The Plant Whisperer. Read on in today's story.

amour-en-cage (uh-moor-ahn-kazh) noun, masculine

    : ornamental plant*, of American origin

[literal translation: "love in a cage"]

*a.k.a.: physalis or "cape gooseberry Chinese Lantern"

Listen to today's word: amour-en-cage: Download amour-en-cage.wav. Download amour-en-cage.mp3

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I told you about the Ban des Vendanges: that official proclamation issued by a modern-day "lord" inciting the town to "Let the harvest begin!" But, you may ask, just who, exactly, determines the grape's ripeness? Whose job is it to say whether a grape is ripe-ready for picking?

This year that honor went to none other than Monsieur Farjon, one of the oldest winegrowers in our town, according to our local paper. You may remember him as the "Herbal Don Juan" or "Plant Whisperer," who has taken to spending Tuesday mornings chez moi, sharing with me his passion for the plants of Provence.

Yesterday, while Monsieur and I studied sumac,* physalis,* and "l'olivier du bohème"* at the picnic table, Jean-Marc passed by, on his way to the cave.* As usual, Farjon felt the need to explain his presence:

"Ah... Bonjour Monsieur Espinasse..." he began. "Well, it is me again. Nothing to worry about," he assured my husband, who chuckled in response:
"Salut Monsieur Farjon. Je ne m'inquiète pas! I'm not worried."

I hope Jean-Marc's response didn't cramp Monsieur's style. Apparently, my husband doesn't sense any threat. Then again, my guest, seated there beside me, may have just been gracefully let off the hook... After all, what would you do if a man brought your wife a bouquet of "amour-en-cage"? I'd say my husband handled the situation with délicatesse*.

After my botanical lesson, we shared a tray of vine peaches, Basque cheese, and a hearty slice of homemade chocolate cake--this, washed down by a glass of Innocent Absinthe (anise-flavored iced tea). Finally, I escorted Monsieur to the front gate. Arriving at the stairs, I discreetly offered my arm (never certain whether Monsieur might need assistance).

As I thanked him for the decorative bouquet, including a generous amount of that lovely variety called "amour-en-cage," Monsieur interrupted me.

"He is not jealous, your husband?"
"Oh... uh. No. Not to worry."

As soon as I'd said it, I regretted my words. Was that "disappointment" written across Monsieur's face? Without missing a beat, I added, "I mean... you know....just a little bit jealous...."

Monsieur's face lit up and I noticed the grayish tone to his skin turning a pale pink, like those vine-ripe peaches he'd brought me.

Well, I reasoned, helping Monsieur down the rest of the stairs, he may be forty years older than I, but why shouldn't my husband be jealous? After all, there I stood: amour-en-cage in one arm, my herbal Don Juan on the other.

Note: click on photos to enlarge.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Tell us about something beautiful to your beholding eyes: an authentic friendship? Pre-war penmanship? A second-hand scarf? Silence? Share your story in the comments box.

Not up to talking about beauty? How about helping to translate today's word into another language? What's the word for "love-in-a-cage" in Spanish? Russian? Swedish? German?

More "Lessons in Love and Language" in the book: "Words in a French Life"

le sumac (m) = tree that grows in warm regions; le physalis = "love in a cage" a.k.a.: cape gooseberry Chinese Lantern (plant); l'olivier du bohème = bohemian olive tree; la cave (f) = wine cellar; la délicatesse (f) = tact (sensitiveness)

Pronounce It Perfectly in French: with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation
Chocolat: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture
Chinese lantern Plant some Love in a Cage, or Physalis, in your garden. Order a packet of seeds here and help support this free language journal. Click here.

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