Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Even Rusty French Has Its Uses

I don’t plan on writing a lot of posts on the preparations for our trip to Paris (for those who missed the amazing trip to Paris news, click here). But since my husband had this week off, we spent time planning our trip.

My obligation between now and when we leave is to “brush up” on French. My husband knows that when I graduated from college I was fluent in French—the university I graduated from required all English majors to be fluent in a foreign language. Fluency in French meant I had to take literature classes where the texts were all French, the lectures were in French, and we had to write our papers in French. And yes, I did that. However, I did those that twenty-five years ago. Since then, I’ve only used French to explain to my kids what RSVP stands for. (Okay, I did teach high school French twenty years ago—but that was mostly forcing passé composé into unwilling minds.)

After twenty-five years, I don’t really remember much. I can read something aloud and it sounds well enough, but I have no idea what it means. At least, that’s what I thought until Cal began researching restaurants. The other day, he pulled up a website to show to me. It had all the appropriate stars, the prices were reasonable, and the ambiance was fantastic. So I clicked on the menu and read it.

Then, I said to Cal, “Uh, when you looked at this earlier, did you use Google Translate on this page?”

He said, “No. Why?”

I answered, “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that this paragraph says that the specialty of the house is calf brain cooked in wine.”

We exchanged a glance and removed the restaurant from our “possibilities list.”

You know, my smattering of French may come in handy after all.

Be sure to check out the menu below. It's from 1870, and the dinner includes antelope, elephant, wolf, camel, bear, etc.  (Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons) 



  1. So, are "rats" really, well, rats? And is "kangourou" kangaroo?

    I took one semester of French in college and loved it. There are three languages I would like to learn before I die - Russian, Welsh, and French. I think French is the most reachable of those language goals!

  2. Louise, yep, "civet de kangourou" is a kangaroo wine stew. And "le chat flanque de rats" is cat flanked by rats. I'm really hopeful that "le chat/de rats" is a fanciful name that has nothing to do with cats or rats. But given the rest of the menu, I doubt it.

  3. I tried kangaroo and crocodile in Germany a few months ago. It was pretty good, haha.

    That's so cool that you're going to Paris and that you were once fluent in French! It seems you still know enough of the important stuff - i.e. FOOD! :) Good luck with your brushing up!

  4. Sheesh! So the French consider cheese to be dessert? That's just not right. I used to be fluent in French, too, but it's been a long time since I had any cause to use it. (Should have studied Spanish... now THAT I could use!)Some of their idioms are pretty strange, (Like "Vous piquez ma nez.") so I'm hoping the chat/rat thing is something entirely different than what it sounds like. (Like calling a dish pigs in a blanket?) If I find out for sure, I'll let you know.

    By the way, I re-read your first book, and then read the second. Guess what? I like the second one even more than the first! I'll write reviews for both of them on Amazon within the next couple days.

  5. Oh, YUK. It really IS cat surrounded by rats.

  6. Susan, I'm so glad you liked Screwing Up Babylon!! And thanks so much for the reviews!!