So – I cut the cheese wrong

So after having written the blog Cheesy Smile and done the little tutorial I then proceeded to cut the cheese exactly the wrong way the very next day.

Full exposure (this is painful); the one on the left – I cut it parallel to the crust instead of perpendicular.  I was busy blethering to himself hence I was distracted.  Which is always fatal in such a scenario.

Cue himself laughing like a devil as I proceeded to try to cut a second slice without shaving bits of finger off. Sigh.

Being one’s self is not always easy.  But somewhere somehow this may encourage some poor soul not to give up hope (because there is always someone worse than you).


Faux Pas and Deja Vu

The French don’t say “oh I did a faux pas” or omigod I just got deja vu!!

After a few years of trying to convince people that they must use these expressions I have realised that they really don’t.

And as a mystical Irish person, I always get deja vu and I always use it the way we do so i.e. “argh serious deja vu there”.  So himself is like “tu as vu quoi deja?” which means “what did you see?”.  Thereby generally follows the explanation conversation where he reassures me that the French really don’t say that. It keeps things pepper.deja vu


Cheesy Smile

Now this is a topic close to everyone’s heart.

So to set the context, most people have had the experience when travelling from London to Venice on the Orient Express: a moment of pure horror when you realise you have committed the ultimate faux pas.

Picture it, you are in the dining car of the Venice-Simplon with your French lover and you energetically lob a bit of Brie off to lather all over your baguette.  Only to glance across the candlelit table and see an expression of horror on the beautiful face of said lover.

The scene of the crime

Followed by a “sacre bleu, you sauvage” and a quick slap across your visog with the other person’s lace glove so dislocating one’s pince-nez.  Thus causing general discomfort and a majeur “moment de solitude”.

And one has no choice but to fold one’s white linen napkin, and say “what-ho, time to scarper gibbety hoo”.

Well if this has happened to you and you are still mystified as to why, then I can tell you.  It was all because you cut your cheese wrong.

Nah I’m exaggerating and I’m definitely reading too much Jeeves and Wooster and/or Agatha Christie.


Anyhoo, I learnt a while back that there is a polite way to cut cheese.  French people do it naturally of course (sigh).  The trick is to cut off the cheese in such a way that you don’t leave a big crust for the next person.  So that they don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time shaving off a crumbly mouldy crust in order to have a decent slice of cheese.

So its all about courteous geometry.  Echoes of the Eiffel tower principle in fact.

Easy !  I hear you say.

Merde!  Say I.

I agree that the principle is straightforward and makes sense.  However cheese in France  comes in all shapes and forms and changes when it ages (as with many things in life). So after a wee while it melts everywhere or grows a second skin or just gets really smelly.


The only thing it doesn’t do is crawl out of the cheese box.

Despite of or rather because of this bacteria plus time process, the cheese gets more delicious as time goes by.  A bit like me.  In terms of beauty.  Probably.  No, all wrong, don’t go there.

Please note cheese on top right which is just starting to bulge and will soon splurge out to its full glory.  Whereupon there will be fights in our house about who gets to eat it.

The crust here smells horrible, am still deciding whether its a primarily fishy or feety smell

So all the different shapes and sizes and crusts and icky feel make the cutting process a bit difficult in the heat of the moment especially if one is chatting to other people or otherwise occupied.   But never fear I have created this trusty tutorial to take you through it like a hot knife through butter.

(french friends prier de ne pas rigoler at himself explaining to me for the fiftieth time how to cut cheese)

And if you think you can get over the problem by not eating the cheese forget it.  It is impossible.  If you are at someone’s house and you have had the main meal an hour ago and dessert is in another hour, and everybody else is going into cheese ecstasy around you – you will end up nibbling on some cheese.   Unless you have a general hatred of cheese or are allergic of course.  I resisted pretty well for a few years but I remember to this day one of my friends saying “ah g’wan, don’t smell it, put it on a wee bit of bread and slug a bit of wine at the same time…”   Yes she did a Mrs Doyle on me.  I was like this is delicious, what’s that other one over there!!  And that was it, I was a goner.  And now I eye mould on cheese and think “yum”!

For the grand finale, my best cheesy grin!!





Keeping your wine fine

If I was to write this like the posts/blogs I see going viral at the moment I would say something like: this woman did this to her wine bottle and something totally unexpected happened.  You will just be amazed by this.  Just click on the button.  And your life will be changed forever.  Totes promise.

Ok maybe that is just me being a grump.

So this is about miscellaneous wine facts, one of which might help you preserve your wine for longer and keep it tasting lurverly.

Wine is to French people as Gaelic football is to Irish people.  Kind of.  Not really.  Anyway people are passionate about it, very proud of it and it generates many long hours of furious debate and conversation per year in France.

A high percentage of French people enjoy a nice glass regularly and a lot of people have grown up listening to in depth conversations about wine at the dinner table.  As in,

“this La Cornasse is not up to its usual quality?”

” Oh really what year is it?  Ah well that year there was a lot of rain and you know with the kind of soil they have on that side of the mountain there was a mudslide so they had a bad harvest and they had to mix with wine from another parcel so really the quality is much lower”

“Ah yes” ( knowing looks, gurgle, swirl, sniff, knowing looks, glug glug glug)

And so on.

That is a bit of an exaggeration.  But only a wee bit.  In fact a lot of French people have an impressively in-depth knowledge of wine.  In France people know that wine is a living thing and that no two years in a row will produce the same wine.  Parcels of land are divided up really carefully and the taste of the wine depends on the exposure to sun, the general weather conditions the grapes are subjected to (hail etc.), the quality of the soil and so on.

The type of wine depends on the grape used and the “appellation” depends on the parcel of land.  On top of that each “maison” has their own method and may use different material and methodologies depending on tradition or new things they are trying out.  And may store the wine in different types of wooden barrels  which then gives the wine an even more specific taste.  The variety of wine in France is endless.

There really is a lot to talk about when you start getting into it.

But I’m not going to get into that here.

What I am getting at is that around the whole wine culture entails a lot of subsidiary knowledge gathering for the storage and general maintenance of wine for the average person.  For example, there would quite a few people who would have a wine cellar and failing that a special wine fridge somewhere in their home.  These special wine fridges maintain the wine at optimum levels of temperature and humidity.   If you peek inside, you see the wine bottles sleeping peacefully awaiting their moment of glory where they explode on someone’s palate.

So, I will now reveal two tips that I came across in recent times which are very clever and apply to anybody who has a bottle of wine which they haven’t finished yet.  If however you have a tendency to finish your wine in one go then this top tip doesn’t apply to you.   And you aren’t getting any judgement from this lady either, let me reassure you.

Tip no.1:

  • Don’t put red wine in the fridge – it kills the aroma apparently
    • you also have to wait a long time before it gets to the right temperature when you take it out – which we all agree is lost quality wine-time right?
  • Gasp I hear you say, but where to put it ?
    • your average counter top is grand as long as the bottle is out of direct sunlight
      • under your sink is fine too, wine is a bit like your average vampire in that sense….except vampires don’t turn into vinegar or fit under the sink….I digress…

Tip no.2: (requires one whiskey drinker per household)

  • The corks of whiskey bottles fit wine bottles.  So you put the whiskey bottle cork in your wine bottle and Bob’s your uncle!  The trick is to keep the oxygen away.

I know everybody buys those cutsie wine-stoppers but have you ever noticed how you can never find them after a few weeks?  I believe there may be some kind of mafia fairy/leprechaun consortium that collects them to decorate their Queen’s palace with them.  Whisky bottle corks are safe because lets be honest they are fairly ugly.


Next blog will be a killer tip for how to cut your cheese properly because yes there is a politically incorrect way to cut your cheese.  And yes I have done it and yes it was bad.  Silence falls, people look at each other for a microsecond with raised eyebrows and there is a general lull in the conversation while people question what the hell the world is coming to if people don’t know how to cut cheese for chrissake.

Nah I’m exaggerating again, they generally don’t care and have a bit of a giggle at the philistine but they will curse you mildly the next day at lunchtime while they spend a half hour shaving off the “croute”.

Anyway, that is enough of a reveal to intrigue you enough for now  i think…au revoir mes amis!






Vin de Merde

It is a thing.

So it has been sitting in the wine cupboard stewing away for the past few months.  Himself’s mum bought not one but two bottles as a present a few months ago.  To make us giggle.  Probably.

We drank a few glasses of the first bottle and the next day my head fell off.  So we vowed not to drink it again.

Then what happened was I had a strong need to make an Irish stew last weekend.  Beef and Guiness, the works.  However we committed a fatal error, we neglected to do that thing that every French person MUST imperatively do – our shopping on a Saturday.  This was due to a number of different reasons, which if not listed in the order of priority could be: crappy week, confusion about what our motivation levels were, laziness and general lack of direction when we don’t have to manage the kids of a weekend.

So we found ourselves wandering around the cobbled streets of Grenoble with our little shopping trolley of a rainy misty Sunday morning.  The idea was that we would pick up ingredients from wherever was open.  We found the usual vegetable suspects at the market including Keyser Soze spuds.  We passed an Halal butcher and said sure what’s the harm and we went in.

There followed a true moment where we realised we had been walking past this gem of a place for the past couple of years where everybody knew each other’s name and the service is wonderful.   So to cut a long story short we succeeded in picking up the meat.

But for the key ingredient, i.e. the Guinness, there was nowhere near open.  Near being within five minutes walk.  We were very tired at that stage.

So himself says, “le vin de merde?”  and I was very dubious.  How could one contemplate the replacement of the premiere ingredient?  We then had a long instense debate whereby he raised an eyebrow and I put hands on my hips and we both said “feck it, enough with the shopping – vin de merde it is”.

So with a feeble heigh ho I set to cooking on Sunday afternoon and somewhere in the middle of the proceedings I probably lathered in about half the bottle.

And bejaysus, I made the nicest stew I have ever made.

So the lessons of this story are many:

  • if you are Irish and abroad and you really feel like a stew, don’t let anything stand in your way
  • if you live in France and are too lazy to do your shopping on a Saturday it is not the end of the world but be ready to make compromises, very very few shops are open on a Sundy
  • I think it might not be very patriotic but I suspect that le vin de merde is actually nicer in the stew than the Guinness  .. pains me to write that…this will probably generate a storm of publicity and international debate but some things have to be said for the good of all
  • ara that’s probably it

Next blog will be a killer tip about how to keep your red wine alive for weeks….

Trop lourd!

Just remembered there one time I was out with a group of my French muckers and they had invited some of their friends too.  It was a great night and we were all getting on like a house on fire.  The bar we were in is one of my favourite in Grenoble – L’Ouest.  It is tucked in behind les Halles St. Claire.  It is tiny – really long and narrow and quite artsy.  Grenoble excels in tiny excellant bars it has to be said.

We were down the back.  There was a video playing above our heads and the toilets were to our left.  So sometimes we had to stand in line to let people past and we ended up chatting to those who were queuing for the loos.  They literally had to stand beside us and listen to our verbage.  Generally speaking one of those lovely very relaxez vous evenings even though it was nearly impossible to understand anybody who wasn’t completely in your personal space.  You know when you are so close you are fairly sure you are spitting in people’s ears as you rant away but you and they know have to keep going to get your point across?

At one point of the night through a fairly drunken haze I realised that sometimes I was getting strange looks from the friends of my friends.  I didn’t pay any heed because it happens alot when you have a weird accent and people don’t understand exactly what you are trying to say.

At one point we got around to standing beside each other and chatting and they asked me where I come from.  So I said I’m Irish and smiled as one does.   I was probably expecting them to say “oh I love Ireland”.

So I can’t really remember the detailed conversation but between the jigs and the reels they had thought I was a French person putting on a fake English accent as a joke ALL NIGHT.  Hence they apologised profusely whilst they explained but they had thought I had been coming on too strong “super lourd”  (or as literal translation too heavy) and had been getting a bit sick of me.  To them I had just spent 4 hours looping on the same fairly dubious joke.

So then I thought this was hilarious and probably came on too strong again for another half hour as I giggled about it and told the story to everybody in the bar.  Sigh.  And they don’t even know the truly repetitive nature of my sense of humour.

Anyway if ever you visit Grenoble check this place out, the barmen are lovely the barwoman is a classy lady and the beer is delicious.



we won !

So this one goes out to all three of my die hard fans.  Did you ever read my blog about la marche and did you ever get to the end of it?  Well done you! If you did then you read the bit about the guys who took our photo and asked whether they could use it in a competition.  And how we giggled in a coquettish way, secretly delighted that someone would take a photo of wrinkly us.  Well maybe I didn’t admit that we were secretly delighted.    

……well anyhoo the cheeky minxes went and entered it in the photo competition and it went and won!

And because they are lovely people they sent it to us via email and even called over just before the Christmas holidays with a ginormous version of it in a frame.  Et le voila just below!!!


Of course when they came over I was on my own drinking wine and eating pasta and watching the Big Bang Theory.  As I smiled at them in thanks with blacky wine teeth I felt like reassuring them and explaining why I was lounging around in expander pants with pasta in my hair and he was out painting the town red without me.

But of course I didn’t because one must never justify unnecessarily.  But I did wonder whether they felt their muse(s) hadn’t really lived up to the romantic shmooziness we were oozing at la marche….

So now every time I walk past it – which is A-lot because it is on a cupboard beside the kitchen and the beer is in the fridge in the kitchen – it does occur to me the odd time omigerd the pressure. We now have to live up to this goddamn happy couple photo.

Recently himself has come up with an interesting solution to the problem and has started a display of his favourite whisky boxes also located on top of the cupboard.  So while we can still partially see it we are also distracted by the lovely boxes and I must say it eases the pressure.


Another photo that the lovely people took.


p.S. the building to the left on the top floor is one of the apartments we would have loved to rent but missed because we were too honest with the estate agency (we told them how many kids we have and how we would turn one of the living rooms into a bedroom etc. feckin eejits we are).

a grumpy woman's reckonings and half baked ideas

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