Tuesday, 2 October 2007



I was hungry. It had been a long bike ride into the dark country and I had forgotten to eat lunch before leaving. Always a no-no. I've never had a panini before, but the "Panini au Poulet" looked to good to pass up. I ordered it as written, in French.

Now as you can see from the above picture, I am at a beautiful little French cafe in a converted old home with lovely gardens and art work for sale scattered throughout the premises. After spending much of my summer "coffeeing" here I decided I was ready to try my hand at French.
As I approach the counter the young Frenchman behind immediately starts speaking in hyperspeed French. Is there, after all, any other kind? I am pleased by this, despite the fact that I have been attending this cafe a few mornings a week and always speak to this exact same fellow in English. He never seems to remember me, or at least that I am not a French speaking individual. This is good! I can practice on him.

"Panini au Poulet, et un petite cafe doux." I request politely.

"We will bring the Panini out to you when it's ready." he replies, in English. He's obviously marked me as the impostor I am.

About 15 minutes later a flustered version of this very same normally cool and collected guy comes out and starts giving me the low down on why I wasn't already enjoying a piping hot panini. He's now gone from speaking at the speed of sound, to breaking the sound barrier and moving in on light speed French.....and I have absolutely no clue what he is saying!!!!!

I sit and watch his lips in awe, trying to grab at least one word that I could make out and perhaps aide me in deciphering what it is he is trying to tell me. Suddenly he stops. He waits. He stares at me awaiting my response.

"Ummm, I'm sorry, I could only make out part of what you said." A little white lie on my part.

What took him about three times as long to say in French has been compressed to a quick sentence in English. French is such a wordy language!

"Oh! There was a mix-up with your Panini and we are now making another for you." he replies looking quite relieved.

You see, I have started remembering something else about the French while observing them at this cafe. Having had Francophone relatives I should have remembered that when they get annoyed, angry, or just slightly ticked off they tend to get loud. Very loud. They like to speak with their hands too! When he remembered I was only Anglophone, he knew he was as good as off the hook. There would be no unruly scene.

Eventually a young lady comes to my side and says, "Vous poulet?"
Now, about a half hour after I ordered my lunch I am sitting day dreaming, and have forgotten my panini for the time being and am taken aback by this woman calling me a chicken for no apparent reason.

"What?" I respond with an annoyed and slightly loud reply.

"Panini au polet?" she says not seeming to notice my raised voice.

"Oui, merci." I finally have my lunch.

Finally, as the final crumbs of my first and probably last panini disappear, I pick up my mug and bring it to the counter. I am polite and hate to see the staff have to come outside to get it. The young man looks at me and says,

"Panini?" in a questioning voice.

And I reply,"Non.... Finini."

4 comments:

Kurt said...

I bet now he'll remember you.

GoofyJ said...

Glad to have you back, PC! :) Funny story - I took a little bit of french in high school and remember that it was pretty wordy too. :) I wouldn't even catch one word - except for maybe your oui, merci. :)

Deb said...

You did better than I could. I took French in elementary, so it's been years since I've spoken it.

Glad to 'see" you again.

Patti said...

how about panini au chocolat? nice to have you back again!