Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"Aubergines." An old door/former shop front in the town of Suze-la-Rousse.
caviar d'aubergines (kah-vee-ahr doh-behr-zheen)
: eggplant caviar
Audio file & Example Sentence: Download MP3 file or Download Wav
"...profiter des bontés de cette généreuse saison des récoltes et courir acheter aussi des paniers d'aubergines et de courgettes, pour... ratatouille et ... caviar d'aubergines." --from Le Soleil
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
I fell in love with mousse before caviar. In the first case "mousse" was a charming street in Marseilles... and "caviar" was what was waiting for me at the end of that winding road, just a French football field from the sea.
There, in my future mother-in-law's kitchenette on Rue des Mousses, I watched as she hashed, pounded, and sweated -- putting all her concentration into cooking, her mind not having healed just yet. I watched, as droplets fell from her wet brow into the mixing bowl below, only to disappear into the roasted vegetables before the latter were pulverized. If only pain could be broken into as many morsels.
After the sweaty chore, my mother-in-law would sit on the end of her bed and cry and I, newly exported from America, would watch wide-eyed.
It occurred to me to share with her all 24 years of my growing knowledge base... based principally on positive thinking... with heaping of hallelujah, a gallon of gospel... and a ounce or two of Epictitus:
"Where there's a will there's a way!" I would say, encouraging my mother-in-law to snap out of it. "You can do all things...." I'd sing.
But like all artists--literary, culinary, or other--my mother-in-law was going through a blue period. A French blue period (which was doubly blue... or doubly negative). She coped as she could and coping meant cooking -- and not trusting in an "otherhood". That is when I learned that my mother-in-law was an atheist. How, I wondered, could one cure this?
I looked into my cure-all bag, and soon saw that I was all out of tricks... and so I sat down beside her and filled my heart with sticks. When the sharp stick ends began to poke through my now bleeding heart--
...that what was missing before, was my ability to empathize.
* * *
* * *
Last week I received a letter from my mother-in-law in which she thanked me for "ce temps que tu m'as accordé alors que Maxime était haut comme 3 pommes... je recevais des courages de toi...".*
As I re-read the tender letter, I take a moment to treasure my "incurable" atheist : she is a gift to me in spite of our differing beliefs. I have learned so much from her and, I hope, reciprocally, she from evangelical me.
* * *
Post note: I was looking up a recipe for caviar d'aubergine (that is what my mother-in-law was making me, in the opening to today's story)... when I happened upon this treasure of a video. If you love characters, as I do, then you will appreciate this informal Frenchwoman. Watch her pulverize garlic with the palm of her Provençale hand! (if you are reading this edition via email, you will need to click over to the blog to view the clip).
Update: Do not miss my Caviar D'Aubergine easy, easy recipe, click here
en lin = on linen; ce temps que tu m'as accordé alors que Maxime était haut comme 3 pommes... je recevais des courages de toi... = this time that you have given me back when Max was "tall as three apples"... I received courage from you
Paris Metro Subway Tea or Kitchen Dish Towel
La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking.
First published in 1927 to educate French housewives in the art of classical cooking, LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE has since become the bible of French cooking technique, found on every kitchen shelf in France. A housewife and a professional chef, Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange wrote in a rigorous yet highly instructive and engaging style, explaining in extraordinary detail the proper way to skim a sauce, stuff a chicken, and construct a pâté en croûte. Though her text has never before been translated into English, Madame Saint-Ange's legacy has lived on through the cooking of internationally renowned chefs like Julia Child and Madeleine Kamman, setting the standard for practical home cooking as well as haute cuisine.
Visions of France: See the breathtaking beauty of southeastern France from a spectacular vantage point. Shot in high-definition from a helicopter-mounted camera, these two programs afford dazzling views of historic Provence, and the world-famous Mediterranean wonderland The Riviera. Order this DVD.
Do not miss my Eggplant Caviar or Caviar d'Aubergines recipe--either way you say it, it's delicious. Click here.
A Message from Kristi: Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.
Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
You may enjoy France magazine. It is a wonderful source of information and stories about France. I read a few pages every morning "avec cafe au lait" to dream of places I'd like to visit or revisit those I love all before starting my day.
Posted by: Pam Conrad | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 01:36 PM
Not sure if "aussi" is used in some idiomatic way here, but what I get from:
"...profiter des bontés de cette généreuse saison des récoltes et courir acheter aussi des paniers d'aubergines et de courgettes, pour... ratatouille et ... caviar d'aubergines." --from Le Soleil
. . . to profit from the bounties of this generous harvest season and run to buy also (?) baskets of eggplants and zucchini for . . . ratatouille and . . . eggplant caviar.
which has made me hungry!
Posted by: Jina in Westchester, NY | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 01:49 PM
mois ausi, j'adore le caviar d'aubergines. C'est aussi connu en Roumanie.
Posted by: Anca | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 01:56 PM
What does this concoction taste like? Aubergine is not my favorite but I like mint, garlic and parsley! A better way to crush the garlic is to put a fat bladed knife on top of it and then use your hand, that way they don't go flying off the cutting board! Jeanne
Posted by: Jeanne | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 02:04 PM
Only yesterday I had the experience of trying to help someone, believing that what I was doing was right way to go, only to later discover that all my good intentions were to no avail. Dropping off stuff for my son, still asleep after a late-night work shift, I happened upon his roomate's parents, in from N.Y. out of concern for their child's health. They were trying to find a doctor or medical center and were having no luck, not being familiar with the city. I offered to call my doctor. After a couple of calls and finally speaking with the office manager of the clinic, I was able to get an appointment for their son, within the hour. The father had said "never mind" when the first attempt did not work. I, caught up in my helpful mode, pursued and got the appointment. Giving directions I left, after being told they did not need me to show them where it was. I even went to the medical center waiting for them, to make sure they got in ok...they never came. Later my son told me they decided to go somewhere else. (He "hemmed and hawed," "uh-ing," and not sure what they did, but finally told me they did not make the appointment.)
At first I was dumbfounded but after a little thought, realized, they didn't really want my help. The indicators had been there, but I had not seen them. In my zeal to help out I kept pushing until I was able to get their child an appoitnment w/a doctor. Why didn't they go? I think I know, but more than that, it was a good lesson in realizing that even our best intentions are sometimes not what people either want or need.
We can only try. Later, you may hear, as you did Kristin, how much your efforts meant to your mother-in-law. She knew how much your heart was open to her and your caring was the comfort, whether she believed as you did or not.
I hope that I will be more conscious of what people are saying and not too overly involved in trying to "help" when it is not wanted. Sometimes it is difficult to know the difference!
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 02:11 PM
Ktistin thank you so much for the video and for introducing me to the website. Especially like Stephane Lecuver and his demonstrations. Lessons in cooking and the language, c'est bon!
Posted by: Cindy | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 02:25 PM
I am really not sure that one can actually bring someone else out of a dark period, but I know that when you, yourself are experiencing those seemingly hopeless days, it's essential to keep listening to messages of hope from those who love you. Words of encouragement stay with you forever. You've acquired this trait from your mother and you use it well.
I've often wondered how the oldest generation of French citizens manage to hold on to their faith, given the horrors that they witnessed with the occupation.
I love the autumnal colors in your photo today. And the video was interesting to me in that she made it seem so easy - using rudimentary utensils (I thought she would cut her hand while pounding the garlic so close to the knife - yikes) and then pulling out that Williams Sonoma type electric hand mixer in the end. I will try that recipe but I doubt the children will eat it unless I blindfold them.
Maryland, USA (following your Dad's comment)
Posted by: karen | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 02:40 PM
I've had my blue periods (lots) and some purple and even black, but there's nothing like pulverizing a garlic clove to chase the darkness away, at least for the moment!
Posted by: Diane Scott | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 03:07 PM
Chère Pat: thanks for an excellent illustration on how helping, no matter how innocent our intent, is sometime just not what the other wants (or, in some cases, needs).
Karen: loved your description of the video -- yes "rudimentary" is the word I was looking for!
Diane: still giggling from your darkness-chasing remedy: go out an pulverize a garlic clove, as Violet does in today's video!
Jina: thanks for your translation!
Jeanne: caviar d'aubergine has a mild and lovely taste. Try it! Some people, it seems, add "fromage frais" to the mixture. There must be several delicious variations. My mother-in-law served quail's eggs alongside, and little toasts.
Posted by: Kristin | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 03:28 PM
My Darling Kristi,
It seems as though your stories are always right there (meaning right where I need to be touched in my heart). Yesterday I was lyning in bed, laptop on lap, safe in my little world as I struggled through another day here in what everyone else would think is paradise. Yes, I am deep in a MEXICAN BLUE PERIOD. There is a knock at the door,
as I am nortoriously (sp) a recluse I was at once shocked to hear the repeated rapping which shot like a razor through my heart. I quickly grabed one of John's shirts and ran to the door.
Here is the funny part ( I have had visions of one of my favorite girlfriends of all time (from my 5 year stint in Yelapa) coming into Puerto Vallarta to visit me and finding me in exactly the same place she last saw me - in bed and in BLUE). Well, it happened yesterday. Moral: what you fear will come upon you.....
I open the door (just a tiny crack) and there is Linda. The wildest, most wonderful, beautiful, poetic artist and friend I have ever known. I immediately said, 'Oh My God, my fears have come true." - and continued on to tell her my vision of her catching me in this state every time she has come across my mind since our last visit about a year ago. I dare not tell you of the trouble we got into during her last visit.
We settled ourselves comfortably into my lepord pellowed couch and the catch up stories began. Linda is of the spirit world, as most Yelapa Ladies are, but they travel a different track than I. They all know that I am a Born-Again Christian and tolerated me during my incarsuration (sp) in Yelapa. While they were down on the beach dancing circles around a fire and pounding on drums as the new moon rose over the mountain - I would stan on my patio and lift them all up to My God to be saved from their heathen ways.
When I woke up this morning - filled with energy and power, I said to John, "Can you believe Linda's visit has healed me! My little pagan princess healed me with laughter for over 5 hours yesterday...
REMEMBER: iT'S somewhere in the bible and it say's...........Laughter is the best medicine, or laughter is a healing to the soul.
Too bad I am typing in this little comment box and can't edit this - so please bear with me....
P.S. --- ALL of you out there who are fans of Kristi and are so kind to comment and let me know you - thank you - you bring such light and love (and brilliance (sp?) into my life each time you comment here. I love you.
JULES - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
Posted by: Jules Greer | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 03:37 PM
Oh my, and we LOVE YOU, Jules!
Posted by: Diane Scott | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 03:49 PM
Jules-you make me smile every time I hear of your adventures. You make life so colorful.
Kristin-often when you help someone it doesn't seem like it "took". Then you find out later that it really did. Keep on working on your MIL!
Posted by: martina | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 04:24 PM
I have been in a little bit of a blue myself this morning. The words from all of you have lifted me right out of it.
Jules you are so understanding of evryone and everything around you and I consider myself so lucky to know you through this blog of your dear daughter.
Kristin has been inspirational to me too. I am struggling with learning the French language, your almost daily injection of new words and descriptions helps me tremendously. Thank you.
Kristin, the colours and textures in your picture of the day are tremendous and I recommend all your readers to have a long good look at it, they won't be disappointed.
Best wishes to you all.
Posted by: David G. | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 04:44 PM
You are a divinely awesome spirit. It's fitting that you should tell us about your friend's timely and intuitive visit today - pulling you out of your blues. Sometimes I feel like it's easier to lift up others than it is to lift up ourselves. Why is that? I always try to remember some biblical words (John, maybe?): The light shines through the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it. Well, your pagan princess must be connected to that light after all!!
Posted by: karen | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 05:05 PM
A super delightful post chere Kristin, yes, we all have hearts regardless of our beliefs. So very extra special of your mother-in-law to thank you.
I am going to study the aubergine recipe extra carefully as just last week I bought some from the farmer's market. As veggies go, eggplants are the worst, healthwise that is, however, boy do they ever taste good. I think after the eggplant one must quickly try your velvet leek soup (which I also tried last Saturday...yummm...merci) to cleanse the body from eggplant.
Love as always to you and your family.
Posted by: Mona | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 05:34 PM
oops, and as I read Mom's comments, we know why Kristi is so wonderful, because Mom is so truly wonderful. Dear Jules, more than once my pagan friends (ha ha) have brought me out of blues.
: ) God must love them!
Posted by: Mona | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 05:38 PM
Reading about Eggplant Caviar took me back many years. My used to make it and as a child, thought it was awful tasting. As an adult, I wished that I had her recipe. I'm going to post one that is very similar to what I remember. It'll be on one of my blogs: mim4art.vox.com Thanks for sharing, Kristi, and you, too, Jules.
Posted by: mim | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 07:52 PM
Distress comes in many forms and at times we least expect, and Karen is correct - we can only listen and be present and hope that is enough. Having been a VISTA, I can attest to knowing intimately hell's road and it's main paving ingredient.
Also to Karen: I cannot know how older, French citizen previously coped with occupation, but I can tell you that they now are not only willing to talk to Americans about it, but to remember with love and warmth their "rescuers."
I, along with two other vendagers were "roped" into breakfast with Monsieur (or Papa, depending!) at the gite at which we were staying. After plying us with delicious coffee and charcuterie, this 81 year-young man started to speak to us (in French) about Obama and the environmental meeting he was attending. This was a ruse for his real point: he quickly went on to tell us how grateful he was to the Americans who rescued them from occupation in WWII.
Monsieur also rides his bike into the center of town each morning at about 6:00 am to have breakfast. I now think that daily ride is one great act of freedom - but did not see it that light until Monsieur's talk with us over that breakfast.
We were just slightly late for grapes that morning, but one of my fellow pickers (Charles) also briefly told me of his stint in Viet Nam. Both men's perspectives are forever burned in my memory.
Terroir AND history lessons - what more could a gal ask for? :)
Denise in the Pacific Northwest
Posted by: Denise L. | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 07:53 PM
Oh Kristin, your post brought tears today. How fully I have had to learn this lesson myself, especially in my younger years of great zeal but less wisdom. I saw someone's comment that 'G-d must love them.' That made me smile. I know what she (sister?) means, and that she's indicating that we can't take ourselves too seriously. In exactly the same way, though, we ought to remember that G-d doesn't take US too seriously when we're babes, and still learning. He is always just, and I believe that He holds us accountable for only the amount of wisdom that we have had time to amass. You learned and responded in the most Christlike manner possible, empathizing with the hurts of someone He loves, being 'Christ' to her in an immediate basis and not just asked her to "go, be warmed and filled" (be satisfied with lipservice advice and comfort only).
I so relate to the experience of 'searching in my bag of tricks and finding it empty' (except for prayer, always available and always effective). I *love* the analogy of putting STICKS in your heart to make it bleed for the person to whom you were trying to minister and bring comfort and resolution. Would you mind my using that?
Like the others, the more I know about you, the more I appreciate who you are and G-d's calling in your life. :)
Posted by: Remi | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 10:33 PM
A former associate pastor I know had a sign hanging up outside his office that, in an instant, impacted me with eternal effect in my own efforts in learning to counsel others: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Love you Kristi! Love you Jules!
Everyone else, too: Your wise comments have also lifted my own spirit, as it did David's. It really is often easier to encourage another than it is ourselves. In doing so, though, we invariably burst from the 'blue bubble' even more full of joy and purpose than before we went into it.
Posted by: Remi | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 11:02 PM
I realize this is off topic, and I apologize, but feel I must say something. Now that you have had one litter of Braise's puppies to sell (I am assuming they were sold, but not my point is still relevant even if not), please consider having Braise spayed so that the overall pet population does not continue to explode. I am sure France is no different than the US in having too many perfectly wonderful animals (MANY of the purebreeds, believe me) needlessly euthanized because there aren't enough people willing to adopt out of shelters, rescue groups, etc. Please think about saving some innocent lives, it is easily in your power. Merci beaucoup, Rebecca
Posted by: Rebecca Zittle | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 11:31 PM
What you gave to your mother-in-law must have been quite alright all those years ago. God's word never returns void, and the intention of your heart was right, even in spite of your youth.
Posted by: Jennifer in OR | Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 07:30 AM
Remi, I work in a school (as a librarian) and I love your quote, which applies perfectly to all who teach as well as those who counsel!
Posted by: Leslie | Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 03:29 PM
I was puzzled, like Jina, by the use of aussi in the example sentence. I'm wondering if maybe there was something else mentioned earlier in the article that we also should "courrir d'acheter", run to buy, so that what Le Soleil (a publication about food, cooking?) is saying is that we should advantage of the harvest season and hurry out to buy the things that are in season now.
Posted by: Leslie | Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 03:35 PM
"Aussi de" can be translated as "as much of" so "buy as much of eggplants as of zucchini"
Posted by: JimFive | Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 09:31 PM
Can't stop giggling watching your little video...all I can think of is "Green Eggs and Ham"!!
Posted by: Gretel | Friday, October 16, 2009 at 09:01 AM
I really love this post for its honesty and compassion. I (like many others) can relate to the blue (and far darker on the colour spectrum) periods, especially this past year. Thanks for writing freely about these episodes (and also the helplessness felt when trying to assist others during down times - but people do seem to remember the small kindnesses). When you hear others talk about such experiences, it's easier to admit to and talk about your own dark times, which are so tempting to conceal from others given Northern American's obsession with happiness. It would seem the French are not as inhibited or as afraid of experiencing all their emotions, 'good', 'bad', or otherwise, alone or in public [and perhaps sometimes to the chagrin of their audience :) ]. Very refreshing, and a key perhaps to leading an authentic life. The caviar d'aubergines sounds delicious.
Posted by: Jacquie | Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 09:38 PM