French heart shutter (c) Kristin Espinasse
My husband tells me that today's word is a little too argot... and not something he uses very often. But Jean-Marc is from Marseilles... and I'm betting people in Paris would pucker up in pleasure at pronouncing today's term, which is a synonym for "tribe" or "clan" or "posse" or even "bercail". It is especially in theme with today's story about my kindly kin.

smala (smah-lah) noun, feminine

    : big family (famille nombreuse); entourage

from the Arabic, zmalah: tribe

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download WAV or Download MP3

Pour la réunion de famille, ma belle-mère était la première arrivée, suivie de toute la smala. For the family reunion, my mother-in-law was the first to arrive, followed by the rest of the tribe.

A Day in a French Life... Kristin Espinasse

How To Eat Chocolate Mousse for Breakfast on Monday

1. Invite your in-laws over for an annual pique-nique de Pâques. Overlook tardiness when the belle-famille arrives on Mother's day, two months later. Sympathize (they are French)

2. Offer to be in charge of the BBQ and apéros (easy-pois-peasy, especially when you've delegated this task to your husband). Suggest that each in-law-invité bring along un truc or une bricole; sit back and rest on your lauriers as they negotiate among themselves to come up with the rest of the repas.

  French BBQ (c) Kristin Espinasse

3. Watch as cousins, tantes, uncles, brother-in-law, and belle-mère arrive from as far away as Verona and Fuveau, marching happily to the maison like ants returning from a newly-planted radish patch, each holding a caloric unit: there will be fresh-picked pois chiches, olive-oil pressed from hand picked olives, home-made tabouleh with apricots, hand-rolled chocolate truffles à la noix de coco.. gâteau de canard fumé avec figues, buttery biscuit cake...

4. Before dessert—and already filled to the French gills—ease back in your chaise and listen to Provençale traditions, like bird-calling. Feel your ears tremble to the timbre of merles, alouettes, rossignols, grives... close your eyes and marvel that you cannot tell the difference between man and animal, birdsong or the wistful whistling of a wine farmer.

           Uncle Jean-Claude, left, whistling wine maker (André), right

Ask Winefarmer where he got that treasure of a golden locket that he wears around his neck (the cylindrical piece of gold, fashioned into un appeaux, that he lifts to his lips before letting loose a lulaby of birds in flight. When he looks over, lovingly, to his sweet bride of 40+ years, wish on the next shooting star that you will find as thoughtful a present for your own winemaker husband.

5. Follow your family outside (now that the rain has stopped), over to the tree-lined driveway...

  How to prune an olive tree (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Wine-maker-bird-caller André, thoughtful gift-giving wife Annie, Jean-Marc

Carry a pair of secateurs and a spindle of string... hoping they'll need assistance in this olive-pruning undertaking. Watch as the pros shape the olive trees that once made up an untidy row.  Agree wholeheartedly when they stand back and declare, indeed an hirondelle could now fly through the tree, now that some branches were spared.

  Family (c) Kristin Espinasse

6. Return to the house and look at the crowded kitchen counters, casseroles climbing high to the French sky. Go and get jam jars, plastic ice cream tubs, and tin foil... tell the ladies load up on leftovers. Insist when they resist!

Divide and conquer the casseroles, calling out: est-ce que tout le monde a eu des pois chiches? Et le taboulé? Prenez-en! 

Eight hours after sitting down for lunch, kiss everyone goodbye three times. Steal a few more bisous. Remain planted on the front patio, waving goodbye, never mind that the aunts have told you to get back inside...

You'd rather catch cold than miss the chance to see them off... to the end of the olive-lined road.
Broken branches flanking their path.
When will they be back?

7. The morning after, sit there feeling devilish as you dine on dessert for breakfast. Notice the calm. It isn't the quiet house or the mood altering Mousse Charlotte. It is kinship and kindness.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
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French Vocabulary

l'argot (m) = slang
le bércail = fold ("sheep back to the fold")
la belle-famille = in-laws
le pique-nique = picnic
Pâques (f) = Easter (click here for more on the French word for Easter: Pâques
le pois = pea

invité(e) m/f = guest
le truc (as in un petit truc) = (a little) something, thing
la bricole (as in "un petit bricole)  = (a little) something, thing
le laurier = laurel
le repas = meal
la tante = aunt
le pois chiche = chickpea 
à la noix de coco = with coconut
le gâteau = cake
le canard fumé = smoked duck
la figue = fig
la chaise = chair
le merle = blackbird
une alouette = lark
le rossignol = nightingale
la grive = thrush (faute de grives on mange des merles = beggars can't be choosers)
une hirondelle = swallow
un appeux = bird calling apparatus (see photos)
est-ce que tout le monde a eu des pois chiches? Et le taboulé? Prenez-en!  =
Would anyone like some chickpeas? How about some tabouleh? Go on - take some!

le bisous = kiss
la mousse charlotte (see similar chocolate charlotte recipe here)




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Eggplant caviar
Eggplant Caviar: use with toast or crackers as an apéritif. Lovely alongside hard-boiled quail's eggs (as my mother-in-law serves it!) Order a jar!

Rosetta Stone French Level 1, 2, & 3

Fluenz French 1+2

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