Friday, November 19, 2010
How to Make Iced Tea on a French Vineyard.... also enjoy a free subscription to French Word-A-Day via Email or RSS
tige (tizh) noun, feminine
: stem, stalk
Know any other definitions/uses for the word tige? Comment here.
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La tige de cette plante est longue et fine.
The stem of this plant is long and thin.
After two emotionally gray seasons in the Valley of the Sun, I sold my car and told myself I had enough cash to get by in France for six months. I knew the truth was more like three or four...
--from Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
How To Prune Lavender (A Provençal Parody)
First, go rooting through your kitchen drawers for scissors. Grab the first pair you find.
Next, head out to Lavender Alley: that row of fragrant Provence that lines one side of your dirt driveway. Be careful to slip past your husband and your beau-frère, who have sweat streaming down their faces, busy as they are building the cellar extension. You, too, are busy now, but you don't want to be prideful or a show off. You can, after all, do the chore without shouting it from the rooftops. And it isn't necessary to wave your Playskool scissors in the air, drawing attention to the fact that you'll be in charge of cutting back the lavender this year.
Now, kneel down beside the purple-headed herb. Run your hands over the drying flowers and breathe in the spicy sweetness that the plant releases. Ask yourself why it took you this long to volunteer to do the chopping chore? Become suspicious, even a bit indignant, that for the past three years your husband has been hogging the harvesting "chore" all to himself!
Relax. Feel the heat on your back. Heat? In November? So you are a couple of months late (the neighbors pruned their lavender eons ago). What's the rush anyway? Besides, if you hadn't procrastinated you wouldn't be outside on this bright November day!
What's that? Your husband has spotted you poised to work? Aw, shucks! Call back to him with a very modest, "il y a toujours une première fois!" Gush with gratefulness when he insists that this isn't the first time you've helped with farm work. Awwww.
Time to trim... Minding your back, bend at the knee until your torso is level with the lavender. Reach across and grab a poignée of the long-necked flowers. Notice how the individual stalks are shaped like linguine. Now, while pulling on the handful of "pasta", reach down with the scissors and cut the noodles from the base—as close as you can to the macaroni (the curly blue-gray leaves below). Snip! Toss the bunch of pâtes into a pile.
Study the harvested heap and wonder about "Uses For Cut Lavender": you might stuff the bunches beneath your car seat so as to overpower the current scent ("Eau de Wet Dog"). Or... you could wrap a stalk around a bunch of flowers and make what the French call fagots, or little bundles of fire-starter (that is the definition you were expecting, n'est-ce pas?). Then again, you could stuff some of the flowers, sans tige, into pillowcases (a wonderful remedy for l'insomnie). Oh, and don't forget the lavender wands!
Enough entrepreneurial imaginings. Allez, hop! Time to get back to work....
Feel your fingers cramping.... Remain stubborn, dismissing the sensible solution of returning to the house for proper shears, or sécateurs.
Pause (stretching out fingers) in time to look down the interminable row of lavender... you've got a long way to go, bébé!
Decide to break down the chore into manageable work units: you've pruned two and a half plants... you can return the next day to do two and a half more!
Two weeks and two days later, on the eve of a visit from a journalist... realize, with panic, that your driveway looks like a bad haircut. Imagine, for one megalomaniac moment, the bad haircut on the cover of a magazine! Now let your bubble burst: this reporter is not coming for a feature article. He's not even coming to see you! Be suspicious, even a little bit indignant! Now get over it fast and get on with the chore . Do it for your husband, who will be speaking about his wines to said reporter.)
Bon. Back to drawing board. Root around the house for a bigger pair of scissors, a step up from the classroom kind, and head out to the lopsided lavender lane.
Feel the sun on your back and assure yourself (of the two-week lapse) that you were only prolonging the experience — else you might never find an excuse to play outside on a workday. Speaking of play, time to speed up and quit pruning like a poet—with one dreamy thought after each felled flower. You'll never finish the job! Allez, hop!
When the occasional car barrels down the country road, puff up! and hope desperately to be seen handling your farm's pruning!
And when the mailman pulls up and walks right past you...PUFF IT UP! Greet him with a wave of the scissors. So he didn't recognize you in boots... he's used to your slipper salut.
Put the courrier under a rock for the time being. Look up at the lavender row: only two more to go, may as well take it sloooow.
Sit down... breathe in the aromatic blossoms. Feel drowsy....
Lie down. Eyelids drooping, gaze up at the sky, beyond the lavender, beyond the olive tree, beyond the cypress! Feel all of your senses stir: the cool earth beneath you, the heady flower fragrance, the sight of clouds traipsing across a great blue sky, the rustle of leaves, the taste of the lavender twig tucked between your teeth. C'est la vie!
Feel smug that while others are busy reaching for the stars you yourself are happy, lowly as a nénuphar. (Pretend you have nénuphars. This is your story!)
Watch, with growing smugness, as your husband returns in time to discover your chef d'oeuvre: a perfect row of pruned lavender!
Lastly... hold onto your dropping jaw when he suggests that you see about the ragged rosemary hedge... Become suspicious, increasingly indignant.
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box
Lavender... and rosemary, too!
le beau-frère = brother-in-law
il y a toujours une première fois! = there's always a first time
une poignée = a handful
les pâtes (fpl) = pasta
le fagot = bundle of firewood
sans tige (f) = without stem
l'insomnie = insomnia
allez! hop! = let's get to it!
le sécateur = pruning shears
Bébé = Baby
bon = right, then
le courrier = mail
c'est la vie = this is the life!
le nénuphar = water lily
le chef-d'oeuvre = masterpiece
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