FRANÇAIS NOUVEAU (“New French”)

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Speaking French is very much like sipping good wine.

With a word, two syllables, you are transported to the City of Romance, Paris. You are sitting at the terrace of a café with a glass of ripe, rich, and round Merlot, rapt with pleasure, indulging in France’s national sport: people watching.

Tongue cradled just so, you master the French ‘rr,’ purr like a kitten, say Merci to your waiter, a handsome garçon with dark hair and eyes of velvet. You mellow out, close your eyes, become a Parisian woman, une Parisienne enveloped in fruity Eau de Femme Fatale. Nostrils titillated by a creamy scent, you let your lips part for mousse au chocolat and melt with the bouquet of a vintage Je t’aime.

You open your ears to a stream of spicy French words, catch a new sound, so close to English it’s easy to figure out despite the tangy accent: “baseek.”

“But wait, isn’t ‘basic’ English?” you ask.

Non!” your amused garçon answers. “Base is Français, izen’teet?”

Therefore, so is “baseek.” For proof, the French spell it: b-a-s-i-q-u-e.

Ah, if only the English would pronounce their language properly, the French way, with earth-scented flavors and dark tannins, then the whole world would be speaking Français. With a sixty-percent word overlap, it’s évident, n’est-ce pas?

But what about those words directly borrowed from English, like “hamburger,” “chips” and “ketchup,” with no French connection?

“Look around,” your dark, handsome serveur says, his hand sweeping the whole terrace. “Français is like food. It changes with times and social trends.“

You can’t help but notice that fried chicken nuggets have replaced Bœuf Bourguignon, iceberg lettuce, Salade Verte, and – Oui, it’s true – even your creamy mousse is challenged by muffins and cookies, deliciously hinting at sugar overdose on the sweet finish. How could you possibly resist? All are presented with that Gallic accent that makes even the unhealthiest food sound purely divine.

In the end, you’ll agree with your garçon that Haute Cuisine is “so last century, totally passé.” Gone are the Amuse-bouche with pâté, cornichons and Merlot. A simple glance at the menu or any French magazine confirms it. Now you’re an “it-girl.” You don’t do hors d’œuvres anymore but “fashion fooding.” And you do it at “L’Happy Hour,” which is French for l’apéritif.

With a nostalgic sigh, you let go of your inner Femme Fatale, and raise your glass of Beaujolais Nouveau to “Vive la non-différence!”

Français Nouveau has arrived.

It’s basique.

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