Category Archives: books

Bonne Femme

Bonne Femme CookbookBonne femme: literally translated as “good wife” but according to the The Bonne Femme Cookbook, the term has nothing to do with gender. It refers to the art of French home cooking, and can be accomplished by chats et chattes alike.

We’ve tried a few recipes and even though I cannot attest to the authenticity (someday when I actually get to live in France, I’ll let you know!), the food is délicieux.

When we were first married, Monsieur Chat acquired an Italian cookbook simply titled, “Pasta.” From it, we learned basic techniques for preparing simple yet lavish, company-worthy Italian dishes. There are certain cooking methods, herbs and ingredient combinations necessary to Italian cooking, and once we knew them, we were able to create beautiful, tasty dishes on the fly.

Now we are doing the same with French cooking, using The Bonne Femme Cookbook as our guide to the distinctively French braising and sautéing methods, herbs and ingredients.

If you happen upon this book, don’t hesitate to try the Chicken Fricassée, Le Poisson Meuniére, Green Beans Persillade, or Beef Stew with Orange and Balsamic Vinegar. Kir is a lovely drink to sip while you sauté un oignon and peruse the possibilities. And if you’re as all-in as I am, you’ll want to buy some herbes de Provence and start growing chervil on your kitchen window sill.

We’ll be trying one of the lovely puff pastry recipes later this week. Merveilleux!

Bon appetit, mes amis.


The Caterpillar… Makes Holes?

La Chenille

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, is a superstar of children’s literature. Right up there with Goodnight, Moon. It has it all: a cute main character, brilliant transformation, the days of the week, lots of food.

Naturally it’s been translated into many languages so all the children of the world can enjoy it.

Let’s be honest. This translation is a bit holey. I’m reading a book for 4 year olds because that’s the level my French is at, so I need, and was hoping for, a faithful translation. But the title has nothing to do with hunger. It has to do with making holes.

Why? Why not say the caterpillar is hungry ~ “La chenille a faim”? Some things are always going to get lost in translation. Why make holes where a faithful alternative exists?

Confession: I read the title, La Chenille qui fait des trous, and stupidly (arrogantly?) just assumed it meant “hungry.” But then I started to read, and it didn’t make sense. Right there in the text was the word faim, and I knew that had to mean hungry. (Like famished.) It was only then that I looked up the meaning of trous. 


Eric Carle’s amazing artwork and understated writing deserve to be exported all over the globe, but this heavy-handed translation puts holes in a classic. However, it is one of only a dozen French language books available in our local library, so I’m thankful for it even if it’s not wholly satisfying.

I intend to eat it up, holes and all.

Jour de neige

Snow day!

After yesterday’s balmy weather, we got a surprise today.

Snow (neige), hail (grêle), sleet (neige fondue), rain (pluie), wind (vent), fog (brouillard).

Neige fondue! (Melted snow.) So edible! If we had such a nice English name for sleet, I might not mind it so much. Regardless of what you call it, it is a cold and ugly day… which means the weather is perfect for staying in and sipping chocolat chaud.

Here is a lovely (and timely) picture book by Komako Sakaï called Jour de neige (Snow Day).


That night, a lot of snow fell… and the school bus is stuck.


We even made snow creatures.

Neige is pronounced nehzh. Another (near) Spanish cognado – nieve.

The Spanish of sleet is aguanieve. “Water-snow.” Again, perfectly descriptive, although maybe not quite as tempting as neige fondue.

I think some melted cheese would go nicely with this chocolat…

Essential French

If I woke up this morning fluent in one foreign language, it would be French.

But then that would take away all the fun of learning, and I love the process of acquiring the language as much as the idea of being fluent someday. There is beauty in the becoming as much as in the achieving, just as there is beauty in the rosebud before it fully blooms.

Instant proficiency would also take away a lot of fun for my fluent friends when I use the wrong word. And I wouldn’t trade giving them that experience for anything. Like the time I wanted to say I felt embarrassed in Spanish and accidentally announced I was pregnant. (Then I really needed the word for embarrassed!)


Here’s today’s lundi livre.

Usborne books have long been favorites at our house, ever since I got my first copy of First Thousand Words in Spanish. Right now I’m loving the French Dictionary. It’s tiny, but packs a lot of usefulness into a small space. (Fits in my bag and even some pockets.)

It’s got helpful guides to basics like counting and a few must-have phrases (Les toilettes, s’il vous plaît?); sections for looking up English words to find the French equivalent and vice versa; and a handy little two page spread called “Getting By in French” that is worth the price of admission all on its own. (It covers the bottom line on verb conjugation; how to ask questions; when/how to shorten je, de, and ne; and tips on pronunciation.)

It’s in the children’s section of our local shop. They don’t currently carry First Thousand Words in French, but I’ll be on the lookout.

Usborne Essential French Dictionary, 64 pages, £5.99.

Very excited about today’s Daily Prompt: Take That, Rosetta. I hope to find other Francophiles to follow!

I don’t speak French… yet.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

But can an old chatte learn a new langue? Let’s hope so!

Je ne parle pas français… mais. I don’t speak French… yet. (Neither does the cat. He just likes how he looks in the beret.)

The purpose of this site is to collect useful and interesting stuff related to learning French.

Here’s the tentative posting schedule:

  • Lundi: livres (books) & learning tools
  • Mardi: le monde moderne (le pop culture)
  • Mercredi: mots (words) et marks (pronunciation, cognates, accent marks)
  • Jeudi: J’ai une surprise!
  • Vendredi: verbes, voyelles, et vocab

If you’re also a student of the language of love, join me. If you see mistakes, school me. If I like you, you may pet me. All comments – English, French, even catty remarks – are welcome.