My husband is fond of quoting an astute observation from Nicole, who is French teacher to us all: “Americans can’t talk about sex, and the French can’t talk about money.” In France it is quite impolite to talk about income, your investments, or even your career unless you know the person well. Ostentatious displays of wealth are seen as très gauche. Sex, however, may be more freely discussed. Photo left: Spotted at a French flea market, I believe this is an old-fashioned chamber pot, but with a festive theme.
So today, we WILL talk about sex, in honor of Valentine's Day this month. Or rather, we will talk about how the French talk about sex.
This post was inspired by an article in the Local (an e-zine for French expats, in English), called French Expressions for Sex you Won’t Find in Your Dictionary. As you might guess, many are quite amusing.
You will not be surprised to learn that many of the French “sexpressions” revolve around food. Hey, let’s dip the biscuit, Baby! That’s tremper le biscuit, in French. Well anyway the Local translated it as ‘dip the biscuit’; a more correct translation is to 'dunk the cookie', but that doesn’t rise up to the same level of nuance.
I tried to think of some American expressions for sex that involve food. Mae West’s famous comment leaps into the mind: “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”.
I asked my expat friends in France to offer up some sexpressions from their native tongues. Some of what they sent is of questionable appropriateness to be printed here (including a photo, sent by a Dutch friend, of a woman who has incorporated condoms into her hairstyle. Don’t ask). But one you should know about, in the faux amis category, if you go to England: If you ask a Brit if they’d like to shag, you will be talking about a dance, but they will be thinking of something more, ahem, intimate.
Vive l’amour, and happy (belated) Valentine’s Day!
RECIPE: Better-Than-Sex Chocolate Cake, from Julia Child
This is a nearly flourless chocolate almond cake which I’ve been making sort of forever (Madame Child calls it Gâteau Reine de Saba). It’s from her first cookbook. It’s lighter than most flourless chocolate cakes and has that lovely hint of almond. The top often cracks; doesn't matter, it's still the best chocolate cake ever. The only tricky part of the recipe is the baking. You have to take it out at just the right time, so check carefully. You could frost it, but to me it needs no adornment except perhaps a dollop of whipped cream. Photo left by Justine Bursoni.
4 oz. (110 gr) semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons espresso, brandy, or rum
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
3 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup almonds (add to blender with 2 tablespoons of sugar and blend until finely
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set the oven rack in lower middle level. Butter and flour an 8” cake pan.
In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate in the coffee or liquor. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter. When soft and fluffy, add sugar and beat 1 minute. Beat in egg yolks until well blended.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in cream of tartar and salt and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff, shiny peaks are formed. Blend melted chocolate mixture into yolk mixture, then add almonds and almond extract.
Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift a third of the flour over it, and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
Turn batter into prepared pan, tilting it to get it evenly distributed. Bake 25 minutes but start checking at 20.
Cake is done when puffed to the top and a toothpick inserted 2 to 3 inches from edge comes out clean. The center should move slightly when the pan is gently shaken.
Remove pan to a rack and let cool 15 minutes. Unmold onto rack. Let cool 2 hours before storing. To serve garnish with berries, almonds, whipped cream, or powdered sugar.
In the COMMENTS: Frank, I love the Camenbert story! And see what Ralphe, who is French, has to say about cutting cheese.
Favorite Reads: If you haven’t been reading The Local, my dear Francophiles, you are missing out. It is France's news in English, plus lots of features for expats. Another good one, in a similar vein, is The Connexion.
My friend Sandi, an avid reader, kindly sent me a list of some interesting books she's dipping in to, and several have a French theme. Here are some to try: Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered, by Trudi Kanter; Paris Was Ours: Writers Reflect on the City of Light, by Penelope Rowlands; and True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris, by Lucinda Holdforth. Maybe some of you have read them, and can offer a review?