Se rendre compte & We can be heros, just for one day
Gratin & Traditional French zucchini casserole

A fun French word for pizza, tart, or quiche crust + Mieux vaut tard que jamais

Collioures 102
Benches along a trottoir in Collioures, France. Photo taken 11 years ago, when Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 11th anniversary, while dreaming of owning a vineyard one day

TODAY'S WORD: le trottoir

    : sidewalk, pavement, curb
    : slang for the outer crust (or le rebord) on a pizza, tart, or quiche

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En France et en Suisse, par métaphore, le trottoir est aussi le nom communément donné au bord d'une tarte ou d'une pizza.
In France and Switzerland, as a metaphor, the sidewalk is also the name given for the crust of a tart or a pizza.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse

"Mieux Vaut Tard Que Jamais"

Yesterday--24 years after moving to France--I got the chance to thank Marianne. Marianne is the mother of Fred, who is the godfather of our son, Max. It was Fred who picked me up at the Marignane airport in the fall of 1992, after a 24-hour voyage from Arizona. I'll never forget him glancing down at my cowboy boots as he stood beside the baggage carousel, wearing a crisp Façonnable chemise and Italian loafers--at least I think that is what he was wearing--and if I retell this same story in 10 years, don't be surprised if Fred is sporting an Izod sweater and wingtips. While my memory may be foggy for details, it is crystal clear when it comes to kindnesses, as we will see in the following remembrance.

Fred drove me to his family's home in Marseilles, where we unloaded my U-Haul moving boxes and mes valises and waited for my then-boyfriend, Jean-Marc, to get off work. Fred lived with his parents, Marianne and Michel, and his 17-year-old frère cadet, Antoine. Over the next 10-months, I had the chance to eat many a Tuesday night dinner at Marianne's table, where I sat absorbing every detail. From pre-dinner ritual of apértifs (I loved Porto!) to the post-dinner digestif (le marc!), I drank it all in. Looking back, I wished I had put down my wine glass and helped Marianne carry all those heavy gratin dishes!

Yesterday was my chance to thank her. Michel and Marianne had come to see our vineyard and they were here, as well, to visit Château de Pibarnon, where they're considering celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After touring the Bandol winery, we headed to the charming port of La Madrague, to eat at our local pizzeria, Chez Henri. Almost as soon as we were seated, I blurted out a decades-late remerciement:

"Marianne. You may not know what an impression you made on me all those years ago!"

Thinking about it, Marianne would have been the age I am now: 48. She would have been serving dinner in high heels and a slim, above-the-knee skirt. It may have been leather. With her shoulder-length wavy black hair parted in the center and her big green eyes, she looked as beautiful as when she left for work that morning at her law firm. And here she was, late at night, serving 8 of us homemade gratin de courgette and steak--followed by a cheese platter, salad, dessert, and coffee (and perhaps a limoncello maison...). 

Over the years I thought a lot about Marianne as I tried to cook and to entertain--all the while balancing kids, casseroles, and my own burgeoning career as a learn-as-you-go écrivain.

As I considered all I wanted to convey to Marianne, the waiter at Chez Henri appeared... and the focus was about to go to the savory pies he set down in front of us. It was time to hurry and sum up what it was I wanted to say to Fred's mom all these years later....

"I wish I had helped you clear the table!!"

Looking at me with those beautiful green eyes, which now sparkled and smiled, Marianne said: "I have no memory of you not helping."

As everyone dug into their pizza, I savored Marianne's words until Michel piped up with some perfectly-timed comic relief. Pointing to the crust on our pizzas, he said: Do you know what we call this in French? 

(Two of us shook our heads.)

"Le trottoir. The sidewalk."

The sidewalk indeed! This concluded our meaningful stroll down Memory Lane--Life's gentle path where we overlook shortcomings and recall only the best in others.

                        *    *    *


The crust or trottoir on my favorite pizza at Chez Henri. It's called "La Madrague"

Zucchini gratin casserole
Marianne's Easy Lasagna & A Favorite Word
Marianne's Zucchini Casserole

mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
la chemise = shirt
la valise = suitcase
le frère cadet = younger brother, little brother
un apéritif = drink before lunch or dinner
digestif = after-dinner liqueur
le marc =
a digestif made of grapes or apples
le remerciement = thanks
gratin de courgette = zucchini casserole
limoncello maison = homemade limoncello
un écrivain
= writer
le trottoir
= sidewalk, pavement

The view from Chateau de Pibarnon, where we visited with Marianne and Michel.

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