How to say "a thought" in French and rewiring the brain (neuroplasticity!)

How to say chopped in French? + gift giveaway

Mastering the Art French Eating by Ann Mah

Ann Mah is giving away three advance copies of her new book Mastering the Art of French EatingLessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris. Enter to win here.

haché (ha-shay)
    : minced, ground; chopped

un steak haché = hamburger (the French say hamburger when the burger is served on a bun; sans bun and it's called un steak haché)


    by Kristin Espinasse

My friend Ann wrote a new book called Mastering the Art of French Eating. Now there's a book I could have used when coming to France. Then, the world of food and dining was as foreign to me as the bon vivants who lived there.

Over the years I've had to paste together my own version of l'Art de Manger Française. Here are just a few gleanings:

Get your order right or end up with a marijuana burger
It's easy to flub up an order, or une commande--but a command of the French language will save you the embarrassment. Take your time when ordering and avoid the mistake I made when, as a young recruit at the chamber of commerce in Marseilles, I slipped out to lunch at a nearby burger joint and ordered a steak hashish.... 

Don't stock beans or other things

While playing house with my then boyfriend, I was lining up the cans of haricots verts and thon and maïs when I received a polite request: Essayons de ne pas stocker la nourriture, Jean-Marc suggested. It was true, why hoard food when the market was nearby? By buying only what we needed we could eat fresher meals and save money (by not having to toss out expired food).
Is French milk older than a toddler?
One of the things the French do stock is milk. So much so that it has a creepy-long shelf life! (the French keep their milk in the cupboard until opening the bottle, at which point it's stored in the fridge).

It is an acquired taste le lait UHT (sterilized, longue durée) but one thing's sure: a café au lait made in France is appreciated far and wide. Americans love it! So if you've ever wondered why you couldn't recreate the creamy taste back home, now you know: fresh milk's the culprit. 

6 o'
clock is when the birds eat
This is a long-standing joke between my husband and me. Tu manges a l'heure d'oiseau, Chérie? he teases, now that I've gone back the American dinner hour. Tweet tweet! I love eating early but will gladly accept a dinner invitation--and be prepared to eat at l'heure de grillon, or the cricket hour.
Wandering Hands & Footsies
Isn't there a rule about keeping your elbows off the table and left hand in your lap when dining? It's practically the opposite in France, where a hand that disappears beneath the table might be up to no good (feeding the hostesse's escargots to the dog, are you? Or maybe, as in olden times, you're reaching for your gun?! Best to keep your hands to the sides of your plate so the hostess can relax.

(When I first learned this rule, I didn't know about hungry dogs or outlaws, or the history behind the "hands on table" etiquette. My guess was that French innuendo was at play again--and that the French were always imagining the racy side of things. In America we call below the table "hanky-panky" footsies.) 

Bon ap'!
It's lovely in any culture to wish each other bon appetit, but the French go as far as blessing complete strangers. Bon appétit, they'll call out, when you're seated on a park bench chowing down on un sandwich au fromage. Bon appétit, they'll shout, when you're stopped at a traffic light, inhaling a croissant, late for work. Bon appétit, you'll hear, when strolling down the street, window-shopping and munching on a slice of pizza. It can be embarrassing... or deeply charming. Depends on how you take things.
So bon ap' (if that's the case) and bon courage as well. I hope these insights will help you next time you tuck a napkin in your shirt collar (do the French do that? Let me think about it... I'll get back to you when I've got the answer (or share yours below...).
French Vocabulary
le haricot = bean (click here for haricot post)
le haricot vert
= green bean
le thon = tuna
le maïs = corn
essayons de ne pas stocker de la nourriture = let's try not to stock food

I leave you with a few recipes--in case you missed them:

Make the fruit salad I told you about (I've made it three more times since posting the recipe--and discovered that it is the ripe honeydew melon that really makes it good!)

Tomato Tart -- don't miss this favorite! It's tomato season here in France and time to make this easy, fast recipe that everyone loves!

No Grudge Fudge : you won't be mad at yourself after eating this organic 4-ingredient sweet treat. I've made it several times since posting the recipe (the latest version is a Reese's knock off! Just add peanut butter...)

  Door in Vinsobres (Var) (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Where's your favorite place to dine? On the front porch or on the beach or at a restaurant?

Kristin and Braise and golden retriever puppies (c) Jackie Espinasse

Braise (above left) and I in 2009. One of these 6 pups is Smokey.

This blog turns 11-years-old in a few months. 1500 stories are found in the archives, or pick up an edited collection here or here. Your book purchase is a great support to this free word journal. Thanks for reading and for sharing this website with a friend.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Heather in Arles

I am so excited about Ann's book coming out! I can't wait! I have an inkling that it is going to be a smashing success. But sshhh, don't tell her. Wouldn't want to jinx anything now, would we?

And I have stopped saying "Bon ap'" since my Honey implied that it is no longer actually polite. Party pooper. I think that he is just indulging his bourge aspirations... ;)

PS. I could look at that puppy attack photo all day.

Bill in St. Paul

We've also had trouble with the French dinner hour that doesn't start until 7pm or later. It's not as bad as Spain where they don't eat until 9pm, and usually later.

One of our favorite restaurants is La Girocedre, in Puyméras, about three miles from Vaison la Romaine where we had spent a wonderful two weeks, including a visit to Rouge Bleu.

Linda R.

Your food tips brought a smile - thank you. And thank you for pointing us to Ann Mah's posting. It will be fun to read her reflections as well.

Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

I love that photo of you and the pups! What a dream.

Bonne journée à tous from rainy Paris.

Judy B.

I love the use of "à table" to assemble everyone for a meal. We watched a French movie with subtitles the other night. While the English translation showed, "Lunch is ready," I could hear Maman calling out "à table!"


Oh, thank you, Kristin, for mentioning my book here -- and to all your lovely readers for joining the giveaway!

I love today's post. I'm always so nervous when dining à la française -- from keeping my hands visible to not going to the bathroom -- it's full of politesse pitfalls! :) I'm still confused on how to neatly help myself to very runny cheese.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

Wow! Going on 11 years! Great! Looks like your blog is going to survive. Ha!

I had my table manners “redefined” in France! To this day I eat with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other. None of this “chasing” food around the plate with the fork used as a shovel and no fair using bread or, heaven forbid, your fingers as a backstop. However, I do like to sop-up any leftover gravy or juices with some bread as a finale.

À bientôt


Hi Honey,

Thanks for the inspiration today - I jumped right on your photo with the puppies crawling all over you and just finished a two hour loose sketch of this wonderful memory. I heard your sweet voice in the corners of my mind saying, "Mom, stop right here - don't add anymore I have taken your advice and walked away just now. I will save this sketch for you when you come to visit...

Could you please order a copy of Ann's book for me - I still remember her last book as one of my all time favorites.

I miss you Honey - I wish travel was easier and less expensive - I need my "Kristi-fix"....



Marcia Douglas

Haha, my first fleeting thought when you typed "Bon Ap", was a cell phone app (like have fun with that ap, lo) Don't know why I thought that. I will have to use this new phrase here at home. Don't think I could adjust to that milk, still prefer it ice cold. ;-)

Susan Ericson

This post was a wonderful read! Brought back so many French memories. Favorite place to eat? Back of the house screened in porch...could happily spend every night out there, weather permitting. So glad to have found your blog!!

Kathleen from Connecticut

As Herm stated...eating with a knife in one hand and fork in the other, does stop people from using their fingers to push the food onto the fork...that is so uncouth. Many Americans have such bad eating habits,probably from eating at fast food restaurants all of the time,where one does not need a fork or a knife....McD's.
As for eating a American..we tend to eat later than most of our friends.I like to eat by candlelight and in the summer it doesn't get dark until 8:00-8:30 here in Connecticut.
While visiting friends in Spain,I could not believe that we ate dinner at 10:00 or later every night.
I just copied the tomato tart recipe and will make it this weekend for a get together.
Thank you again for the puppy is so cute.



Hi Kristin! Fascinating post, especially about the milk. Maybe I wish I didn't know that ;) I've been so busy the last few months, I haven't had time to read the blogs I've subscribed to, and I've missed yours SO much!!! But I saved them, and I'm going to catch up now. Looking forward to catching up on Ann's too and hopefully win her book :). And thanks for your recipes--they sound wonderful!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Thanks Kristin for the wonderful puppies photo. I love the post and will get the book --- but the photo made my day.

Stay well!

Cheryl in STL

Kristin, I really enjoyed reading this post! Made me smile as I looked back on my first adventures (and some continuing!) with the French and food. I have already ordered Ann's book and can't wait to read it. I met her at your book reading at Shakespeare and Company---our knee to knee seating introduced us! So many great memories of that evening, thanks to you!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Love the photo of the little table outside the door ... that could easily be a favorite place to eat. The photo of the puppies brought me joy! Thanks for sharing the link to Ann, too. Always look forward to your writing and photos :)

Diane Young

There's nothing cuter than a litter of puppies. Like you, we kept one of the males and had years of wonderful times with mother and son. Thanks for the memories.

Cindy  (Rothesay, NB   Canada)

Thanks for another great post ... I look forward to reading each and every one of these and always smile in anticipation of a good read when it hits my inbox! So, where's my favorite place to eat you ask ... well, in the summer it is definitely seated early morning at the dinette in my RV savoring fresh tea biscuits, jam, yogurt and a long leisurely cup of coffee while watching the birds, just outside the floor to ceiling windows, enjoying their breakfast at the bird feeder ... and you know what? I enjoy this scene rain OR shine! And the earlier in the morning the better ... just as the sun is rising is amazing! Bon appetit!

Sandy Maberly

Loved the French dining "tips" with all the little idiosyncrasies. These make us all so different even though we're all the same! I suppose when you think about some of them they do make a lot of sense! My favorite place to eat is at home, sitting in our front garden overlooking the endless fields of the Conwy valley and Snowdonia Mountain range!

Andrea Hughes

Re: tucking in your napkin at a meal or not, my father (a Frenchman) used to have a cloth napkin with a buttonhole at one corner. He would then just attach it to one of the top buttons of his shirt, and voila! it stayed in place during the entire meal! Result: spotless shirt every time!

Bill Facker

EXCELLENT - UPLIFTING - and ... THE PERFECT EXCUSE TO MY MOTHER FOR LEAVING MY ELBOWS ON LA TABLE! Kristin, you just keep knocking them "out of the park" ! Aloha!


Our dear Kristi,
What a wonderful post (and love the pictures!)
This filled me with memory;like Herm, I had a 'transition' getting used to fork in one hand,knife in other (and bread used to collect sauce/gravy).Maybe this is common in Europe(?) as our relatives, friends, as well as belle mere and belle pere,always ate this way as a matter of fact.(I was used to cuttting and then eating with my right hand.)In the Summer we loved having meals outside in the garden. (Hubby and I still do that,too)
Thanks,dear Krisit!!
Love, Natalia XO

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Charming post! I learned a lot too. Think I’ll stick with fresh milk for my beloved lattes!

My favorite summer dining place? In the yard under the shade of the plum trees at a vintage table and chairs much like those pictured. Eating garden fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil salad right this minute…your bon appetit is timely!

Thank you for sharing the chance to win your friend’s new book --- such a gorgeous cover!

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

During my recent stay in Paris, on three of the four nights I walked into my hotel near midnight 1) drinking a can of Coke, 2) eating a crepe, and 3) drinking another can of soda. The night clerk grinned each time he handed my key and wished me good eating/drinking.

I'd assumed it was because French people don't wander around eating and drinking the way Americans do. They eat at the table, and their cars don't have cup holders.

I notice that two of your examples, Kristin, are also outside of the standard eating situation. Picnics in parks are common enough, but I don't think a lot of French people eat in their cars, or munch pizza on the sidewalk (they can't — how would they use a knife and fork?). Maybe that's why you garnered the attention.

Karen from Phoenix

WOW 11 years. Time really does fly by. I have enjoyed so many years of your posts and friendship and look forward to many, many more.

I have Ann Mah's book on my wish list, will pre order in August. Loved her last book.

Puppies, puppies, puppies. Such a cute picture.
Jules I would love to see you painting.



Thanks for this one Kristi...we are going to be in France one last time (Avignon..Arles and Paris )so will feel more at ease with the table manners this time...and...I think I have picked up a bit more of the vacabulary since our last trip ..Thanks to your blog .
Merci beaucoup !!


The first time I saw two nicely dressed French women in a cafe waiting for their meal with knife in one hand and fork in the other, poised to begin the minute the plate was set down, I though I was looking at two Minnesota lumber-jacks ready to attack a plate of hotcakes! Then I found out that's the way they eat! My daughter mastered that style when living in Australia...I still can't do it.
The place I like to eat at home is at my kitchen counter with the newspaper spread out in front of me. I always like a table...I don't eat or drink in my car or on the street. Everybody's different! Viva la French!


I so love your posts and French food is a particular passion. I have noticed that in France there is a more relaxed way of using cutlery at the table and it's not frowned on to put the knife down and use the fork in the right hand. I notice too that food is more often served in bite sized pieces so there is not so much sawing! Scottish table manners more closely follow the French and it is sometimes said that the English fiddle about with the food - trying to eat garden peas with a knife and fork pointed down - it looks so prissy! Of course table etiquette in England (and here in S Africa) has relaxed since The War. Eating while walking along the street is now all too common - in both senses of this word - one of the horrors of the fast food generation! Thank you Kristin.

Randy and Debbie Komisarek

Congratulations on the 11 year mark, Kristin. My food story involves our chocolatiere in our home port of Roanne. Last fall I went there in the morning for our usual Sunday treat (bien sur!). After waiting in line for awhile, I asked, in French for a Sunday "dessert", not realizing that I was pronouncing the word like an American with a "z" and not an "s". Our chocolatiere smiled and asked I wanted a camel or whether I would prefer chocolate. I haven't made the mistake since and she continues to kid me, calling me her "desert" friend to the other customers.

Randy Komisarek
Bateau "Alouette"
Gray, France

Odile   CA

About milk in France... true, most people buy the long conservation milk, much cheaper( and the French rarely drink milk as Americans do).
Mais, fresh milk is available in most stores, including organic.
Thanks for the easy et delicieuses recettes!


Hi Kristin,
I hope all is going well with you and your family. How is Jackie liking the US?
I noticed in one of the photos that a "curtain" is hanging over a closed door. What is the purpose of the cloth?
I loved your recipes. I am going to repeat the fudge at Christmas.
My best to you,

Nancy L.

Loved this post Kristi. We currently have guests from Aix-en-Provence staying with us and we are on what we call "French time", which means we don't eat until 'l'heure de grillon', as you say. Thank goodness I dropped a few pounds after our return from Belgium/France in April, as our guests are doing the cooking and the pounds are nowe adding up! Oh, and your tomato tart is one of my 'go to' recipes in summer! We all LOVE it with fresh tomatoes from the Farmer's Market!

Margaret M.

Bonjour Kristin,
I was going through my inbox and found this delightful post! I must have missed it the first time around because July 23 was the date we flew home to the U.S. after a glorious year in Amiens, France!
We LOVED the milk, and every other dairy product for that matter, and shared many meals at "l'heure de grillon" with the wonderful French friends we made there.
We are gradually getting used to life in the U.S. again, but we miss our French life so much...
Thank you for your posts to remind us of the things we loved the most!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)