1 mars 2003
search of what’s-its-name?
A la recherche du micocoulier
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…
Cherchez le vin,
but watch the weather forecast!
Amidst the endless lavender
fields of the Tricastin region
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!
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
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
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.
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
The Académie Française is expected to
rule on it sometime during this century.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
d'Orsay is most vulnerable
to flooding of the Seine.
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