Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Dinner

Add to Google Reader or HomepageEllen and I joined French friends for Christmas dinner in L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Daniel had found the restaurant, made the reservations and invited us to join them. We loved the idea and jumped at the chance – one of the best decisions in years.

Daniel lives in Auch but chose to visit L’Isle sur la Sorgue for the holidays. It is a town about 50 km from here and a town that we know well having spent two weeks there several years ago. The town is an antique hunter’s paradise but as we discovered, it is also a gourmet’s paradise.

We ate at a restaurant called Le Vivier – a word which means fish tank/fish pond. The restaurant is located along side the Sorgue River, so the name may have something to do with the location. In any case, the setting was attractive, the service was impeccable and the food was fantastic.

The restaurant had put together a special lunch-time meal as its Repas de Noël (Christmas meal). The meal started with canapés and amuse-bouche (mouth pleasers) including a light mousse of cream and fish served with a piece of crisp bacon, oyster paté served on an oyster shell and a lobster roll.

The Entrée (first course) was “Maki de Saint Jacques, cressionnière à l’ail noir, emulsion au lard rance.” – I’ll never get the word-for-word translation for this item. Suffice it to say that it was a lovely, thinly-chopped scallop wrapped in basil (or spinach) topped with a watercress and garlic sauce. The sauce was a bright green and looked lovely served in a white bowl.

There were two plats (plates) for the main course. The first was: Turbot rôti, citron confit de Menton, gnocchis de potimarron et blinis. Roasted white fish (turbot) served with a crispy slice of preserved lemon (from Menton, Fr.), gnocchis made from pumpkin and little pancakes.

(Daniel chose a Jurançon sec for the above courses. Wonderful pairing. We had a burgundy – Auxey Duresses – to go with the second part of the main course. Another wonderful pairing!)

The second plat was: Dos de cerf aux poivres, velouté de topinambour à l’huile de noisette, copeaux de châtaigne et pomme de terre en transparance. Venison rubbed with coarsely ground pepper served on a sauce made from Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut oil with pieces of roasted chestnuts; potatoes sliced so thinly that they looked transparent after cooking.

The cheese course was warm St. Marcellin cheese (creamy, soft cow’s milk cheese) with a slice of truffle in it. Saint Marcellin truffé, servi tiède.

Dessert was: Boule de Noël aux litchis & pommes (a Christmas ball that contained an apple/litchi ice cream). –and the Christmas ball was a sugar confection, i.e., edible!

Merry Christmas
Joyeux Noël

Et bon appétit!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Une soirée française

Add to Google Reader or HomepageSaturday evening, we prepared and served a French dinner for six at our home. The dinner was the “prize” won by a couple at the Tri-County Office on Aging’s Meals on Wheels live auction last fall.

Ellen is very involved with Meals on Wheels (MOW). She delivers meals and she serves on the MOW fundraising board. For the past two years, we have offered a French dinner and a week at our apartment in Vaison la Romaine. Luckily for MOW, the items have been popular and we have been able to generate more funds for MOW. Since retiring, I have taken over most of the cooking and have learned a lot. The dinner was a chance to share what I have learned in the kitchen – both here and in France.

The couple that won the bid for the dinner knew what to expect. They had won the bid the previous year and had enjoyed the evening enough to make sure that they won the bid again.

We invited Steve and Re’Shane to come to an “apéro” to plan the menu. I had prepared a list of options for each course and had included several items directly from the menu at La Lyriste in Vaison la Romaine. (Chef Benoit had asked me to translate the menu into English.) They chose the menu including a dish for the main course that I had never prepared before. A quick “m’aidez” note to Benoit to get instructions on how to prepare the dish followed. Benoit wrote back and included detailed instructions and photos.

The menu*

Hors d’oeuvre: Gougère, Purée de pois chiches au cumin à tartiner, Clairette de Die
Gruyère cheese puffs, hummus on toasts, sparkling wine

Entrée: Soupe de tomate au basilique, croustillants de parmesan, chardonnay
Tomato-basil soup served with parmesan crisps, French unoaked chardonnay

The bowl that I served myself... (not attractive enough for the table)

Plat: Nage de gambas et cabillaud dans son jus de crustacé, ratatouille, riz brun, Vouvray
Jumbo shrimp and cod poached in shellfish stock, ratatouille and brown rice, Vouvray

Fromages: brie triple crème, morbier, chèvre (avec confiture de piment)Bordeaux rouge
Cheeses: triple cream brie, morbier and goat cheese (with hot jalapeno jelly) red Bordeaux

Dessert: Baravois aux fraises, vin doux
Strawberries served with Bavarian cream, fortified red sweet wine

Café et chocolat

*the vegetables for the soup and the ratatouille came from my garden!

After all of the dishes were served, Ellen and I joined the six diners and got to experience how much fun they were and how much fun they were having. They were six people who enjoyed good food, good wine and good camaraderie – and that menu of fun, food and camaraderie, served for a good cause, could be a winner every time!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Slip Slidin' Away

Add to Google Reader or HomepageSummer is sliding by quickly.

This past weekend, we joined Ellen’s siblings and cousins for a reunion at Carol’s and Bernie’s lakeside house in VA. It was fun to see relatives/friends and to enjoy stories and videos from times past. Carol had prepared a variety of foods to which we added our potluck items. Great company and wonderful food made it a perfect event. (It was nice that the weather cooperated as well.) On the way to VA, we visited Ellen’s brother and his wife in PA and then Ellen’s nephew and his wife at their house in NC. By the time we got back to MI we had put more than 1800 miles on the car in six days.

Several weeks ago, we visited Marge and Charley in St: Joseph, MI. Marge surprised me with an invitation to cook rabbit with her for my surprise birthday dinner. This was not the usual 2+ pound rabbit one finds in the freezer case at the grocery store. It was a fresh rabbit and weighed over five pounds! Marge had found an interesting recipe in a Patricia Wells cookbook (Patricia Wells At Home in Provence) calling for preserved lemons. We used three of the five pounds of rabbit and had a wonderful dinner – though we were both nervous at how salty the preserved lemons were… (The flavors worked out okay. Marge and I decided to reduce the liquid portion of the lemons to reduce the saltiness.) I brought home the remaining two pounds with which I plan to make Terrine de Lapin.

Ellen’s sister Tish has been staying with us for most of July as part of her annual stateside vacation. This year when she leaves, she will be going to teach in Nairobi (and we are all relieved that she did not choose to extend her teaching contract in Cairo). Tish said that one of the things that she missed while in Cairo was live music. I could echo her comment in referring to Vaison la Romaine though we know that there are a lot of music venues in Vaison in the spring and summer (when we are not there!). We went to hear “The Delta Rhythm Kings” and “Frog and the Beeftones” and enjoyed live music at the “Taste of Downtown Lansing” gathering. We also went to see a friend’s grandson in a lead role in a local production of “Next to Normal”. Local performers, world class talents.

We watched the Tour de France on television and got to see the amazing riders climb Mt. Ventoux and then depart from Vaison la Romaine on the stage that took them to Gap and the Alps. Ma belle soeur (Sister-in-law) found a charmingly funny video about the Tour de France visit to Vaison. Go to: and click on “Les Romanus”.

BTW, today I picked and enjoyed the first tomato from my garden. Fresh vine-ripened tomatoes are among the greatest pleasures of summer, especially when I can walk into my own back yard to pick them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What we miss

Add to Google Reader or HomepageI just saw a friend’s post in which she referenced “35 Things You Appreciate About America After Living in Europe.” It was written by Lucy Hebb and first posted at I found the list interesting and more than exhaustive (exhausting?) I wondered if the author had to limit herself to 35 things or if she had to stretch to reach 35. I am sure that the author found all of the items to be legitimate but several times I had to ask myself why she included X or Y but, hey, it is her list.

As counterpoint to that list, I offer an update to my 2009 list of what I miss when not in Europe (France). My list contains only 25 items. Feel free to add to my list if there are other things you see that I missed.

  1. The friendliness of shop owners “Bonjour, monsieur” greeting as I walk into almost any store (followed by: “Au revoir, monsieur. Bonne journée” as I leave a store – even if I didn’t buy anything.)
  2. Very good wine for under $10.
  3. Specialty stores – butcher shops, fish shops, vegetable shops, bakeries.
  4. Open air markets/market days
  5. Sitting in cafés nursing an espresso (for hours, if you want) and none of the wait staff push you to leave
  6. Cheese selection – more than 200 varieties
  7. Fresh rabbit – and other selections of protein such as pheasant, quail, guinea hen
  8. Walking (everyday) to purchase food items for dinner
  9. Bread (baguette) for $1.00
  10. A fresh baguette everyday
  11. Minimalist (environmentally friendly) approach to packaging
  12. Diesel fuel which costs less than gasoline
  13. Inexpensive espresso
  14. Cars with clean-operating diesel engines
  15. Cars with manual transmissions
  16. Fast, on-time trains
  17. Roman ruins
  18. Fields of poppies
  19. Slow food
  20. Small portions (of food entrées in restaurants)
  21. Dry rosé
  22. One dollar (euro) coins
  23. Well-maintained roads and streets
  24. Families walking together on Sunday afternoons
  25. Mussels from Brittany (moules de Bouchot)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Escargots revisited

Add to Google Reader or HomepageLast year (April 29, 2012) I wrote about snails (escargots) when we went to a snail farm called Les escargots de l'enclave – snails from the Enclave (owned by the Pope back in the 1300s).  Little did I know that our neighbor has a snail ranch right in her back yard!  She has “free-range” snails; no corrals or fences, just snails à la nature.

Our dear visiting friend Dan made this discovery when he was helping our neighbor Jane do some yard work. As soon as he realized that there were a lot of snails, he thought about menus and suggested that we could have snails as an appetizer for his big homemade meal before heading home.

First he had to collect the snails – sort of a snail round-up. He created a corral/stockyard (a large clay pot turned upside down) and then put the snails on a regimen of basil and other herbs, spinach, leaves, grass and water.

For the next few days, the snails ate and drank their fill. They seemed to love the basil and spinach. Dan tried to exercise them by taking them for a walk but after three days of walking they had only gone 30 meters.

When we decided the date for our dinner aux escargots, Dan changed their diet. In fact, put them on a water only diet so that they could clear their systems. Jane’s gardener came one afternoon and saw the snails and heard about Dan’s menu plans and affirmed that Dan was going through the right steps. (Dan had read a number of articles on preparing snails so he knew what he was doing.) Step 1: jeûner (fast, abstain from eating) for three days. The snails had only water during this period. Step 2: cleaning/de-sliming the snails with water and salt. After that, it was clean again, cook and serve. Dan chose to serve them in a butter-based persillade (garlic, shallots and parsley).

The dish was excellent. The presentation was attractive, the texture of the snails was perfect and the flavors were wonderful (what’s not to like when the ingredients include garlic and butter and parsley).

I am no expert but I think that free-range snails that Dan made actually tasted better than those raised at the snail farms….

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Faire le Pont

Add to Google Reader or HomepageMay is filled with national and religious holidays in France. The month started with “Fête du Travail” (Labor Day) on May 1, followed by a national holiday on May 8, Ascension on May 9 and the Monday after Pentecost (May 20).

Last week, for instance, Wednesday was "Fête de la Victoire 1945"  followed immediately this year by Ascension Day. With back-to-back holidays in one week, the French have a tradition of adding to official holidays by what they call “Faire le pont” – or bridging over the remaining work day (Friday) and creating a three vacation-day week. Many of the shops and businesses were closed or on reduced hours. (Restaurants and tourist shops were open and filled with customers.)

We went to visit the lovely hill towns of Roussillon and Gordes on Wednesday only to discover that we were joining throngs of tourists – French and foreign – who were there to enjoy the long vacation week. On the way back to Vaison la Romaine, we passed roadways lined with parked cars as people were picnicking along the banks of rivers and streams. We also passed lines of bicyclists who were making their ways through the hills and mountains heading?? Everyone was on vacation!

Vaison la Romaine is a destination for many tourists and it was amazing to see how the village has come alive with people from all over walking through town, looking in shop windows (lèche-vitrines – literally: licking the shop windows), buying chocolate and gelato or sitting in the cafés enjoying a glass of wine or an espresso as they watched people go by. Vaison is a very different village from the cold, rainy days of February and March when people were outside only to complete their shopping needs and get out of the bad weather.

The population of Vaison la Romaine doubles in the summer and with the three-day holiday created by “faire le pont”, we got a little hint of how this town will look in July and August.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Add to Google Reader or HomepageA French friend gave me a bag of black olives – raw olives. Raw olives are VERY bitter and thus inedible. They must be cured before one can enjoy eating them.

This is the second time I have had raw olives. The first time was several years ago when American friends were visiting. They had gone to the little Saturday market and saw and decided to buy olives from one of the vendors. They said that the vendor was trying to tell them something about the olives but they didn’t understand her and so just smiled and held up a finger to indicate that they wanted one kilo. They brought them back to the apartment to share with us because the olives were black and beautiful and looking very tasty. The first bite proved that they were not. They were raw and bitter. We ended up not eating their market purchase.

Have you ever wondered about how someone got the idea that these apparently inedible fruits could be cured and thus made edible? And, after trying different ways of curing the olives, got someone to try them – the ancient equivalent of a “Mikey likes it”person? What about all of the missteps – trying apparently edible gatherings only to discover that they were toxic? I imagine that “Mikey” could have been pretty reticent having seen the negative effects on his counterparts who tasted things toxic or poisonous…

As I searched the internet for methods for curing olives, I learned that the Greeks have been curing olives for centuries. A long time ago, they put the olives in cloth sacks and hung them from the boat wales so that the olives were splashed over and over again with salty sea water. Who thought of that?

Our good friends in Vaison have an olive tree and last year they harvested the olives, cured them and served them at apéros. Their olives were very tasty, so I asked their advice. They explained that the first thing to do is to make the olives less bitter. This is accomplished by soaking the olives in salt water and changing the water every day or so until the liquid was clear. This step took a couple of weeks. I tasted the olives every couple of days to see how bitter they still were and when I could eat the whole olive, I decided I could begin seasoning them.

One can also cure olives with lye but I chose the salt water method because I didn’t have lye and I didn’t like the idea of using a caustic chemical. Lye also works best with green olives (or so I read).

I used a solution of red wine vinegar and olive oil (white wine vinegar for green olives) to which I added herbs de Provence, garlic and chilies. I am not satisfied with the flavor yet so I plan to add more herbs and spices and let them marinate until I have achieved a flavor that I am willing to share with friends – when I hope they taste half as good as the ones done by our friends.

It has been fun learning a new skill (I use the word “skill” VERY loosely.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

As smart as a pickle

Add to Google Reader or HomepageFood and cuisine hold prominent places in French culture. As one might expect, food is the topic of many French idioms.

« Occupe-toi de tes oignons » or “Mind your own onions” is the French way of saying “Mind your own business”. One of the kids at the crèche was more interested in the puzzle that another child was working on so the teacher said: “Occupe-toi de tes oignons” and finish your own puzzle. The teacher was stereotypically French: « maigre comme un haricot, mince comme une asperge » (skinny as a string bean, an asparagus).

Our friend was taking his French friend to the store and driving slowly as they talked. The French passenger said: « Appuyez sur le champignon et allez plus vite ! » (push on the mushroom and go faster !) or “Step on the gas!”

We were at an apéro and our hostess was talking about her son-in-law and some of the stupid things he did and she referred to him as a « cornichon » (literally a pickle, figuratively a nitwit). The week following, I arrived at the crèche to see all of the children and teachers dressed up in costumes representing fruits or vegetables. I told one teacher that I did not have a costume and she smiled and said: “Then you can be the 
« cornichon ».” I decided that « le ver est dans le fruit » (the worm is in the fruit), i.e., it is too late to do anything about it. This is the truth. I am not about to « raconter des salades » (tell salads - stories).

My hair is « sel et poivre » (salt and pepper – the same as in English) though much more sel than poivre these days…

And don’t forget: « le poisson d’avril » (April fish – April Fool’s Day) will soon be here. Watch out for children who stick a paper fish on your back and then run away shouting “poisson d’avril.”

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been taking care of a dog for the past three weeks. The owners (our friends) needed to go to Amsterdam for business and asked us if we would like to care for their “berger” (mostly German shepherd). Ellen jumped at the chance.

We have enjoyed having her here. She is well-behaved (mostly) and very quiet - except for loving to chase cats when I walk her. And Vaison has a lot of feral cats!

Since I always enjoyed the routine of walking our dogs, taking this berger out three/four times a day has been enjoyable. Walking her at night around 10:00, I realize how small our village is in winter. It is quiet and there is rarely anyone on the streets – except other dog-walkers and feral cats. This village is truly a “roll up the sidewalks” kind of town in winter. I know that the population will double in summer but in March it is VERY quiet at night.

A downside of the dog-walking routine is bad weather. In the past three weeks, there was one heavy rain day (pleuvoir comme une vache qui pisse) but when the north of France got all of the snow earlier this week, we got the Mistral and its 120 k/h COLD winds.

She adapted well to our little apartment and made herself quite “at home”. In a place this small, one might think that supervision would not be a problem but she managed to clean Ellen’s plate one evening when I was out and Ellen went to wash her hands before eating. Like the deerhounds we used to have, she loves butter and emptied the butter dish that was on the kitchen counter – twice! (we should have remembered that behavior!) 

The owners were supposed to return to pick her up last Sunday but their car broke down (requiring a rebuilt engine that had to be shipped from Spain) and once it was repaired and ready to go, the snow storm closed the roads. They managed to arrive here late yesterday afternoon.

Now that Anna has returned to her owners, our little apartment seems larger – but empty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More wines (and so little time)

Add to Google Reader or HomepageLast spring (April 28, 2012), I wrote about three wineries that I thought were worth visiting when in Provence or seeing if an importer brings their wines to your area. One of the wineries about which I wrote was Domaine des Escaravailles ( Thanks to Philip Reddaway and his Facebook page La Madelene Rhone Wine Holidays, there is more to report on this winery. Phil made two entries in Facebook about Domaine des Escaravailles.

By the way, the name of the winery is Occitan for Scarab beetle. The winery chose the name because, in the 17th century, monks tended the vines and, in the heat of the day, they would pull the hoods of their dark robes over their heads to protect themselves from the sun. From a distance, they looked like scarab beetles moving through the rows of grape vines.

When we were getting ready to leave Vaison la Romaine last spring, we made a final visit to Domaine des Escaravailles and I asked the pourer in the tasting room about the single-varietal (Grenache) and when it might be available. She said that they planned to bottle it in November. I said that we planned to return in December to which she suggested that I might want to call and reserve a case or two because it was going to go fast.

A torn meniscus distracted me for the remaining time in the US, so I did not call but was relieved to learn, when we visited the winery after our return to France, that they still had some. The wine is called “Heritage.”

(“1924” refers to the age of some of the grapevines.)

On February 18, Philip Reddaway wrote the following for La Madelene Rhone Wine Holidays in Facebook:

“In the March issue of "Decanter" JLL reviews the aoc of Rasteau: "how is this new Cru shaping up and who are the star performers?". Delighted to see that Domaine des Escaravailles, a favorite tour visit, came out on top of their blind tasting - the specific winning wine = their old vine Grenache "1924". Chapeau Giles!” (Gilles Ferran is the owner/winemaker at Domaine des Escaravailles.)

A week earlier, La Madelene Rhone Wine Holidays included another reference to Domaine des Escaravailles with a new wine venture. Philip Reddaway posted the following from a review by Lincoln Silakus:

“So, what can I say about the standout wine of the day, the Calendal, a joint venture of Gilles Ferran (Domaine Escaravailles, Rasteau) and Philippe Cambie? I suspect that, for Gilles, it's a bit of fun, as this is quite unlike his more elegant Escaravailles wines. Cambie, the larger-than-life Rhone guru-oenologist, makes wines with an equivalent girth; big enough, in other words to be seen by Robert Parker. The Calendal, from 4.4 hectares of bush vines of old Grenache and Mourvedre (30% – yum!) is huge, fruity and succulent. It ages in barrels that have been used only once for over a year. The 14,000 bottles sell out despite the hefty 16.50€ price (twice the average for this appellation). A myth in the making.” Lincoln Siliakus, Vino Solex, Feb. 12, 2013.

When our Lansing neighbors were visiting last week, they bought me some of the Calendal. We opened a bottle last evening when friends were visiting and it is everything that Mr. Siliakus suggests. Another great wine from Domaine des Escaravailles.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Charge it.

Add to Google Reader or HomepageA small observation: in France, purchases made by credit card are completed without the card ever leaving your sight. Be it in a restaurant or a shop, the system feels more secure than the ways we transact business with credit cards in the states. In France, all of the restaurant servers have hand-held credit card swipe machines. They bring you the bill and, when you are ready to pay, they return with a wireless credit card swipe machine. You watch the restaurant server swipe the card and generate the printout(s) which s/he gives to you along with your credit card. (Retail shops operate much as they do in the states with credit card swipe machines located at the check-out counter.)

Giving my credit card to a server in an American restaurant might explain my heretofore undefined discomfort as I watch the server disappear with my credit card only to return X minutes later with a print-out to review and sign.

As we grow more concerned about identify theft, it seems like we should have the same wireless credit card machines in the US. – Or, maybe my anxiety is misplaced and I should be more concerned about wireless data transmission and hackers???

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vaison's Tuesday Market

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been back a week. Since we arrived on a Tuesday, that means that today, I get to shop at the Vaison market day.

“Vaison la Romaine has one of the best weekly markets in the Provence and perhaps in France. Its origin goes back to 1483, when Pope Sixtus IV granted a license. In 1532 Pope Clement VII stipulated that the market be held every Tuesday and this is observed to this day… It is one gigantic open air department store, offering everything here, from clothes and shoes to furniture, meat, fish, ham, and sausages, vegetables, fruits, cheese and wine and while you are doing your shopping you won’t need to stay hungry either. This is actually one of the best places to shop for Provençal items, like table linens, earthenware and toiletries. The market is held every Tuesday from 8 AM to around 1 PM in the town proper. Many streets are closed off. Parking is definitely a problem. The trick is to arrive either early (around 8:30 AM) or after 11 AM. If you see a group of Americans expertly shopping for vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, it is probably Patricia Wells and her cooking class.” (Provence Hideaway

I haven’t made a count, but my guess is that there are about a hundred vendors who load up their trucks and leave their homes at 0 dark 30 to get to our village to set up the displays of their wares. The description of an open-air department store (Provence Hideaway) is accurate but doesn’t include music (street musicians as well as music CD vendors), furniture repair, live plants, vendors of fabrics and the notions to sew items. You can get roasted chickens, paella, pizza, oriental dishes, soup and/or crêpes take-away, cookies and nougat, dried sausages (pork, wild boar, with herbs or plain…)

The Tuesday marché is not just a shopping destination, it is a social event. The vendors know their customers and exchange pleasantries/jokes while filling orders. One vendor surprised me when he said “Vous êtes de retour!” (You’ve come back.) I was impressed by his memory. I find it hard to remember my own name when I am not wearing a name tag. The village denizens spend time exchanging local news (and often blocking the traffic) but they (as I) are hoping to see friends and neighbors. French women always dress well but they seem to dress better for the occasion of shopping at the marché.

As my friend Margaret used to say about the Solstice: it only gets better from here. Every week from now until the summer solstice and beyond, the market will grow larger: more vendors, more customers, more gridlock to the point where the locals complain about the success of the Vaison marché day. They ‘doth protest too much methinks’ (Hamlet, III, ii, Shakespeare) Tuesday at the market in Vaison la Romaine is an event everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

At the movies

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been in France for three days now. It was bittersweet leaving the states as we had had a wonderful (hot!) summer, a great garden harvest, we traveled and saw a lot of friends and missed seeing many other friends. Whoever coined the phrase: “So much to do; so little time” had a real insight into life.

We arrived in Vaison la Romaine for the beginning of the Telerama film festival – where one can go to a selection of wonderful films for only 3€ during a 10 day period. Last evening, we saw Amour. Tonight, we saw De Rouille et d’Os (Rust and Bone). Amour is on the short list of best films of 2012. It was amazing but was it better than Lincoln or The Sessions or Flight? (This was a year of some great films in the states as well.)

We have been members of a Westside Neighborhood Movie Group for about 20 years in Lansing. We so like the Westside Neighborhood Movie Group concept of viewing a specific film and then meeting to discuss it that we started a Ciné-Club in Vaison la Romaine. Our Ciné-Club meets less formally and less often and the business of discussing films is conducted in French. Some people in the club struggle to discuss films using the present tense and few adjectives. Others with more proficiency in French can discuss films and provide provocative insights similar to our Westside Neighborhood counterparts.

The Ciné-Club includes people from England, America and France. We did this so that the French presence keeps us “ex-pats” honest and speaking in French. I think that Ellen and I were surprised at how often one can spend a whole day ‘in English’. The English-speaking ex-pat community here is large and welcoming and that makes it easy to slip into an English-speaking ghetto.

We can’t take all of the credit for creating this affiliate of the Westside Neighborhood Movie Group. One day when we were having lunch with our former French teacher, we talked about searching for more opportunities to speak French and she encouraged us to create the Ciné-Club à la Westside Neighborhood Movie Group. Since then, it’s been off to the movies Allons au cinema! I have spoken about Michelle before because I so admire her capacity to figure out teaching a foreign language. She always met the needs of a diverse array of students. – and this was not her major career!

My mother used to say that we met to eat and maybe discuss a movie. I think her observation was correct both in Lansing and in Vaison la Romaine. Et pourquoi pas?