Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №20/2009

"Cuisine" Is More Than Just a Word...

You probably know that the word “cuisine”, which the English language took from the French, means a special type of food people prepare in a certain country. But have you ever thought how really special it is?..

In French “cuisine” is quite a regular word, meaning the food you cook together with the place in a house where people usually cook. But deep in the French mind this word means much more than just that! And a Russian person can get a little cultural shock comparing the “cuisine” notion in Russia and in France. Let me illustrate it with my own example.

I happened to travel around France several times. It is a gorgeous and majestic country. And it is important to mention that it actually knows very well that it is really gorgeous and majestic! People of France are proud of many things they have: starting with their perfume and haute couture boutiques and finishing with their palaces and Notre-Dame Cathedral. But their cuisine is something very special indeed! And eating is not a trivial process but a soul condition. Well, let us dive together in the mysterious depths of French food and everything that goes with it.

Firstly, I would like to mention that the times the French consume their food differ from traditional Russian meal times. A typical French person can easily wake up and eat... nothing! A cup of black coffee or a glass of juice will do for what they call “petite dejeuner”, meaning “small breakfast”. But at about noon, they take a really good substantial meal, called just “dejeuner”, or “breakfast”. Later they can have lunch, which can happen any time throughout a day and in the evening something that we would call “supper” comes, bringing some meat or fish with plenty of vegetables, cheese and wine.

Dinner Experience

One can read a lot about a certain phenomenon of an alien culture, but to my mind the real understanding of it comes when you happen to live it yourself. So once I was lucky (or not so lucky, after all enough to be present in a typical French family at a typical French dinner. I will tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself whether to envy or to sympathize with me.

Well, it happened in Lyon. It was my French friend’s birthday and guests were expected to come at noon. So as soon as the first guest appeared on the threshold the company sat down at the table and the “holy procedure” started. First we were given some little snack, like mini-pizzas or mini-sandwiches, the size of one-eighth of a plate that were supposed to keep us alive for more than an hour! That was socializing, the time for a small talk – weather, fashion, latest news... So by the time the first “real” dish arrived, I was pretty hungry. But when I was the first to clean my plate down to the last bite my French friends looked somewhat sorry for me. I wondered why they looked like that and they kindly explained that there was so much more coming that they were really sorry I had not left more room in my stomach. I was truly grateful, but it was too late!.. Dishes came and went, came and went, time was slowly passing by. At about 5 o’clock... no, no, no, my dear reader, it was not the tea time that came – uite the contrary, another big dish appeared on the table, like a giant snake, slowly creeping inside. The first part of the dish (which I did not know was the first part) came in the shape of a pretty large bowl, filled with some tasty smelling, thick liquid with beef and mushrooms floating in it. My intuition suggested that it was a portion of soup and fast enough my survival instinct suggested asking for a smaller bowl, since I most surely would not be able to eat it all by myself. But goodness! Hopefully, I held back and did not utter a word, before I learnt it was not soup, but a bowl of sauce for the coming meat dish. Thank God, I was saved. But not for long! It was not the last dish prepared and the parade of plates, bowls, spoons, forks and knives went on and on... Finally, at about 8, dessert time came. Let me stop here for a while and let you guess: what do you think the dessert looked like? Yes, my smart reader, cheese and wine. No cookies or sort of sweet stuff. You probably also are aware of the fact that France is quite famous for its great variety of cheeses, including those really smelly kinds, such as true Camembert or Maroille. The French even joke that before eating Maroille you should first check what direction the wind blows.

Well, towards 9 o’clock in the evening my patience was finally rewarded by the arrival of the long-awaited “real” dessert – the thing I had been waiting for about 6 hours! It was “flan” – a type of a sweet flat cake with cream and some fruit, berries and a mint leaf on top for decoration. By that time my stomach was already truly full, but I just could not miss this sweet wonder!

But you know what is curious? All this lunch-dinner-supper-in-one sitting the French were drinking champagne and of course all those famous sorts of wine of theirs; but among all this abundance of luxurious food and drinks I had a hard time finding a cup of tea! Can you picture that?! They started the birthday celebration quite traditionally with champagne, followed by red wine with meat and white wine with fish and just pure non-sparkling water for desert. So when I uttered a request for a cup of tea (something very typical for us, is not it so?) here is where the true adventure started! Such a trivial request bedazzled my host indeed. They asked me several times to be 100 percent sure that it was really tea that I wanted. (A funny linguistic observation: “tea” in French is written the same way as the definite article in English – “thé” and pronounced as .) As soon as they were sure the bizarre tea-request was truly what I wanted they wracked their brains and gave birth to an idea to warm a cup of water in a microwave and put a tea-bag in it after because... they did not have a teapot in their home! (Honestly, I checked in several other houses – a teapot is not a device the French are in the habit of using!) So after this struggle for a cup of tea I could truly enjoy my French cuisine experiences to the fullest!..

For Curious Minds

These are the words of French origin that came into the English language. Can you match them with their translation?

1. gateaua. неожиданный успех, удача
2. chauffeurb. детские ясли
3. boutiquec. баклажан
4. crèched. печенье
5. duvete. кухня, стол (питание; поваренное искусство)
6. coupf. биде
7. eliteg. водитель
8. aubergineh. пуховое одеяло
9. bideti. небольшой магазин женской одежды, модная лавка
10. cuisinej. элита, отборная часть, цвет (общества и т. п.)

Key: 1. d; 2. g; 3. i; 4. b; 5. h; 6. a; 7. j; 8. c; 9. f; 10. e

By Alyona Pavlova ,
Moscow State University of Printing Arts