During junior and senior high, I took French in school; much to my dismay, I wasn’t a “natural” at it, despite or because of my mother’s own pronunciation, which frequently differed with my teachers’ Parisian-style “proper” French accents. I found it difficult to feel at ease speaking in class and at home. I found it embarrassing as well, because I was very often one of only two French descent students in French class, and my language gene wasn’t kicking in!
Raised in a home wherein English was spoken and either Pig Latin or French was used only by the adults to conceal subjects that they didn’t want “little ears” to hear, I picked up very few useful words or phrases en francais.
Should I ever find myself on a stranded island or lost in a strange part of the world, knowing how to ask for the salt and pepper or comply with the demanded Open the window (compulsory in a one and a half bath California bungalow without fans) wasn’t going to help me survive the elements. I consoled myself that knowing how to recite the months and days of the week would at least help me keep a diary of sorts until I was rescued. I had also decided that under no circumstances would I request any kind of seafood; the pronunciations and spellings of fish and poison were too close for my comfort zone. With much practice, I concluded that Hello, Please, and Thank you accompanied by endearing smiles could break the ice, at least figuratively.
Translations were absolutely no good for the hilarious jokes my uncle would tell en francais; too often, the expressions and underlying street smarts of the old country could not be correctly translated to American culture or mindset. All the adults sitting around the dining table would be howling! I finally gave up asking What was so funny? The translated punch lines were anything but.
Priests and nuns, however, were favorite topics of ridicule in French culture, and their implied antics survived the French to English transfer extremely well; enough so, that the Church servants became one of my most beloved objects of ridicule. Eventually, as a practicing Protestant, I had to be fair about this and make sure ministers and even rabbis were included on occasion; but in my versions, the priest or nun was always the foiled character.
Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing defective about my beaucoup love- for- good- food- gene…it kicked into overdrive at an early age and has remained. Today, I not only enjoy Mardi Gras, but also partake Lundi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi and most weekends…
C’est la vie…