For the briefest moment this summer, it was possible to travel by plane within Europe from the UK. As tempting as it is to make this English-speaking practice conversation about the nightmare journey, I will resist temptation and talk about a more positive aspect of the trip.
The number of rules and the additional compliance, needed to travel, was shocking and although it may be of interest to listeners who are considering travelling in Europe. I’d rather just talk about the good things that happened and hope that the empty airports and fearful mask wearing passengers packed into the few planes (which didn’t get cancelled at the last minute!) will become a thing of the past.
So in today’s English lesson you will hear about the good bits of my trip to the South of France to visit my family. There are a number of podcast lessons which focus on English-speaking practice using our listen and learn approach. We hope you enjoy them all.
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Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Speaking fluent English is a goal for many people across the world and our goal is to help you become fluent in English. Speaking fluently becomes possible once you are fluent in understanding. And that understanding comes through lots of listening. Listening to Adept English material will help you learn English unconsciously, automatically. You’ll get used to hearing the language, as it’s spoken and those parts of your brain, which helped you learn language when you were a child, will again start to work – except this time, it’ll be English you’re learning, rather than your native language. So for English conversation - work on your speaking through listening. This method is the natural one and unrivalled in language learning techniques.
Well, I made it to France and back, staying at my sister’s house in the south, despite the restrictons and the treat of quarantine. Quarantine, Q-U-A-R-A-N-T-I-N-E refers to the period of time where you wait, usually in isolation, not with other people, to see if you develop an illness, after you’ve potentially been exposed. So since we’ve returned, there is now an official quarantine between France and the UK. But we were lucky – there wasn’t one when we came back!
So it was really hot in France, just as it was in the UK – temperatures in the high 30s celsius, even 42C for a couple of days. So we swam in the River Lot to cool down. And we calculated that a river would be safer to swim in, than a crowded swimming pool. We’ve also swum a couple of times in a friend’s private swimming pool as well. It’s nice to swim when it’s 42C.
My sister lives in a part of France where ‘la gastronomie’ is important – though you could probably argue that ‘gastronomie’ is important throughout the whole of France. ‘La gastronomie’ is the interest in the growing, the cooking and preparation of food, and of course tasting and eating the food. It’s usually a cultural thing and there’s a lot of tradition. In most parts of the world, there are specialities in food to be enjoyed. ‘La gastronomie’ in French - you don’t really use the word much in English, but it would be ‘gastronomy’ with a ‘y’ at the end, whereas in French it’s an -I-E ending. You’d use the adjective ‘gastronomic’ however. And in English (and French), any word starting ‘gastro’, G-A-S-T-R-O means to do with the stomach – where you put your food when you’ve eaten it! So ‘gastric flu’ is an influenza which also affects your stomach. And a gastroenterologist is a medical specialist in stomachs and intestines. Your intestines, I-N-T-E-S-T-I-N-E-S are further on in your digestive system, more towards the bottom end.
So ‘la gastronomie’ is big all over France, but particularly so in the region of Quercy, Q-U-E-R-C-Y where my sister has lived since 1989. She’s an honorary local, by now – ‘honorary’ means you’ve earnt your place. And she speaks fluent French, albeit with a British accent. So the region of Quercy is very proud of its food – and it has restaurants all around. They’ve been having a difficult time recently, during the lockdown period, but now they’re able to reopen, carefully, with outside dining.
Specialities of the Quercy region include walnuts, pastis, magret, truffles, melon and foie gras.
A walnut, W-A-L-N-U-T is obviously a type of nut – very wrinkly, a bit like a brain with a hard shell. When you see walnuts growing on the tree, the case is green. I don’t particularly like walnuts, but the walnut oil is really nice, especially in a salad dressing, with vinegar over the top of tomatoes. Everybody there seems to grow tomatoes and courgettes at the very least in the summer, but also herbs, grapes and figs. So there’s plenty of vegetables to make soup and grapes and figs to eat with your cheese. One of the things I really like about France, as opposed to the UK, is the fact that you know where your food is coming from – you can see it growing in the fields next door. And certainly in the rural areas, there are fewer stages between the field and your plate, which I also like.
In France, like in the UK, there are many, many types of cheese. One cheese local to Quercy is called cabécou, C-A-B-É-C-O-U – and it’s a goat’s cheese – goat, G-O-A-T. Cabécou is nice when young, but it can be extremely smelly, when it’s been in your fridge a while. It’s the sort of cheese that tells you that the door of the fridge is open, even when you’re upstairs in your house! But, we have it on toasted bread with honey over – that’s lovely!
The Quercy melons are stripey and green, with orange flesh and they’re sweet and perfumed and juicy. The melon juice runs down your arm when you eat. In case you don’t know that word ‘melon’, M-E-L-O-N, it’s a large fruit, which is very watery and sweet – a relative of the pumpkin or the cucumber, the same family of plants.
Pastis, P-A-S-T-I-S - that’s another favourite of the Quercy region. And this isn’t the aniseed drink, which you might know, which is rather like Greek Ouzo, that you drink with an ice cube. No, this pastis is a dessert, or a pudding with layers of thin filo pastry, or filo-type pastry. The pastry is oiled and stretched, with sheets stretched across an area as big as a dining table. This is then layered into a dessert with apples and some kind of alcohol. Often it’s what’s known ‘as eau de vie’ or literally ‘water of life’. In my experience, if you’re served ‘eau de vie’, this is a type of alcohol of mysterious origin, which you drink super quick, because it’s strong and makes you shiver - brrr. Pastis also has apples in and it’s really nice.
Black truffles are another speciality in Quercy. I’m not sure I entirely get the popularity of these. If you say ‘truffles’, T-R-U-F-F-L-E-S in the UK, most people would expect a chocolate but here we’re talking about a mushroom-like growth, which can be found underground. Tradition in Quercy is to use a pig to hunt for your truffles and they’re found amongst the roots of oak trees, underneath an oak tree. The region of Quercy has many oak trees and of course, the name means ‘oak’, which is ‘quercus’, Q-U-E-R-C-U-S in Latin. I’m yet to learn to appreciate the loveliness of black truffles, I’m afraid – they just smell of underground to me! But I appreciate other specialities of the region.
A close up photograph of black truffles. Part of this English speaking practice conversation.
The last speciality – foie gras, F-O-I-E G-R-A-S, is somewhat contentious – that means people are not in agreement about foie gras. It’s a paté, P-A-T-É, rather like Ardennes pate or Brussels pate, which are made from pork liver, but foie gras is made from goose or duck liver. The liver, L-I-V-E-R is an organ of the body and it’s the organ which processes alcohol for instance. The contentious element of foie gras, is that the duck or the goose is forced-fed. That means they make the bird eat more than it wants to, in order to make their liver especially fatty. So this practice is seen as cruel to the animal – and lots of people, my niece included, won’t eat foie gras. I don’t eat foie gras either, but I have tried magret, M-A-G-R-E-T, which is breast of duck, which is lovely.
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Anyway, there you have it. Some gastronomy of the French region of Quercy – and some lovely food vocabulary for you. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast about food, then you may also enjoy our Course One, Activate your Listening as one of the sections on this course includes vocabulary all about food! Course One, Activate your listening is our English speaking course. So if you’d like to do some more structured learning – and learn through listening to English conversation, this will be a good course for you. Go to our website at adeptenglish.com to buy the course. Getting to know a language through its vocabulary...its food vocabulary is a nice way to do it.
Adept English here, helping you learn how to speak English well.
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.