The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Learning key life skills in Germany

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on May 27, 2014

When navigating your way around a german kitchen, or indeed a german party, one of the most difficult things to find is a bottle opener. Surprising, is it not? When all your instincts, long nurtured clichés, and the physical evidence of empty Pfandflaschen (deposit bottles) piling up on every street corner/table/ledge tell you beer is indeed flowing. So a word of warning: when you, confused tourist in teutonic lands, ask for one, do not be surprised when someone hands you a lighter instead.

You see, a true German can open a beer bottle with just about anything, and not having a bottle opener leaves room in the kitchen drawer for other, more obscurely exotic kitchen essentials: your schnitzel hammer for example or this terrifying and dangerous cousin of the tin opener (you may actually need the schnitzel hammer to work it):

Having become used to this state of affairs, my policy has long been to find the nearest smoking german and ask them to open my beverages. If there are no smokers around, any german person will do the trick, the only condition being that there is in the vicinity an object with an edge. Not too difficult then. Do not judge me for taking the easy way out. Over the three and some years I have lived on this side of the Rhine, I have tried, usually ending up covering myself in beer and ridicule: at best I would manage to slightly bend one tiny bit of the beer cap and give up with a sore knuckle. Worst case scenario so far, I broke a lighter and dropped the bottle which smashed on a rock, spraying everyone with the foamy stuff. Maybe it is simply that my frenchness prevails when it comes to accessing alcoholic drinks. Certainly I may be rubbish at opening beers with an USB sitck, but I am very good at uncorking wine. It was even noticed by my colleagues when I was working in a posh-ish hotel in Kiel. Give me a wine bottle and a corkscrew and sit back and enjoy the show. I won’t need to lean on anything or squeeze the bottle between my thighs, no drop will be spilled, no loud popping noises and would Sir like to try a sip first?Scan0012



Maybe that was what my friend Jan picked up on last Sunday at the barbecue. Not that I did open any wine there – all screwtops there (BLASPHEMY), but there was a wine bottle lying around and that was what I was told to use, if I wanted to get to my beer. No I won’t open it for you, you need to do it yourself.

I failed miserably the first time around, but the second cap flew a metre or so away with a satisfying pop on my first try. I could have clapped, if I had not been holding a bottle of beer in my left hand and a bottle of wine in my right. Never mind, and hurray! I am now officially one step closer to being German, which considering the french results of the European elections, cannot be such a bad thing, surely.


Posted in Germany, Life, Uncategorized, Wine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Croissant, cheese and wine: or the risks and dangers of living in France

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on October 16, 2010

Well, I didn’t do so well yesterday after all…
After launching my brand new blog with style and two shiny posts, the rest of the day was not so productive. I got home and read two further pages of Wolfgang Koeppen’s Das Treibhaus, one of the previously mentioned books I have to read (in German) for my literature course. The thing is, I have never been good at reading assignment books. Having to read anything just ruins it for me, especiallly when said text has page-long sentences and our lecturer announced very early on that the main character was going to jump off a bridge in the end. Not my kind of literature at the best of times.

Hindering my progress was also the silent beckoning of the baker’s shop down the road. My sister and I share this flat, not three minutes away from the languages department of the University and on the way there and back every morning and afternoon, unless I take a major detour I inevitably walk past  this Boulangerie/ Patisserie and the temptation is enormous. I have just come back from a year in Germany where you cannot find a decent croissant.  You have to give them credit, they try their best, but the results are always too floury or dry, usually bland, sometimes flaky and they also tend to look a bit deflated and sad, like something pulled out of a freezer and just left out to thaw. In other words: not the real deal. The first thing I did when I got back to France was going to a bakery and getting a fresh-from-the-oven croissant.

It was heavenly. Properly puffed up and a shiny golden-brown colour and the smell of it… I stood on the pavement outside, pulled it out of its brown paper bag and ate it on the spot. The outer layers of the puff pastry were so, so thin and lovely and crisp, and the middle: soft and warm and it just melts instantly in your mouth and you know you have just eaten more butter than you woukd normally eat in a week, but you still want to go back in and get another one!             Well yesterday I did resist the call of the croissant, but I got a brioche… Not quite as fat, but anything you get at that bakery deserves your full attention when you’re eating it , so that took a little while (and there was a queue). By the time I got back to the flat it was time to pack and my sister drove us home to my parents’ house for the weekend.

There, surprise! During the week my parents have received invitations to this “Salon des vins de France”, so can you guess how we were going to spend the following morning? Yes, we went and tried about a dozen different sorts of wines and gourmet specialities: cheeses, cakes, chocolate, nougat, foie gras…. It is the sort of place where you exchange your ticket for a wine glass at the entrance and then deambulate past various stands and if anything catches your eye, your glass gets filled. At  the end of the visit, you may keep the glass as a souvenir. Needless to say we have many such glasses at home… (what does that say about us?). We left quite merry and heavily laden with boxes and had to borrow a trolley from one of the merchants to transport everything back to the car. I got a couple of bottles myself; it’s about time I started compiling a decent wine collection. I got two bottles of 2007 red Bordeaux, and two of a special rosé wine, which was very unusual in that it has quite a lot of tannins so it looks like rosé and it feels quite light and fresh, but it tastes like “proper” red wine. Yummy. It’s called Bordeau clairet and it is lovely. I’m keeping a bottle for when I land my first job. Someday.

So the weekend hasn’t started off that brilliantly (no studying so far and probably a couple of kilos added to my already-not-so-slim waistline) but somehow I cannot bring myself to feel that bad about it. Even so, maybe it is time I published this post and went back to Koeppen. Yuck.

Scottish friends over for dinner tonight. Should be a laugh!

Posted in Food, France, Studying, Wine | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »