Best of 2008

As I get things ready for the New Year’s Eve party we’re throwing tonight — a very casual affair, mind you, it’s the only kind we like (or know how) to host — I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to 2008, and remember the good things it has brought.

Besides the release of the French version of my cookbook and the US publication of my new Paris book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris; besides a memorable trip to Western Australia and another to Croatia; besides the birth of the most lovable of dimple-cheeked nephews, the purchase of a spiffy bike, and the demise of my oven, I give you, in no particular order, a few of the things that have marked my year:

Favorite food-related book: Della T. Lutes’ The Country Kitchen, a fantastic gift from Adam, who found a vintage copy of it at Bonnie Slotnick’s store in NYC.
Contenders: Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir The Language of Baklava and Monique Truong’s novel The Book of salt.

Favorite new cake recipe: the flourless poppy seed cake.

Favorite new chocolate: El Ceibo‘s 71% chocolate, produced by a Bolivian coop.
Contenders: Claudio Corallo‘s chocolate with raisins and cocoa pulp in bitter liquor, Poppy‘s “pure bliss” raw chocolate hearts, and Taza‘s 80% bar of stone ground chocolate.

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Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of French idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine.”

Literally translated as, “rolling someone in flour,” it means duping someone, playing a trick on him, or using one’s wits and lies to take advantage of someone who’s a little naive, or not quite as smart as one is.

According to these sources, the expression dates back to the early nineteenth century. Rouler quelqu’un (literally, rouler = to roll) means cheating or swindling somebody, and la farine (flour) symbolizes lies, or misleading arguments, perhaps in relation to the fact that actors then used it as stage makeup. It also adds a notion of ridicule: the gullible victim is somehow responsible for letting himself be fooled so easily.

Example: “A chaque fois, elle lui promettait que ça ne se reproduirait plus, mais tout le monde voyait bien qu’elle le roulait dans la farine.” “She kept promising it wouldn’t happen again, but everyone could see she was rolling him in flour.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Pédaler dans la semoule

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of the French idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Pédaler dans la semoule.”

The literal translation is “pedaling in semolina,” and it means being entangled in a thorny situation, with the added notion that every effort made to get out of it is fruitless, or makes things worse. In short, being confused and overwhelmed, or being in over one’s head.

The image is, I think, clear enough: picture yourself riding a bicycle in a lake of couscous, or grit, and tell us how well you’d do. (It is also used for appliances and devices, computers in particular, when they’re whirring furiously without doing much actual work.)

Note that it is a colloquial expression, to be used in casual conversation only — not in your thesis, nor if you’re having dinner with the French ambassador/ambassadress, though perhaps he/she might think it endearing and fall in love with you. It’s worth a shot.

Example: “Ça fait une heure que j’essaie de résoudre cette équation, et franchement, je pédale dans la semoule.” “I’ve been trying to solve this equation for an hour, and frankly, I’m pedaling in semolina.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

This expression sometimes appears as, “Pédaler dans la choucroute,” or pedaling in sauerkraut, an equally illustrative variation.

Boire du petit-lait

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of French idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Boire du petit-lait” (sometimes appearing as “Boire son petit-lait”).

The literal translation is, “drinking whey” (sometimes appearing as “drinking one’s whey”) and it means basking in praise or flattery, or taking obvious pleasure in a situation that has turned out to one’s advantage.

Example: “Les invités s’accordèrent à dire que c’était la meilleure blanquette qu’ils aient jamais mangée. Derrière son sourire modeste, la maîtresse de maison buvait du petit-lait.” “The guests agreed it was the best veal blanquette they’d ever had; underneath her humble smile, the hostess was drinking whey.”

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The Omnivore’s Hundred

The Omnivore’s Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten (I’ve used icons instead, and added an asterisk for the items I’m particularly fond of).
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

[Update: In response to the numerous questions his list raised, Andrew published an FAQ explaining the how, the why, and the wherefore.]

My list is below; I am missing 37 items, most of which I’d be happy to try if given the opportunity. There are a few that I wouldn’t rush to eat, but none that I couldn’t swallow if someone’s life, honor, and/or feelings were at stake.

And of course, if you don’t have a blog, you can still play along, with a good old pencil and some paper — care to share your results? And/or items you think should be added to, or removed from that list?

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