Friday, August 22, 2008

runner, tartine? out of the way

Posted by Picasa Runner beans are sometimes known as scarlet runners. This is why. Let the flowers speak for themselves.

Faced with yet another, grey, wet day, I take a loaf of bread, baked last night, out of the bin and make myself a tartine, to cheer myself up. At least that's what I think for a moment it might be. But after a while, I begin to have my doubts. Yes, it is a slice of bread and butter, which is a crude definition of tartine; but what bread, what butter? and in what terroir is it consumed? Suppose, I say to myself, a French person, who had never lived in England, were to announce that he had made himself some toast and marmalade, I am not sure that I would take him entirely seriously! Anymore than if he had boasted of making himself a cup of tea, or some toasted cheese, or Welsh rabbit (or rarebit)! I have never lived in France for more than a few days at a time, so I must defer to people who have (Lucy who does and Barrett Bonden, who did for example) for a true cultural definintion of a tartine.

The way people say good bye on the phone is always instructive. A man in shorts passes me in the Grove. He is talking into a mobile and almost sings his goodbye: "Good by ay ah!" he says, seeming to add under his breath, as he pops his phone into his pocket: "Got that out of the way, thank God!"

4 comments:

Lucy said...

I honestly don't know! I'm not usually around any French people at the moment when they make themselves bread and butter snacks! The verb is 'tartiner' of course... I'll try to remember to ask someone.

Runner beans I've only seen grown here for ornaments, trained up little pagodas in town centres, for those very scarlet flowers. The only comestible green bean permitted to exist is the haricot vert; I don't even know if your purple ones would be allowed!

Lucas said...

This photograph is well worth enlarging. I clicked on it and it was delightful to see how the shallow depth of field produced pin sharp blooms in the foreground; and towards the top of the picture the out-of-focus flower seems to entangle itself with a cloud.

Barrett Bonden said...

I'm with Lucy on this one. I don't know and I've never asked. I do ask questions all the time, since there's nothing a Frenchman (and it is always a man) loves more than delivering an over-long explanation with philosophical overtones. But this particular conundrum has all the hallmarks of deceptive simplicity, with endless regional variations. I was prepared to do this to unearth the exact phrase that covered my coffee needs (café allongé, but be prepared for further discussion). Bread-and-butter, despite its function as a metaphor, is not so nearly important.

Lucy said...

I remember it from a Jacques Prevert poem about a hungry man who kills for one...

But remember not to say that you take your coffee allongee, or it willimply you take it lying down!