I've learned a new French vocabulary word. One I really love and have given quite a bit of thought to during the past 24-48 hours. It has to do with food, of course, and is very interesting. Le péché-mignon. It is a masculine noun. Its literal meaning is "cute sin." It's figurative meaning, however, is guilty pleasure. I discovered it as I was contemplating gourmande and gourmandise. Recently, a Frenchie described me as greedy, an expression I've always associated with money. Mais non! It was being used as the translation for une gourmande. I looked that up in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and discovered that its English meaning is "one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking." Bingo! That's me. Gourmandise in English is "appreciation of or interest in good food and drink." Once again, c'est moi! The French can say all of that with just one word. How clever of them. What a great language.
So, while thinking about my own personal péché-mignon (how on earth can one even begin to choose when there are sooo many yummy things to eat and drink?), I decided to conduct a little unscientific research. I emailed some folks who I know love to eat and/or drink. People answer back fast when you ask about food. Much more interesting than some questions you could ask, right?
Here are the responses--
From Jeremy (a 16 year old chef-- check out his webpage): goat cheese
I snapped this photo of him last summer while he was sampling chèvre at Elodie Farms.
BK, a science teacher buddy, answered dark chocolate with raspberries. She got a bar of her very own from Foster's Market (she proofreads my progress reports and deserves much more than that). It was a Lake Champlain Raspberry Truffle Filled Dark Chocolate bar. She said she ate the whole thing in one sitting- well, who wouldn't? No one I am friends with would be able to resist!
My sister, Moo: chocolate ice cream, banana pudding with strawberries -- sorry, this one has no berries in it... love you more, moo-moo
Salamanzar: hamburger (not sure he is really telling me the truth...) Would it be an OnlyBurger Breakfast burger... fried green tomato, fried egg, pimiento cheese...? When will you give me the real response??
Timmy D: freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (he used to make them for us at school for our first faculty meeting of the year... the good old days really were good)
Tammy, Queen of AZ: mimosas made with OJ or guava with pink champagne-- oh là là (they drink those out there? You sure you're not a Southern girl??)
Un-ex: grilled seafood, good bread, beer on a hot day, red wine on a slow day. Here's his hot day treat- taken at the Durham Bulls Park last summer...)
Arles Lucy: strawberries dipped in dark chocolate -- ahhh! And it's strawberry season in NC. Get yourself to the Durham Farmers's Market, honey! I promise not to embarrass you... ok, no promises, but I'll do my best.
BFF: (she could not make up her mind... she emailed me back multiple times and kept adding to the list) cheese and bread, pomegranate martinis, mushroom risotto, the pesto we had in Italy (she said she would WALK back for that-- and yes, it WAS really that good!); newsflash-- she is sitting here dictating! "Oh, add this-- Chef Érick's homemade confiture (yes, she actually knows a French word and can pronounce it properly...) jam, and fresh bread from Leblanc's bakery in Arles." "Anything else you want to add?" I asked. "OH! And that stir fry stuff he made the first night I was in Arles. Ok, I'll try to stop." Promises, promises. **(a few days after the original post...) We saw poundcake yesterday and she told me that I HAD to add that to her list. She wouldn't be a good Southern girl if she didn't love that?? I do, too!
Signora: she couldn't make up her mind either! I'll just go with the first two she listed... freshly baked bread, Italian ratatouille (I have to ask her about that- what's the difference?)
DD: dark beer (he went to England with his new bride just so he could hit the pubs...)
AT: WINE (yes, she capitalized the letters)
Chef Do: stinky cheese, bread, wine (we've have shared quite a bit of that in the past few years- here in NC and in Arles and here's to many more!!)
Señor: fruit tart- how's this one?? Elle est très belle, n'est-ce pas?
Or maybe this one...
Lucy2: bread-- who could just eat one??
JMG: fresh summer fruit and good bread and butter (from the bakery at Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough)
Julien: (he is a bit conflicted... professes to love animals, hates to see them suffer, but...) northern Rhône Saint Joseph Red and fatty duck. I have absolutely no conflict at all.. I love duck.)
High school-age son: lasagna (his mama's, of course!!)
College age-son: Bojangle's sweet tea and their french fries (hope he lands a job where there is a Bo's)
Lyndola: dark chocolate with anything!! How about these treats made at Heron's?
Ann Prospero: dark chocolate mousse or cake (this is one was made by the pastry chef, Daniel Benjamin, at Heron's, one of the restaurants featured in your book!)
High school-age son's baseball coach: frozen chocolate chip cookies-- huh?? the dough or the cookies?
Brad: still hasn't gotten back to me. Hmmm... not sure what to make of this?
Arles Betty: brie and crusty bread
This bread was made for me by one of my 8th grade boys... I am so proud!! His dad took a bread-making class through Durham Academy's Academy Nights classes. They gave me the notes and the recipes. I am not sure I could ever make bread as good as this. I hid half of a baguette from my family so that I could take it for my own lunch- with butter and gruyère cheese...
(the BFF is now drooling... understandable, but not attractive- she should be glad I don't have my camera)
Pat, my favorite boyfriend: ristotto-- oh mon dieu (his risotto recipe will follow soon)-- he is an excellent chef and I love him... I really do; he calls me Melanie
Pat's lovely bride: dark chocolate (do we see a theme here with les belles dames?) Here is one of Dolly Mama's turtles...
I did ask some of my students, to round out the survey--
Milk chocolate was a big winner with the boys- quelle surprise, hein?
La mère Catherine-- vanilla macarons (PB Carol is soooo proud of you! Et moi, aussi!) I promise I will try again to make them for your class.
Cécile: spaghetti-type pasta with grilled chicken and tomato sauce with cheese on the top-- she is Italian and has very refined taste!!
The best response I received was from my biology prof friend at Ole Miss. He is a member of the Arles 6. I quote: "Crusty end of a fresh-baked loaf of bread. If with cheese... all the better. But it isn't a guilty pleasure. I feel guilty about eating crappy food (succumbing to the afternoon munchies by eating a sweaty glazed donut that has been sitting in the mailroom since 8am!)."
Many, many thanks to all who answered. I love all of you. I am a lucky woman to have so many wonderful friends. Here's to the top vote getter-- French bread and cheese. Even better when paired with a nice Côtes du Rhône red.
Mon péché-mignon, you ask? Simple really. I have to admit that I craque (I am learning some slang, my dears, or at least I am trying) for cold, dry, French champagne, my first photo, and, although I really do not have it very often, I love it because it is so good, but also because I associate it with celebrations-- birthdays, anniversaries, meeting someone for the first time, coming home after six glorious months in France... champagne is what we need at important occasions. This champagne, Canard-Duchêne, was consumed during my sabbatical in France. In November 2008, my dear friend Ghislaine and I spent a glorious fall weekend in Champagne. The first champagne house we visited was Canard-Duchêne. We had a personalized tour of the cellars and tasted their blancs de blancs. I was in love with champagne before that, but after that tour and visit, I was enthralled. By the whole region and the experience. Ghislaine and I got lost, looking for a certain champagne cellar. The result? We ended up driving through the vineyards as the sun was just beginning to think of setting...
and, just as it is with most of the things that happen to us, we stumbled upon Canard-Duchêne. I will love it forever.
Bon appétit, tous mes amis! Et à tous les péchés-mignons. They add excitement to our lives.