It will be a long time before Bill and I speak French well enough that there aren’t pauses between thoughts while we search for words. Luckily, the French seem to be very skilled at filling in the blanks both in real life and in what we see on television. In an effort to increase our knowledge of the language, we watch game shows with the subtitles turned on since that doubles our chances of connecting the words we hear with those same words we see on the screen. In programs with names like Slam, Don’t Forget the Lyrics, and Questions for a Champion, there are dozens of blanks to fill in daily, some of which we’re starting to understand ourselves.
It’s not just on TV where we see this talent demonstrated but also at shops, offices, and especially with our neighbors and new friends with whom we tend to have longer conversations rather than just a quick transaction. A prime example was last Friday night when we were invited to dinner at our neighbors’ home. There were two other couples there and for 4 hours the conversation flowed, pausing only momentarily when Bill and I couldn’t think of the right French word(s) until one of the other guests quickly came to our rescue to fill in the gaps. We felt very welcomed there and learned some new words in the process.
So, what was for dinner? The evening got off to a “bang” with the opening of a bottle of cremant, the local sparkling wine that changed its name to Champagne when it moved north and become even more famous. To accompany the bubbles were sliced sausage, a Moroccan sauce for dipping the fresh radishes and mushrooms, plus roasted chicken pâté on toast points. A tossed green salad then made its way to the table followed by the main course: cassoulet. This regional specialty combines duck, pork sausage, and white beans (sometimes other meats, too) into a rich, thick casserole that bakes for hours, if not for a couple of days. This was the ideal comfort food for a cool and rainy night.
Once our glasses of cremant were empty we switched to local red wine, one of which bore the city’s name. That carried us into the 5-choice cheese course that followed the cassoulet and on towards dessert. We all had a slice each of apple tart, raspberry tart, and berry cake. Coffee and herbal tea made with leaves picked from the garden rounded out the feast. I’m looking forward to our next session of fill in the blanks!