Monthly Archives: December 2015

French Words: Boui-Boui

December 29, 2015

French Words: Boui-Boui | modernfrenchblog.com

Two years ago the French family was here for the holidays. We spent our days fixing up the house (because that’s what family is for) and our nights enjoying delicious meals that ran on for hours (because that’s what French family is for).

My French was pretty minimal at that point so I spent most my time listening intently and trying to make sense of it all. One word kept popping up so I finally asked what it meant.

Boui-boui is slang for a little place that could be anything from a tiny shop or restaurant to a small café or bar. Though the French use the adjective petit like it’s going out of style, I’ve almost always heard these two paired together (i.e. un petit boui-boui).

The word boui comes from a dialect in the Bresse region and refers to small structure that houses ducks and geese. Some online sources specifically describe it as a place that is inexpensive and mediocre. Think dive bar or a greasy diner.

The best part about boui-boui is the way it is pronounced. You say bwee-bwee with little-to-no pause between the first bwee and the second. It kind of sounds like baby talk, which is what makes it so darn cute and probably why it’s one of my favorite French words ever.

How to Pack for France in the Winter

December 15, 2015

How to Pack for France in the Winter | modernfrenchblog.com

The first time we went to the France in the winter I made a rookie mistake and didn’t pack very well. In my own defense, I’m Californian and was totally unaware of what a real winter entails. With only a thin coat, no knowledge of layering, and boots that had me slipping all over the ice, I was freezing and uncomfortable. That is, until my mother-in-law came to the rescue and clothed me in all of Arnaud’s old winter clothes. While I wasn’t exactly the picture of chic, I was finally warm and that was all that mattered.

Cut to a couple of years later: Winter was coming and we were planning another trip to France. Since I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, I did a ridiculous amount of online research and crazy girl list making. I even took notes during the trip on what was necessary and what I had missed. So, below are the fruits of my OCD labor: A list of things that will allow you to weather the elements while also looking pretty and put-together.

Row 1
Button-Up Shirt: Wearing a button-up makes you feel instantly polished, especially when you tuck only the front part of your shirt in à la Emmanuelle Alt.
Striped Tee: Of course, you can’t go to France without a striped tee. Feel free to accessorize with a beret and baguette under your arm.
Long-sleeve Tees: Great for wearing alone or layering under the sweater or button-up for extra warmth. I picked up these Supima cotton tees at Uniqlo in black and white (of course).

Row 2
Pea Coat: A classic and (most importantly) warm winter coat. This wool pea coat makes a casual outfit more pulled-together but also goes well with your dressier outfits.
Wool Sweater: Chic but functional aka everything I want in a piece of clothing. I swear by the Tippi and Tilly sweaters from J Crew in merino wool.
Silk Blouse: The French are known for classic pieces in understated colors and luxurious fabrics. So, pick up a silk blouse from Everlane, Cuyana, or Equipment in a neutral color and you’ll fit right in.
Wool Skirt: This skirt is another J Crew find (long live Jenna Lyons!). Pair it with any of the tops and be sure to wear those black tights underneath.

Row 3
Shift Dress: Another piece that easily transitions from day to night depending on your accessories. Case in point, I wore this while walking around a cobblestone city and then later on at a wedding.
Skinny Jeans: Black denim and dark denim. I wear them all the time in regular life and wore them just as much in travel life. Essential!
Structured Purse: I like my purses structured, lady-like, and on the small to medium size. Be wary of taking a big purse. They get heavy really quick, which could make the straps cut into your shoulder. Ouch.
Ultra Thin Jacket: The best winter advice I ever received was to pick up one of these from Uniqlo. It easily fits underneath a coat and is so incredibly warm. Plus, it packs up into it’s own little pouch!
iPhone: Probably one of the most important things on this list for reasons I don’t really have to explain. Download some fun wallpaper for your iPhone for free like this “Oh la la” one from ban.do.

Row 4
Toiletry Bag: Stock up on small versions of everything at Target or pour your favorites into little bottles. You can also stash your make-up here or put it in a Ziploc bag in your purse for the flight.
Simple Jewelry: Leave the diamonds at home and take a few simple pieces. One pair of earrings, a hefty watch, and a delicate silver bangle worked well for me.
Cashmere Scarf: Something nice and warm to wrap around your neck or use as a blanket when you are traveling. I suggest a light gray, beige, or something colorful to contrast with all that navy and black.
Mini Steamer: How did I not know about this magical little device before? My Little Steamer (available on Amazon or at Bed Bath and Beyond) is a total lifesaver. Au revoir wrinkles!

Row 5
Bras & Underwear: Pack two bras (in black and nude) and enough undies to last you halfway through the trip (so seven pairs for two-weeks). I love these lacey thongs because they are
très sexy and don’t take up a lot of room in the suitcase.
Flat Boots: Have you ever walked to the Eiffel Tower in excruciating pain because you were wearing high heel boots? I sure have and after that one experience, never again! I got this pair of flat boots from Lacoste (10 French points for me, wee!), but there are Chelsea boots everywhere this season that are just as cute.
Ballet Flats: Again, flats are a French girl’s best friend. I wore these for dressier occasions (like a fancy dinner or with the black dress for the wedding) and reserved the flat boots for days full of walking.

Not Pictured
Pajamas: I won’t judge you for wearing a slubby tee and yoga pants (because that’s what I do). But one day I will buy a pretty pajama set that screams chic AND sleep.
Beanie & Leather Gloves: Two essential items that keep you warm and can easily be stashed in your purse if you don’t need them. Win win!
Tights: Wear the tights under the skirt or dress and if it gets cold enough you can wear them under your jeans. My favorite is a black matte pair by Hue, but all zee French girls were wearing black tights that were semi see-through.
Socks: Don’t forget a variety of socks in (you guessed it) black. I pack the same number of pairs of socks as I do undies and then wash them halfway through.

Food to Bring Back from France

December 1, 2015

Food to Bring Back from France | modernfrenchblog.com

Souvenirs have never really been my thing. Most of them are cheap ‘n’ cheesy and tchotchkes don’t jive with my semi-minimalist nature. However, if you are a foodie and you go to France, then you are must bring back culinary goods. It’s an unwritten law.

French expats and their visiting family members are famous for trying to get foie gras and stinky cheese past US customs. This is best exemplified by a brief scene in the movie 2 Days in New York* where the crazy father hides 30 pounds of sausage in his suitcase and on his person.

Since we took two huge suitcases filled with presents for everyone in the monsieur’s big family, we had a ton of room left over for the trip home. Here’s a list of all the wonderfully tasty things we brought back with us.

French Cheese: We are now the proud owners of two humongous wedges of cheese from the Franche-Comté region (seriously, one of the hunks is at least a foot long!). Morbier is a semi-soft cheese made of cow’s milk that has a dark layer of ash running down the middle while Comté is a hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk that tastes a little nutty and slightly sweet.

Cancoillotte Cheese (not pictured): French cheese also comes in jars! Wee! This one is made by cooking metton cheese with milk and butter. It’s creamy and spreadable yet somehow kinda elastic-like. It’s often eaten on toast in the morning or for goûter (a late afternoon snack).

Small-Batch Honey: We were gifted not one, not two, but four jars of honey by my husband’s uncle. He just started working for a guy who owns 400 bee hives and produces 30 tons of honey each year. This stuff is delicious in tea, swirled into plain yogurt, or smothered on a tartine for breakfast.

French Bread: While we’ve found great cheese and wine stateside, we have yet to find an incredible and affordable bakery in our hometown. Arnaud picked up this loaf for less than 4 euros. We ate half during our last dinner in France, and then put the remaining half in our suitcase. It survived the trip home surprising well and has been a great companion to almost everything else listed here.

Saucisson Sec and Pâté de Canard: Swing by any grocery store and pick up some meaty goods. I promise you they will be a million times better than anything you can get here at home. Saucisson sec is a cured, dried sausage that you slice thinly and serve as an appetizer. It’s sometimes paired with slices of bread and cornichon pickles. Pâté de Canard (ground duck meat that is cooked with spices into sublime deliciousness) is also served as an appetizer and is spread on toasted bread.

Eau de Vie: You might be asking why we brought back bottled water but this, dear readers, is very special water. Eau de vie (translated as water of life) is a colorless brandy that many French folks make at home by fermenting and double distilling fruit. It’s often sipped at the end of a meal as a digestif and owning a bottle is a badge of pride among our circle of French friends.

* Although it’s currently available on Netflix, Two days in New York isn’t all that great so I wouldn’t recommend watching it. If you really want to see the sausage scene, it is about 25 seconds in on the trailer.

** Putain de merde, I’m now realizing that this blog post could be incriminating! If you work for TSA or customs, please look the other way. Merci beaucoup.