cougar (and the French word for "boy toy")
Epine: Mr Farjon, the plant man, returns


Hats (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats and lopsided benches add charm on the île de Ré. And in today's story, even church mice behave like smitten kittens... 


le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market

(see another definition below, in the audio file section)

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage.

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.


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

Even Church Mice Behave Like Smitten Kittens

If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. And, I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"


The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraicher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 


Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.


If you missed part one of this story, read it here. To leave a comment on today's post, click here.


French Vocabulary

la politesse = good manners

quelle horreur! = how embarrasing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well



Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whimsical windows and a cool Vespa on l'île de Ré.

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Bill Facker

Working late into the night here on Kauai and I'm pleasantly surprised to have this post "pop up". As always, excellent writing, Kristin .. Thank You!

Linda R.

Cougar? I don't think so. It's nice to send a smile or word of encouragement to anyone you meet. They usually pay it forward and the world is better for it.

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md USA

Great story. Touching and so funny. Not many of us could effectively hide behind Hollyhocks but explaining about Max's "father" was the best!! I felt I was standing in your shoes right with you. There is a whole theory on the laws of attraction. It's something I'll have to check into. He does sound like he has the same mix of athleticism and smarts as J.M., though.

I wonder what the reaction of your children would have been - had they observed you. Mine would have been relentless with teasing me.

I would have though that there would be an "avec" in the Jean Marc's question: "Ça va le maraîcher?" as in "Is everything well WITH the produce boy?" I love to learn these things.I guess Ca va kind of includes the "with"?

Thanks for a great story, Kristin. It's so good to have you back.

[If this story ends up going in a book, I saw two places to edit perhaps: "I couldn't help BUT wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had DRAWN me in for the first conversation)."]

Bill in St. Paul

My wife always gives me a hard time when a certain local artist is at one of our art fairs (we have 13 of his works) and I want to go see the art. She knows I'm hoping to see the artist's wife, not a raving beauty, just a nice, interesting person to talk to that I've gotten to know over the years (25?). I used to try to be subtle and arrive at their booth halfway through the tour of the art, but having been found out we just head to their booth first now.


What a delightful story. As Karen W. said, I felt I was right there with you -- from feeling the attraction to this adorable young man to hiding behind the holyhocks. One of the many dances of life. Aren't we human beings funny?! Fun to imagine what he might be headed to do in Hong Kong.

Tamara Jones in sunny Virginia Beach, VA

Lovely story Kristin. I felt like I was standing there tongue tied with you! My girls and I took a trip to France last summer and I was totally smitten with our tour guide... It must simply be something that happens to women of a "certain age"... but then we remember what our certain age is! My college daughters witnessed my infatuation and gave me total grief!! Luckily, they didn't share their amusement with their father and it remains our funny little secret!
Thanks for sharing. I missed your stories while you were on vacation!


Is there an error or am I showing my weakness in geography - you mention he is half Scottish, but his mother was from Dublin?

Minor detail - loved the story.

Gary Hoffman

I so enjoyed your story. It had so many precious moments. Thanks for sharing such personal parts of the experience.



Kristin Espinasse

Karen, Thanks for the corrections. Much appreciated!

Bill in St Paul, loved your story. Thanks for sharing.

David, I meant Irish. How come I always notice the errors after I hit the publish button?

Thanks to everyone for your kind words about this story. It is all so encouraging! Happy weekend to all.

P.S. Mom, just saw your note. Aw, thanks!!!!

Mary L. Holden

Because of you I had to look up the translation for "flirt" on Google Translate. What came up was "flirter."


Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Loved this story, Kristin. No need to feel self-conscious for recognizing the charm in front of you.


This was a delightful story to wake up to this morning. It is almost like a daydream, walking around the market in the morning, sparking a romance with the young man. Of course in the daydream Jean-Marc isn't your husband and you are a woman on holiday visiting friends. Sorry, I am getting carried away. It was nice that Jean-Marc recognized your moment and was fine with it. When we reach this age it it nice to know we still have that romance left, even if only in our thoughts.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
Loved the rest of this story. I wish you had asked for a photo with him then we could all drool.


Kristin, you are so adorable!!!! I am glad you enjoyed your vacation. And I am glad you had a 'blushing' experience!

You are not a cougar...:) You are just a lovely human being enjoying what life brings. This young man and you had a connection and there is nothing wrong with that. In our lives we are blessed to meet other people who touch our inner being.

And that you and Jean-Marc could be playful with each other over this? Wonderful and accepting!



Ha,ha Kristin. The produce guys are ALWAYS the cutest. And charming, too. Any country. I think it is a universal and cross cultural truth of vegetable and fruit marketing.

Lynn at Southern Fried French

What, no photo of the hot maraîcher? Now you are being a tease!

Karen from Phoenix

Great story! I always have so much fun talking to the produce guys at Safeway, ha ha Not as exciting as where you were!!!


Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Bonjour Kristin,

So glad you're back!!! I missed your stories!

The produce guy sounds so sweet. You were being kind & fllirty-tres normal!

Who doesn't love charming men ----young or old?

Be well!


Kristin, you always make me laugh and especially today. Maybe we cougars can all relate to your story. Thank you for sharing such intimate and joyful details with us. You always brighten up my day with your posts. Glad you had such a lovely vacation. Jean Marc is a very good sport!


tres drole mon amie!

Jens from Copenhagen

I like Jean-Marc's sense of humour - and agree with Eileen: "Où sont les photos?".


This was hilarious! Thanks for relating the story. We just had our refrigerator fixed by a young Ukrainian guy, so cute and polite that I felt like asking him whether we could adopt him!


Hi dear kristin,
This is totally delightful! I especially loved the ending!!!!!
Once again you've filled me with smiles and started our weekend off in the happiest way!
Natalia XO


Great to know your vacances (sans enfants?) were great. I have not commented lately. J'ai mal aux yeux so I cannot read much. Still same condition, but I have to comment today, because I can relate to this story. I think you, Kristin, were just happy to find the "anglophone" when seeing the Stanford T-shirt. Just like me...
I was newly married to a Chinese. Living among the Chinese, at the beginning, I felt quite toute seule, when my husband was at work. One day, a German national came to my in-laws' family office to look for my husband who was out. I was so happy to keep the visitor company, chatting in English until mon mari chéri would return. But my traditional Chinese mother-in-law thought it was "immoral" for the newly-wed me to "flirt" with a dashing looking young man. Hahaha, I could sense her stare, so I found excuse to walk back to my husband's desk. The handsome engineer who did not understand the situation, also followed me while my mother-in-law also followed with a stern look. Luckily, my husband came back in time to save me from the awkward situation.
Yes, so I totally relate to your situation with le maraícher.
Bon weekend!


Sorry, wrong accent sur le I, c'est maraîcher.


Une histoire charmante et franche--merci!!

Superman comparison and "Slightly nerdy facade giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it"--beautiful writing, great descriptive analogy. You're on a roll, Kristin! But then, that's nothing new for you.


The thing that amazes me about your stories, Kristin, is that you can take the most ordinary of experiences and turn them into interesting reading! I would have completely missed the story-ability in so many of the enounters you relate. And it's the same with your photos. You can look at an ordinary object and take a photo that, all by itself, tells a story. It is truly an admirable gift. Thank you for your blog!

Kathy, Sacramento

"Ça va, le maraîcher?"
Just add a comma after "va." (Same for "Ça va, ton chéri?" with an acute accent on the "e." The noun at the end of a construction like this clarifies who the pronoun at the beginning refers to and is set off by a comma.
Who among us couldn't identify with this story to some extent for one reason or another?!

Lynne , ACTUALLY IN THE New Forest

Well ! YOU obviously do not realise what a damn fine looking woman you are! Jean Marc and the toy boy are well aware of that fact! But if his mother is from Dublin then he is half Irish and not half Scottish! Difficult for a Yank maybe to remember the diference. Love the story though. Kiste, surely by now you realise what a lovely person you are?

Lynne , ACTUALLY IN THE New Forest

Sorry , just got back from the pub . Where did I see Scottish? Just been talking to 25 year old French / Italian CHARMING young man . Inherited all of the very best of both nationalites! Must be all of a flutter!



You are so funny - we should all read Kristi's stories after a nice visit to the pub. Wish I had been with you, it's so hot and sticky here in the jungle.



Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Kristin, You are a scream (to use an old fashioned expression). You even had me squirming a bit as your conversation with the charming maraîcher took its turns and twists. I loved the entire story from beginning to end. Mille mercis comme d'habitude.


Je viens de découvrir votre site que m'a recommandé un ami.
Une petite correction: bavure et bave ne signifient pas las même chose. Vous vouliez dire "bave".
Merci de nous faire sourire.

joie in carmel,ca

Cute story. Earlier this summer I was at one of our farmer's markets and approached this stall that had peaches, apricots, plums and nuts. This slight young man about 17 was standing there and I asked a question about the peaches. Very shyly and with a very French accent he answered my question. The older gentleman next to him said he was visiting from France and working with them for the summer. I tried to ask him what part of France he was from, (in my terrible French), and we did manage to converse for about 2 minutes. I bid him au revoir and wished him well. Two weeks later I went back and he was gone :-( The older gentleman said he went back to start school ,was terribly shy but one heck of a cook.

Chàrahandocce - HKG / SFO, CA

Hi, I'm kinda new here.. But these stories and learning experiences are awesome and really helpful, thanks a lot! I can already feel those French words slowing twirling into my mind! AND, he must be gorgeous for such horreur moments, haha. It'd be so cool if he is coming to Hong Kong, maybe I can try spotting this Superman in his Standford t-shirt and finally get a glimpse of this "ça va" maraîcher; as I am too spending my summer in Hong Kong.


Oh, how you make me smile. I am sure we are from the same "moule". My French "mari" just laughs at my silly blunders.
ps my crush in 7th grade was named Eugene Pearson :)

Jan Foreman

Oh how I love reading your blog! In my imagination I can feel the sun, smell the produce and hear the french accents - not bad considering I am sitting in my office in New Zealand with the heater on the keep me warm!..As for the art of gentle, innocent flirting - may we never lose the spontaneous reaction that stirs within us in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex - this I say at the tender age of 65!!

L. Rolfe

Bonjour Kristin:

As a mother of two, stepmother of two, and happily married 50-something wife, I have two cents to put towards the topic of socializing with handsome jeuns maraichers.

Over the years, you (and I) have participated in dignified, friendly, lighthearted, heartfelt social intercourse with younger members of both sexes during business transactions. Some of these people reminded us of our beloved brothers, nephews, kindergarten pals, co-workers, hiking partners, hairdressers ... fill in the blank. They were attractive, intelligent, polite and showed promise. They received due respect and admiration for their fine qualities during our brief transactions. When you and I were young, WE recieved the same from supportive adults.

Need we be embarrassed for showing our respect and admiration? Non! Did we cross a line of appropriate behavior by sharing our warmth and social skills with them?? Heck Non!

I hope that our own sons and daughters will receive the same from other adults in their workplaces. With luck, your youngsters witnessed your transaction with Handsome Hong-Kong-Bound, and note that there are mature, respectful and openhearted clients/cutomers/mentors in their present and futures.


La Francophile

Maureen - Freiburg, Germany

You slot into the sensuality of (seeming) everyday banality. And describe it so evocatively - we can smell and hear and feel and taste your experiences. And your vignettes are all the more wonderful and touching because of your compassion, self-irony and honesty. Great writing....It just gets better and better!


Nice post !
It's important to defend a french vision of cougar women ;)

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