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Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

1 mars 2003

In search of what’s-its-name?
A la recherche du micocoulier perdu?

Another Friday, another road trip, this time back up north in search of Tricastin wines. It’s beyond me why we keep heading north rather than south during these colder winter months. For example, just a few Sundays ago, we drove up into the Drôme for lunch with the intention of buying some delicious red wine at a cave coopérative and ended up in the middle of a snowstorm. Lesson learned? Cherchez le vin, but watch the weather forecast! (Click here for details...)

     Nonetheless a few days later we headed north again toward the area of the Tricastin Côtes du Rhône villages, stopping for a delicious lunch in Uchaux at Côté Sud. (An aside: one of us had the most incredible entree of baby frogs’ legs and escargots served tempura style…régale!) Our ultimate goal was to find the Domaine du Vieux Micocoulier, a wine we’d bought in the States and read about in Le Petit Futé’s Guide to Great Wines Under 8 Euros. We knew that a micocoulier (mee-ko-koo-lee-ay) was a tree, but we couldn’t figure out what kind and hoped to solve that mystery on this day. At lunch we were even able to order a bottle, but our host’s reply to our question was: “I know it’s a tree, but anything beyond that...don’t ask!” Hmmm…


DalCJoe.jpg (114050 bytes)
Cherchez le vin,
but watch the weather forecast!


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Amidst the endless lavender fields of the Tricastin region

Mico2.jpg (135785 bytes)     Mico1.jpg (140993 bytes)
a simple entrance but a warm and welcoming visit at the
Domaine du Vieux Micocoulier, with M. Vergobbe serving.

      Back on the road we went, further north, past St-Paul-les-Trois-Châteaux, nearly to Montélimar, just outside the little town of Les Granges-Gotardes. There, amidst the lavender fields and vineyards, sits the inauspicious Domaine du Vieux Micocoulier. Within the cave presides M. Vergobbe, the winemaker himself, and he was most gracious and seemed pleased to see us, serving tastes of his 1996, 1998, and1999 crus. Each was lovely, but we opted for a couple of bottles of the ’98 and ’99. We spoke of the weather, the international situation, and of course the wine. What, we asked, is a micocoulier? A tree, he replied. “There used to be a beautiful one in the courtyard, but it came down in the great storm of ’98. Lovely tree, very big, désolé to have lost it,” but he wasn’t able to help us with its name in English. Tant pis, we still like the wine!
     As a matter of fact, an extensive search later revealed that a micocoulier is a nettle tree in England, a hackberry tree in the southern United States. Sounds much better in French, doesn’t it? At least that mystery is solved…on to bigger things, like what’s for lunch this coming Friday?


Only in France…
Ça, c’est français…

The French have petitioned the Pope; they have been maligned; they’re looking for absolution...no, make that redemption. What great sin has been committed? One of the seven deadliest, gourmandise, gluttony in English.
     In the midst of recent transatlantic barb-tossing, it’s nice to have something a little less threatening set out on the table. Just this past month, in an audience before the Pope, representatives of De La Question Gourmande (a lively group of chefs, writers and other French bon vivants) requested the word gourmandise be removed from the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. The French word implies a warm-hearted, appreciative and loving approach to good food, as opposed to the English connotation of gluttony as overindulgence and reproachful eating. The words are not the same, say the French, and the fact that there is no proper translation for gourmandise is only a reflection of the sad state of English food and eating. The French word for gluttony is gloutonnerie… as the sin should be called.
     The Pope is listening, the group is hopeful, but the decision is yet to be made. Meanwhile, the French are taking a typical approach to this situation. The Académie Française will evaluate whether or not gourmandise violates the terms of the its strict definition. The Academicians, over an non-specified period of time, inspect every word in the French dictionary, but they must proceed in a logical, alphabetical manner. Unfortunately, they’re now on the letter M and won’t come back around to the Gs until sometime in the future…unclear as to a final date, but no further action will be taken until the inspectors have finished their work and delivered their final report. We anxiously await the council’s decision…

 

 

 

Gourmandise? Glouttonnerie?
The Académie Française is expected to
 rule on it sometime during this century.

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Meanwhile, let's take it to the Pope! 

 





Bread goes on the table...
hands above the table.


On the table…under the table
Sur la table…sous la table

Bread goes on the table. In front of you. Next to your plate of food. In France, that’s the way. Only the fanciest restaurants set the table with plates for bread. Everywhere else – restaurants, brasseries, cafes, cafeterias, your friends’ houses – put your bread on the table in front of you. It’s simple, unpretentious, earthy, and goes right along with rigorously perfect manners.
     Attention!” a French friend warned us recently. “It’s the kind of restaurant that puts out plates for bread!” Not a bad thing, necessarily, but surely a sign of high prices, très cher, a meaningful rubbing together of the thumb and fingers.
     Take a chunk of bread. Break off a morceau and eat it. Put the rest of the chunk on the table. Not on your plate…and don’t look for a bread plate. You’re in France.
     By the way, elbows off the table but hands above the table is the French rule…probably left over from more difficult times when weapons could be concealed under the table. Ah yes, tradition lives on here in France. You can always tell the non-French with their hands politely folded in their laps – under the table.

 


Art movement in Paris
Transport d'art à Paris

Art is on the move in Paris, with more than 100,000 paintings, statues, books and other valuable objects on their way to higher ground. The Ministry of Culture has decided that threats of the Seine river flooding are all too real and they want to safeguard this precious artwork, most of which is in lower level storage at the moment.
     Why now? Partly because of the Prague and Dresden floods in Central Europe last summer, which caused massive damage. But also, in spite of the French government's promise of 72 hours warning of any flood, memories of disasters past, particularly the Seine's 28-foot flood level in 1910, send shivers up the spine of these treasures' guardians.
     The Musée d'Orsay is particularly vulnerable. During the 1910 flood, the Gare d'Orsay (it was a train station in those days) was completely submerged. Also under watch is the Louvre's lower level which houses the archives, laboratories, workshops, and, of course, the reception area under the Pei pyramid. The archives will be moved permanently to the Chateau at Versailles.
    So the moving work has begun, at a cost of 6 million euros. Deadline to accomplish this feat is April 7. Everyone has fingers crossed that the flood waters hold back at least until then.

Orsay2.jpg (237897 bytes)

The Musée d'Orsay is most vulnerable
to flooding of the Seine.

 

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