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Cooking and Food

Le projet français IV

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Bonjour à tous,

Il y a deux semaine, on a écrit un email à l’école, ça y est!
On a demandé une interview avec les chefs, pour le 11 septembre.
L’interview ferait 15 minutes.
On espère qu’ils accepteront notre demande, on croise les doigts et on touche du bois…

Réponse la semaine prochaine!

PS ce post est un peu en retard, désolé mais le travail est en cours:)

Immersion Day: A fun French day

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Being a new intern at the Alliance Française, I am still learning about the many classes, workshops, and events that go on here, including Immersion Day. For weeks now, we have been gearing up for Immersion Day, and to learn more about what exactly that is, I set out and did a little research. Follow me as I learn more and as I implore you to participate this September 9th. Why not join in on the fun to be had?

With notepad in hand, I head down to the office of Elodie Kaplan, co-director of the school to learn more. “It’s a great day to use the French people know and discover more,” Elodie begins as she describes the day in question. Discover what? Glad you asked. Immersion Day is a special day at the Alliance where we offer trial workshops for advanced beginner, intermediate, and proficient levels. “Woah!” I thought to myself. In my short 1.5 months here at the Alliance, I have very much wanted to join a cooking or language workshop. And to think I could attend those and more on one day had me interested.

Continuing on, she adds, “people can use their French for actual activities… for real life, not just for class.” You see, during Immersion Day, we transform the large Salon into a French vendor’s market called the Petit marché. Local vendors selling French items or who speak French will be selling goods and services. I don’t want to give anything away… but there will be free chocolate samples. Not to mention, the director of the Alliance Française de Chicago will be cooking, so you do not want to miss that.

Satisfied that I got the answers I needed and confident that I know what adventures lie ahead on Immersion Day, I leave her office with a simple merci before heading back to my office. Now that we have the gist of what the day entails, I thought I might clue you in to what workshops are offered. After all, we are all interested in different workshops. Take your time reading these options, but afterwards, don’t wait one more minute before signing up for Immersion Day and the workshops that interest you! You can sign up and see the workshop schedule on our webpage.

A bientôt mes amis !


List of workshops

Conversation:Meet our French staff and talk about their personal experience in the US, and French culture at large.

Phonetics:Practice makes perfect! Work on your pronunciation and learn the, literally, life changing difference between ‘poison’ and ‘poisson’.

TV5-current affairs:Come discover a piece of worldly news by watching and discussing a clip from francophone TV.

The blunder fixer:whether it is faux amis (words that look similar but actually have different meanings) or homophones (words that have the same sound but different meanings and/or spellings) tackle and get rid of the typical challenges any learner of French faces.

Pardon my French-French slang:For once les gros mots (curse words) and informal language are allowed in the classroom, but only for the love of linguistics and to avoid misunderstandings and faux-pas.

Brush-up: Feeling a little rusty? Enjoy the immediate benefits of this grammatical review and enrich your speaking and writing skills.The art of listening:“What was that?” With this class get rid of that sometimes frustrating feeling when dealing with oral comprehension.

Littérature: discover popular and polarizing author Michel Houellebecq. He is without a doubt France’s most contemporary and controversial writer as well as a must-know.

Jouer en français: Play your favorite board games, in French (Pictionary, Scrabble…) and discover new ones, while learning how to use your French in a whole different way.

Improv en français: Build self-confidence and develop creativity while learning to have fun in French. Through improv’ games, you will become even more comfortable speaking French and think on your feet!

Voulez-vous “crochet” avec moi ? Tricot social: Explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion and the arts today. Learn how to crochet by using basic patterns to make hats, scarves and ornaments.

Wine tasting: Need we say more? This year a focus on lesser known white wines from red country!

Jane Eagleton

Le Projet Français III

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Bonjour tout le monde!

La semaine dernière, nous avons partagé une liste de francophones célèbres à Chicago que nous avons considérés pour l’interview.

C’était une décision difficile, mais nous avons choisi d’interviewer les fondateurs de l’école de la pâtisserie (French Pastry School of Chicago). Nous avons décidé cela parce que nous sommes intéressés par la pâtisserie française. C’est une institution fascinante qui a eu un impact dans notre ville natale.

Pour préparer l’interview, nous…

-Regarderons le film “Kings of Pastry”
-Rechercherons des informations sur l’organisation
-Allons lire des biographies
-Etudierons la terminologie de la pâtisserie (comme les outils, les ustensiles, les appareils, la chimie, etc.)
-Regarderons les interviews avec d’autres chefs célèbres comme Pierre Hermé

Pour documenter l’interview, nous allons écrire, enregistrer de l’audio et filmer. Ensuite, nous utiliserons les meilleurs moments et les meilleurs médias.

Nous avons commencé notre recherche pour les fondateurs et nous les contacterons cette semaine.

Visitez le blog la semaine prochaine pour en savoir plus sur nos recherches!

Indulge in some French comfort food

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Comfort food is an almost universally known concept. You have a hard day, you come home and you eat a gallon of mac and cheese and maybe you just feel a little bit better. Or maybe you had something a little more interesting to sate your hunger. If you identify with this, maybe it’s time you learned a little bit more about French comfort food!

A Croque Madame

The first documented mention of the croque monsieur was in the second volume of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” 1918. The sandwich itself is a masterful combination of bread, cheese and ham. If you add a fried or poached egg on top, the sandwich becomes a croque madame. Due to the simplicity of the basic sandwich, there are almost endless possibilities when it comes to modifying the sandwich to suit different tastes. Some things people love to add are tomatoes, blue cheese, smoked salmon, sliced potatoes or even pineapple!



The origins of the special sandwich is unknown but there are quite a few popular legends that have circulated for some time. One is that a sandwich was left out in the heat and the cheese melted. Another is that a restaurateur had run out of baguettes and wanted a way to have crunchy bread.

Pain Perdu

Another comforting bread-based French food is pain perdu (also known as French toast). Funny enough, it has existed for so

long that we don’t really know the origins of the dish. It is known to be a decedent of the roman dish aliter dulcia (which translates to “Another Kind of Desert”)which is a cake-type item mostly made up of ground nuts with a custard.

In medieval Europe, the dish took on a form closer to what we consider pain perdue as a way to transform stale bread. This was when it became bread soaked in milk and/or egg existed in a variety of forms.

Today we have a variety of types of pain perdu that are eaten for breakfast, dessert or just as a snack. Since it is so versatile you can make it sweet or savory depending on your tastes. If you want to learn how to make croque monsieur and pain perdu hands-on, join us for our next cooking class! It will be this Saturday, April 29 at 11:15 a.m.




Cheesy cheesy melty food

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In the mid-west we are known for our casseroles and hot dishes. If you grew up here you might have memories of eating mounds of tater tot hot dish or green bean casserole. These recipes probably involved some variation of vegetables and/or tater tots swimming in a pool of condensed mushroom soup.

Green bean casserole that is not in an actual casserole dish.

The word casserole itself has french origins. “Casse” refers to the type of pan that casseroles are usually cooked in. This makes sense as the early casserole was created in 1866 by a French Canadian named Elmire Jolicoeur who immigrated to New Hampshire. In the 1950s, preparation of casseroles became very popular and this had a lot to do with an increase in availability of light-weight glass and metal pans as well as modern inventions such as canned and processed food becoming available. People could easily create a dinner with canned goods.

What many seem to agree on in casseroles is the importance of a variety of textures. No one wants a casserole that is all soft and mushy! To add a bit of crunch dried onions are often added to the top of a green bean casserole and tater tots make up the crust of a tater tot casserole. In France, the gratin is what adds a texture to what is usually a soft inside.

An example of a gratin.

Gratin refers to the brown crust of cheese and/or breadcrumbs a dish such as potatoes gratiné. Gratins can have a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, pasta, and seafood. Pretty much anything can be a gratin as long as it has that crunchy crust. 

Fun Fact: “Le gratin” is also an idiomatic phrase that refers to being “the upper crust” of society.

Learn how to make a perfect gratin in our next cooking class: Winter Gratins, and hurry up we are almost sold-out!




Turning sour grapes into Champagne

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If you clicked on this post, you probably have some idea of what champagne is. You might be able to recall the pleasant fizz of the bubbles or a particular sweet, light flavor. But do you know of the rich history and the unique details of production?

Region of Champagne is highlighted in red.

True champagne is produced only in the French region of Champagne in the Northeast. Since it is one of the north-most wine producing regions in france, the temperatures are often much lower than other wine-producing areas and so ripening of the grapes doesn’t occur as quickly and the grapes end up being a bit more acidic than their southern cousins. The wine-makers of history were not deterred by this challenge and simply made lemons into lemonade ( or, really, grapes into champagne.)

The metal muselet, used to keep the champagne from exploding.

The champagne we have today is a true result of centuries of collaboration, adjustment and refining. In 1662 Christopher Merrett discovered that adding sugar or molasses during a second fermentation could make it sparkling. Also in the mid-1600s glass-makers found a way to design bottles that could contain the pressure of the wine and the English found that using the traditional roman cork was more effective at holding in pressure than a cloth wrapped piece of wood that the French were using. In 1844 the muselet was invented to help contain the cork by Adolphe Jaquesson.

A portrait of Madame Clicquot and her grandchild.


In the early-1800s Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot made champagne a viable large-scale business possibility when she streamlined the process by inventing the riddling process and integrating it into the production process. She also was able to jump-start the marketing of her champagne when she managed to smuggle it to the Russian Court near the end of the Napoleanic wars when naval blockades were making commercial shipping almost impossible. Both her shrewd marketing and streamlining of the process caused the popularity of her product (and eventually all champagne) to sky-rocket.


Want a taste of what all that history has produced? Come to our Tastes and Toasts event at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8! Tickets are $30 for members and $40 for non-members.

Apple of the earth

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The potato arrived in Europe at the end of the 16th century with very little fanfare, yet it soon found its way into the hearts and stomachs of many as a staple food.

This journey to fame was not without a bit of turmoil. The veggie was even illegal in France from 1748 to 1772 due to concerns about them being poisonous!

When Antoine-Augustin de Parmentier, a medical army officer, was forced to eat pommes de terre as a captive of the Prussians he found that potatoes were not only edible but might actually have great nutritional value and so he decided to study them. Parmentier’s researched them extensively and was eventually able to convince the Paris Faculty of Medicine to formally declare the potato edible in 1772.

Even after this declaration many people didn’t believe they were safe to eat so Parmentier made many efforts to change public opinions. To do this he got some very powerful friends to help; He gifted Marie Antoinette potato flowers and she and Louis XVI wore them as accessories. What a shame we don’t have any pictures!

Today, fear of potatoes is long gone and people have found countless ways to transform the seemingly humble root into countless amazing dishes. One such dish, hachis parmentier, is named after Parmentier himself!

Come to the Alliance Française on Saturday, January 21 from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. to learn some amazing potato recipes with Chef Madelaine Bullwinkel.