French Word-a-day: Coucou & Catastrophes!
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Choucroute + Winner announced


While my computer was in the shop being repaired, Jean-Marc and I rearranged our bedroom, and now I've got a desk with a view--and a working ordinateur, just in time to announce our latest winner (scroll to end of post)!  

la choucroute (shoo-kroot)

    : sauerkraut

la choucroute garni = sauerkraut with meat (smoked pork, frankfurters) and potatoes


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


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Pédaler dans la choucroute: Problème après problème dans la cuisine, Kristi avait l'impression de pedaler dans la choucroute au lieu d'avancer.

One problem after another in the kitchen, and Kristi felt like she was pedaling in the sauerkraut--or going nowhere fast!

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

A few days after I gave away my citrus zester I suddenly needed it more than oxygen! But last week while tornadoing through the house, armed with a copy of Zero Waste Home and on a mission to simplifier, the zesteur d'agrume seemed superfluous. After all, I had a vegetable peeler and a cheese grater, both capable of double-émploie according to the minimalist gurus. 

Then, out of nowhere, I got an inkling to make lemon curd, or caillé de citron. Only, when the dual-purpose cheese grater slid across the surface of the lemon, returning zestless--and the vegetable peeler sent lemon skins rocketing across the comptoir and onto the floor, I realized what a folly it had been to giveaway the essential zesting tool! Imbécile! You could've used the extra saucepan, too. How dumb to give that away! (And don't get me started about the pronged scalp massager. No sooner did I ditch it, than Bruce, who sometimes comments here, shared this adorable video! leaving me no choice but to buy back the gadget--and the utensil and the pan--from the secondhand shop!)

Back to the Zester Setback: it was only the beginning of a cooking saga involving cops, robbers and flying horses! ...or horseflies, rather. I don't mean to exaggerate the troubles I experienced Monday, but, honestly, from the moment I set foot in the kitchen to cook--until the instant my detailed essay about the trial went POOF!--any and all of my morning's efforts were like pedaling in choucroute

Going Nowhere Fast
Ironically the story about the kitchen episode was titled "Persistence." And though I've spent the past 36 hours mourning the loss of my essay (and eating everything I managed to make that fateful day)....I shall now try to patch together my narrative. It may lack the passion of the first draft, penned when lemon zest was still stuck to my teeth (teeth do not make good alternative zesters either), but to give up now would be the ultimate passionless act! Allez, un peu de courage!

Perhaps adding titles to the following paragraphs will jog my memory and help to retrieve some of the content lost when Monday's opus disappeared into the internet's ether!

I should first tell you about the surreal moment that preceded my effort to make lemon curd. It took place just before the Zeste Episode, while gathering ingredients for the recipe. There were not enough eggs or sugar or lemons! May as well throw in the towel, I thought, when another voice echoed in my ears: That is perfectionism! Now let it go and IMPROVISE. You could use one less egg... add in honey for the missing sugar... and use that ugly lemon that you discounted! According to my Zero Waste bible, ugly fruit or FRUITS MOCHES are all the rage right now. In an effort to spare landfills of excess fruit, consumers are urged use a non-judgmental eye when selecting fruit: go for the two-legged carrots! the bruised apples! bent bananas!

I picked up the wrinkly, scarred lemon. Surely it held no juice? Why not just give up now! Then again, I could probably manage... The surreal moment lingered. It was that familiar instant between following through with something--or flaking out. It was simply a matter of choice.  Courageous? Or lazy? 

With the lemons now zested (half the peels ending up in the bowl) I forged ahead, and when my kitchen knife was too dull to quarter the lemon, I ripped the fruit apart!

Tossing all ingredients into the blender, I knew this was cheating (and not "creaming the butter"), and I worried the whirl of the blades might somehow upset the molecular energy of the mix.  

No use worrying about concepts you didn't even understand! Pouring the creamy yellow energetic mixture into a saucepan, I allowed for a meditative ten full minutes of stirring and, just as promised: thickened lemon curd! And only five setbacks so far (honey was a good substitute and the extra egg was not needed!)

Motivated by success , I decided to press on--and use that cabbage I'd had Jean-Marc buy for me, only to encounter obstacles 6, 7, and 8!

I have never seen a cabbage the size of a bowling ball, and if cutting lemons with a dull knife was impossible, this would be a miracle!

I tried sharpening the knife but even my aiguiseur was dull! Placing the knife over the cabbage, I'd have to sit on the handle to cut through the mass. But such acrobatics could end in a trip to ER. Another solution was needed.

As I stabbed at the cabbage a horsefly flew by. I recognized him from the bathroom, where he'd tortured me before my trial in the kitchen. Having managed to lock him into the medecine cabinet, I was eerily surprised by his escape from the mirrored prison!

Windows wide open now, I chased the giant red-eyed fly around the kitchen. GO! GET OUT! I shouted when a current of freezing air rushed into the kitchen. Closing the window in defeat, I chose to live with the pest and work in a warm room. 

Back to work. Now where was I? ...

Looking around the kitchen my eyes settled on the cat litter bag inside the sink. If a Japanese cook saw that, he'd have a heart attack. ANY meticulous cook would have a heart attack! But a little explanation might help:

There was no cat litter in the bag. The rectangular sack was a remnant from our kitty days. After the cats ran off I eventually gave away the litter box, toys and food. And then I discovered the plastic litter box liners. Not wanting to throw them away, I tried fitting them into our garbage can but they were the wrong size. However, if I lined the sink with them I could use the bags to catch garbage AND continue to analyze our garbage output (another Zero Waste Tip: know thy garbage).

Suddenly, I saw the folly of it all. The complete chaos in my minimalist kitchen. If someone walked in now (dare I say a reader! Or my Dad!) they would ... they would....

"Well just what would they do?! Unfriend you?" The little voice of reason was back. "Carry on, my child!"  

I returned to my cutting board to saw apart the giant cabbage, when a thrumming at the kitchen door rattled my heart. Who's there?!!

Next, I was hit over the head... with a dust pan!

As I jumped to the side the pan fell onto the counter and I swung around to find an empty kitchen. No bad guys. Still as can be, I tuned into a familiar sound. I looked up to see the stovetop hood shaking and understood what had happened: The baskets and antique wooden dustpan had tumbled off, helped forth by the vibrating fan!

So shaken, I was ready to throw in the towel. How much can a sensitive soul take?

"Kristi," the little voice was back. "No one is singling you out! Every cook has obstacles! Every kitchen is just like this!"

The thought cheered me, and I looked back over at the cat litter bag/sink garbage can. Well, maybe not just like this. :-)


I've almost pieced together the story I lost Monday, but a few episodes are missing: I ended up turning the cabbage into two dishes! 1) sauerkraut and 2) sautéed cabbage with apples and onions. Had another setback with the sauerkraut, when a host of ants showed up while I was elbows deep (defenseless) in a bowl of chopped cabbage. Mixing and squeezing the ribbons of chou, I could no longer tell the difference between the caraway seeds (kraut flavoring), or the ants. But by this time, a fermented ant was no big deal!

Bon appétit when you eat chez Kristi ;-)

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un agrume = citrus fruit
double-emploi = multipurpose ('double'purpose)
le lait caillé de citron = lemon curd
imbécile = idiot
allez! = come on!
un peu de courage = be brave!
un aiguiseur = knife sharpner

Happy to announce the winner of Benjamin Houy's book, Upgrade Your French.... the book goes to Paul, who wrote:

I like to read your blog twice a week. I am taking French classes and really enjoy your posts. Jean-Marc's readings are very helpful with pronunciation.

Thank you, Paul. I will contact you soon. Félicitations!

Smokey homemade sauerkraut

 Fermenting sauerkraut. How long will it take? Do you like choucroute? Comment here.


What today's story first looked like... before all was lost.


The lemon curd turned out lovely and thick! Find out what I used it for when you look at my photo gallery here!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety