc appreciates your traditions. Very sweet.


How did those brown eggs turn out? I keep wondering about that. Why would you even consider omitting this story. It's filled with tradition and family memories, with life as a mother. My vote, leave it in.

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