Author of Lion Heart & Alessio: The Victory Ride Series

Goût de France: Excuse My French!

French supermarket

We’ve all heard the rumors that French people hate Americans, but I was determined to prove them wrong. I was told by seasoned travelers that as long as I greeted everyone in France with a friendly “Bonjour!” I’d be golden. And I believed them.

We picked up our rent-a-car in Avignon and headed to the Intermarche grocery store in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. After more than 24 hours of travel by plane, train, and automobile, it was 2 pm France—2 am Hawaii time. Jet-lagged to the max and longing for a comfy bed, it was also time to work my best French. I mean, how hard can it be? I did my lessons, listened to my audios. I knew the basics. Yeah right! It’s amazing how confident I’d felt with my husband and friends, learning basic French phrases on our home-turf. But in the heat of the moment— tired, starving, having to pee, and being in a foreign country–I got stage fright.

French bathroom

As soon as I revealed my American accent while asking for the toilette, I got a glare down the schnauze and a flick of the thumb pointing somewhere that way. So after three failed attempts, receiving the same reaction from three separate employees, my friend and I zipped circles aimlessly around the market about four times. We finally found the toilettes hidden in the back of the store.

How Not to Order Fromage in France

French Market

I’m still not sure how this happened, but I was nominated by my travel companions to order cheese from the Fromage counter by myself while they went to find meat at the Charcuterie. Waiting patiently while the lovely French woman behind the counter filled an order, I admired her clear olive-colored skin and long, dark corkscrew curls. I couldn’t help but smile listening to her speak French with another customer. It sounded so beautiful and super fast.

My mind wandered and I thought how cool it would be to have a friend like her in France. Maybe we’d do a house swap one day. . .

When I heard them say, “Avoir!” I was up. I took a deep breath, smiled brightly, and with all the Frenchness I had in me said “Bonjour!!” way louder than I’d anticipated, followed by a pitifully mumbled, “Parlez-vous anglais?” Surely she’d find me cute, I thought, seeing the nervous excitement on my face or at least give me an A for effort.

French Woman

Not even close. Instead, she shrugged her shoulders and with an intimidating smirk replied, “Non. Not much. “and continued busying herself behind the counter.

Excuse my French

I knew I should’ve ordered that Rosetta Stone.

Seeing I wasn’t leaving till I got some cheese, she kept her eyes down and raised her eyebrows like I was wasting her time. She added, “I guess we can try, and I’ll see what I can do.”

Hmph! Sounded like pretty good English to me!

Rather than point rudely at the cheese, I mustered a smile to disguise my hurt feelings and asked what she recommended, thinking this might soften her. Bad move.

She snipped in her thick French accent, “I do not understand what you are saying.”

Clearly I wasn’t in The Land of Aloha anymore. And clearly the Fromage Ice Queen wasn’t interested in house swapping with me anytime soon.

Doing my best not to anger her more, I quickly read the signs and blurted, “Chevre,” then in my state of panic resorted to pointing at small rounds of goat cheese, some Gouda, and Brie. They were the only ones I recognized and I was overwhelmed by the myriad of choices.

French Cheese

“What kind? How much?” she asked, coldly.

Like an idiot, I made a hand motion indicating a small amount. She just glared at me, making me feel like a total loser.

Dizzy from exhaustion and verging on tears, I looked around praying my friends would bail me out. Finally I saw them and frantically waved them over. As soon as Frenchie spied Chap and Link (our men) she freakishly changed her tone and turned into a smitten kitten-smiling, laughing, batting her lashes, and handing over the cheese. What’s up with that?

While we were walking away from the counter my husband said, “She seemed nice.”

I rolled my eyes. Whatever. Mission accomplished.

My Intermarche experience may have left a sour taste in my mouth, but it’s nothing that my sweet and savory, cheese inspired galettes can’t cure. Next time you need a pick-me-up after a challenging day, one of my comforting galettes will be sure to put the smile back on your face!

Related Links

Gouda with Caramelized Onion, Fennel, and Apple Sausage Galette
Brie and Apple Galette
Gruyere, Prosciutto, and Poppy Seed Galette
Goat Cheese, Fig, and Prosciutto Galette

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

One Response to “ Goût de France: Excuse My French! ”

  1. www.meganjoychapman.com» Blog Archive » Goût de France: My First French Kiss and Vintage Villa Says:

    […] Astrid led us in through the dining room entrance just off the kitchen and poured us each a glass of crisp Rosé . Alcohol was the last thing I needed to add to my jet-lag and hunger, but I’d heard that turning down food or drink from the French could be direly detrimental. And I wasn’t about to get off on the wrong foot with Astrid, especially after my altercation with the fromage coguette at the Intermarche supermarket. […]

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