Last week, I interviewed our friend Chiama, who runs une pâtisserie (pastry/cake shop) out of her home in Northern Virginia. Her pâtisserie, Pastry_shayshay, has some of the most delicious pastries we at French in DC have ever tasted, and we are excited to share Chiama’s interview with you.
French in DC: How recently did you start Pastry_shayshay?
Chiama: I started it pretty recently actually, and I was doing well before the outbreak hit. Despite challenges, I really enjoy what I do, and I love sharing my passion for French baking with clients.
French in DC: What sort of pastries do you make?
Chiama: We make lots of cakes, pies, macaroons, mousse, brioche, and all kinds of delicious treats. We only prepare authentic French desserts, so you can be sure that you have a real taste of France when you taste our pastries.
French in DC: How long ago did you come to the United States, and what region of France are you from?
I came here about a year ago, and I am originally from Montpellier. (Montpellier is a town found in the South of France, close to the Mediterranean Sea).
French in DC: What did you do for a living when you were in France?
Chiama: I worked in a boulangerie (a bakery that specializes in bread) for about 5 years in Montpellier.
French in DC: What are your favorite desserts to prepare at Pastry_shayshay?
Chiama: I would say chocolat fondant (molten chocolate cake) and a pie with strawberry cream.
French in DC: What is one thing you would like your customers to know about Pastry shayshay?
Chiama: I would like them to know that I want them to be able to discover French pastries, and learn about different flavors and textures. If I can make them discover something that they have never tried before, and they find something that they like, I’ll be very happy!
Don’t these words sound very similar to French words like Bonjour, Comment ça va, and Bonsoir ?
That’s because they are! Did you know that 80-90% of words in French have a very similar equivalent in Italian? That’s not to say they are the same word…just very close when it comes to spelling.
For example, the word for strawberry in French/Italian follows:
French: une fraise
Italian: una fragola
See how they’re not the same, but very close? We encourage our readers and students to study French (Bien sûr!) but also to recognize connections between French and other languages. It also has similar roots with other Latin languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese.
What do you think? Do you make connections between French and another language? Let us know in the comments below.
Il faut continuer à apprendre! (It is necessary to keep learning!)
Yesterday I was speaking to one of my dear friends from France. We had a nice, long discussion about art/artists from our respective countries.
I introduced him to some paintings by Norman Rockwell; he in turn spoke about Monet and Cézanne. We then got to the subject of photography, and that’s where things really started to get interesting.
He mentioned the work of Robert Doisneau, a French photographer known for his photos taken after World War II, or après-guerre. One in particular caught my eye-one of a group of energetic children in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I was struck by their positivity, their innocence, their vitality, and their overall joie de vivre. I thought, if these children can be so optimistic, after facing such adversity, we can do the same.
I thought about the joy that will arrive after we overcome this pandemic, one of sorrow, anxiety, and uncertainty. I am confident we will have the same amount of bonheur as these rambunctious youths.
I have a few magnifique ideas for you, while you’re trying to keep up your French and stay healthy at home. I know it can be hard, but with the right people and the right activities, you can pass the time with ease.
One of my favorite memories while living in France came from playing Scrabble (in French, of course). It certainly was a challenge, but one I enjoyed a great deal. Not only are your vocabulary skills enhanced; you get to spend time learning with loved ones.
Before having to go on lockdown, my assistant Kate and I had the chance to play Scrabble in French…look at the picture and see how many words you understand!
Stay tuned for ideas for kids…did you know there’s a version of Operation in French?
Lately, there has been a great deal of uncertainty in the United States, in France, and in the entire rest of the world. In times like these, I am reminded of one of my favorite expressions in French, “Gardez la pêche!”
Now, let’s break this down a bit.
garder la pêche
familier (physically or emotionally)
look after oneself
Above is the definition of this expression from WordReference-a great site to use when studying French.
For those of you who have studied French, you might ask yourself, “How did they come up with this expression…”garder” means “to keep”, and “pêche” means “peach”…so am I being told to ‘keep the peach'”?
Short answer: Yes and No.
While the origins of this phrase are not clear, the important thing to remember is that it’s always important to keep you chin up, to be hopeful, to keep smiling, and to remain positive.
So, tonight and every night, I ask everyone to “gardez la pêche”.
In November of last year, my assistant Kate had the chance to sit down with Rick, one of my cherished students. She conducted an interview with him to get his insights on the French language, taking lessons with me, and what they have done for him personally and professionally.
When did you first become interested in French?
I first became interested in the French language when I was a student at the University of Minnesota in 1960. I was part of a Humanities program while I was there, and it struck me how French is such a language of learning and culture. So many giants of diplomacy, education, and culture were French or spoke French, so I was inspired to learn more about Francophone culture.
Did you have any personal connection to the culture/language before taking lessons? (For example, a relative who lives in a francophone country, a fond memory traveling, etc.)
Honestly, no I did not.
Do you use French for your job? Everyday life?
I do, in fact. I work in a hardware store in DuPont Circle. There are a handful of French-speaking customers that I regularly converse with. One regular customer is from Lyon, France, and there is a couple that regularly comes to the store from Lucerne, Switzerland. While they are fluent in English, it is easier for us to communicate in French. I love that I get to use French in a professional environment.
What is it you like most about the French language? Do you find it to be a challenge? If so, how did you overcome it?
What I love most about the French language are the colorful
expressions. I also love how words can have several different meanings.
Although it adds to the difficulty, it makes learning a great deal more
stimulating. Another thing I like about French is that often, there are not any
direct translations from English to French. You really have to think about it;
it’s a fantastic learning exercise.
You better believe it was a challenge! You have to keep in mind that in French, you can say something that is technically correct, but not the way it’s said in everyday life. For example, when I was at Oxford, I had a professor ask me what happened that day. He asked me, “Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé aujourd’hui?” (What is it that happened today?). This is correctly formulated, but too formal for everyday life. Typically, a native French speaker will just ask, “Ça va?” (It goes?) Much simpler!
How did you discover French in D.C.? (Recommendation, advertisement, social media, etc.?)
I did a quick Google search, and Melissa’s website (www.frenchindc.com) was one of the first results.
What teaching method helped you the most to retain your French language skills?
Definitely conversation. It makes one reflect. You have to form sentences, questions, and get up close and personal with the person you’re speaking with. When I take lessons with Melissa, half of our work is writing and translating, and the other half is conversation practice.
Tell me about your favorite memory/anecdote that came from speaking French.
The thrill of being able to ask the postman ask how to send a letter in French while in Paris! I also remember being in Perpignan, and asking someone for directions without a word of English. These were some big milestones for me, and I still think about these stories to this day. I also remember being in Saguenay (Quebec) and meeting several university students. They tried speaking with me in English, but I simply responded, “Je parle français” (I speak French). What a look of relief they had on their faces. I was so glad that I could connect with the students on a much more personal level, in their native language. In fact, the province of Quebec is so close to my heart, Melissa nicknamed me “Quebec Rick.”
How has Melissa and her French courses helped you in your personal development?
Learning French has done wonders for my memory. I don’t have to
think about where I left my belongings, or write down reminders like I used to.
Lessons with Melissa are so enjoyable. She teaches students of all ages, and she has a gift for tailoring course material to different levels.
What advice would you give to someone interested in learning French?
Talk to Melissa! She has a real gift for teaching. When people ask me about her, I always say the same thing: I signed up for 5 lessons, and I ended up staying her student for 5 years.
This week, I thought that I would share something that recently dawned on me, for a second time. I used to live in France, so I am familiar with not only the French language, but also the traditions and customs. I thought about how many of the people I met during my time in France shared the same interests that I did, and how we had more in common than I would have originally thought. This realization was reinforced this week when I looked at some drawings done by my assistant, Kate. She also used to live in France, and she once received an adult coloring book as a gift. The theme is Disney, and the book is appropriately named “trompe-l’œil”, which translates in English to “optical illusion.”
The way it works is the artist begins drawing a certain image, which they think is one Disney Character in particular. However, upon filling in all the colors, you realize that the drawing is of a different character entirely. For example, you start with an outline of Tinkerbell (La Fée Clochette in French) and you end up with Alice in Wonderland (Alice au Pays des Merveilles) This is not only an enjoyable and relaxing activity; it shows how those in other places profit from the same things we do. It turns out that a love of art and Disney is universal.
Today is “La Chandleur”. This holiday dedicated to eating crêpes takes place on February 2nd every year. Not everyone in France celebrates La Chandleur (which I don’t really understand; who would want to miss out on an excuse to eat crêpes? ) La Chandleur has its origins in the Roman festival “Lupercales” when as part of their celebration the Romans ate (you guessed it!) crêpes! For a great article on La Chandleur’s history and relationship to Groundhog Day go to http://french.about.com/od/culture/a/chandeleur.htm?r=et
Meanwhile, here is my recipe for crêpes:
One cup of flour
Two cups of milk
A half cup of sugar
A teaspoon of vanilla
Mix these ingredients together and refrigerate them for at least a half hour (The batter will last for days in the refrigerator if you don’t finish it all right away). Place a (large!) pat of butter in a small saucepan and heat until the butter melts. Pour about half a ladle of batter into the bottom of the saucepan. Swirl the saucepan so that the batter covers the bottom evenly. Cook over medium heat until small bubbles start to form beneath the crêpe. Lightly separate the edges of the crêpe from the sides of the saucepan with the spatula, flip the crêpe and cook other the other side. Please note: This sounds complicated but in fact is extremely simple. The measurements are approximate and it is easy to tell when the bottom side of the crêpe is cooked. The first few times you flip your crêpes you might want to do so in the pan with your spatula, but even flipping crêpes in the air is not difficult. The secret to that is using lots and lots of butter so that the crêpes won’t stick to the pan. Bon appétit et Joyeuse Chandleur!