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Un café, s’il vous plaît!

By | French Community, Uncategorized | No Comments

Bonjour tout le monde,

Your favorite Alliance intern here. If you are anything like me, you enjoy a good cup of coffee. I know some of you aren’t fans of coffee, and I get that… you’re just wrong. No disrespect, I just needed you to know who you’re talking to: an avid coffee drinker and lover. And as that coffee lover, I have come to encounter many cups and different types of coffee, including the famous French café.

As an American, ordering un café in France for the first time was both fun and confusing. Because what you get is a shot of espresso, and not a massive, diner sized cup of joe that we are all so fond of and used to. But hey, after a while I got used to my little espresso shot and actually began to enjoy it.

Now, there must be something in the air in France that allows people to have a shot of espresso 5+ times a day and still sleep through the night because it seemed to me that everyone would prend un café all the time. This quite impressive French tolerance and infatuation with coffee got me wondering… is there something special about French coffee?

Turns out, it isn’t the coffee necessarily that is so special, but it is the ritual of going to a café to order un café that is so special! You see, cafés (the place not the drink) since the 17th century have served as important meeting places for social, political and culinary innovation. In Paris particularly, going to a café was oftentimes more useful than reading a newspaper when it came to getting information, news, or gossip. The café turned into a place where you could eat, talk, drink, meet new people, share ideas and be a part of society. They were also a hub for artists and writers alike, such as Voltaire and Rousseau. No wonder they are si populaires and found on every corner in France!

“Ah ha!” I think. So it is the history and tradition of the café that fuel the French obsession with espresso shots at any hour of any day. Next time I find myself with a piping hot espresso, in a Parisian café, whether in my dreams or in reality,  I will be thinking of the centuries of café drinkers, socialites, inventors, artists and politicians that potentially sat in the very same seat, and I will smile.

Jane Eagleton

Superfluous: An Architectural Project

By | Events, French Community, History, Uncategorized | No Comments

 

 

J’ai rencontré dans la rue un jeune homme très pauvre qui aimait : son chapeau était vieux, son habit était usé ; il avait les coudes troués ; l’eau passait à travers ses souliers, et les astres à travers son âme.
(I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul)
-Victor Hugo ; Les Misérables (1862)

If you were to walk in the alley behind the Alliance Française, you would notice an odd amount of moss on the ground and red dots painted on the wall without explanation. If you were to be curious, like myself, you might find yourself talking to one of the many people watering the moss or painting these red circles. And if you aren’t the talking to strangers type, you’re in luck because I already did all of the detective work and will let you know what is happening. Free of charge.

The buzz in the alleyway has to do with the upcoming vernissage of Superfluous: An Architectural Project. This project is an effort to use “architects as social agents” and to “trigger [people] to think about shelter”, as Odile Compagnon, a professor of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, describes it. Odile encourages her students to use their skills and talents as architects to make social change and this has brought her and her students to the Alliance Française de Chicago.

Pretty cool, right? But you’re still a little confused as to what the project is, aren’t you? Don’t worry, not even some of my coworkers knew what this project entailed and that is why I put pen to paper (well, rather finger to keyboard) to open their and your eyes to the magic that is happening in the alley of the Alliance.

Let me key you in to some connections as this story unravels. Odile points out, that this project is both a way to “open the Alliance to the community” as well as to “make French more accessible”. You know, French doesn’t always scream “language of the people” (insert pretentious French stereotype here), but it truly is. Odile and her students are helping to highlight that.

Well, okay, that is cool, but what does that have to do with architecture and the students at the Art Institute of Chicago? Let’s travel back in time to the famous Victor Hugo for our answer. (That Hugo quote at the beginning of this post is now making sense, huh?)

Hugo, infamous writer, inspiring leader, speaker for the people wrote Les Misérables and tore down the barrier between poverty and luxury by illuminating homelessness, wealth and the disparity in between. Many French writers, not just Hugo, and artists have been captivated by the superfluous and consequently what it means to have nothing but still be someone, an individual. Odile is simply keeping this conversation alive through architecture. Eleven of her students created models for projects that could be built in our courtyeard and her student Nicolas Dessotel’s project, named Clairvoyance, was chosen. Nicolas is the blonde student in the photo below cheesin’ hard because he gets to see his project come to fruition.

Clairvoyance was chosen because it breaks down the wall between the private and public spheres, the wanted and the unwanted and spills out into the ally of the Alliance. I mean, literally there is a hole in our courtyard wall. “His project is transporting you into a world that you may not be comfortable with,” says Odile as she admires the installation go up. While I am very excited for you to experience this world growing in and challenging our alley, I won’t tell you more about the physical nature of the project because a) I can’t spoil it for you and b) Nick and Odile can give an explanation more justice than I could.

So, please, I implore you to come and experience Superfluous: An Architectural Project for yourself on September 14th (register here). Engage in the conversation about homelessness and the superfluous, see the other contestant project models, learn how French literature inspires architecture, and enjoy the exhibit. The exhibit will run during our business hours until October 16.

A bientôt!

Jane Eagleton

Le Projet Français III

By | Classes, Cooking and Food, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized | No Comments

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!

Le Projet Français II

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Bonjour!

Cette semaine nous avons discuté des personnes potentielles pour notre interview. Il y a beaucoup de personnes intéressantes qui sont des francophones célebres à Chicago.

Voici la liste finale:

1: Les fondateurs de la French Pastry School.

2: Florence Derieux, la conservatrice d’art américain du Centre Pompidou à Paris. Elle va être à Chicago en septembre pour faire une expo d’art moderne à Navy Pier.

3: Les danseurs/répétiteurs du Joffrey Ballet (il y en a deux qui viennent de France).

4. Frédéric Nalis, le PDG de Bel Brands USA. Ils font les fromages “vache qui rit” et “Merkts”.

5. Le Consul Général de France.

6. Chef Joho du restaurant Everest.

Visitez ce blog la semaine prochaine pour découvrir le choix final!

Le Projet Francais

By | Classes, Events, French Community, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized | No Comments

Bonjour tout le monde !

Laissez nous nous présenter…

Nous sommes un groupe d’étudiants français qui termine le niveau A2 à l’Alliance Française de Chicago et nous entreprenons un projet spécial avec notre prof, Geoff Ruiz, pour utiliser la langue française dans “la vraie vie”!

Pendant les prochaines huit à dix semaines, Andres, Ashley, Lauren et moi, Kim, travaillerons à la réalisation d’une interview en français avec un professionnel français à Chicago.  Nous sommes heureux et nerveux de  commencer ce projet difficile mais nous sommes prêts. Suivez les billets de notre blog et participez à notre voyage vers la francophonie !

Cette semaine nous allons faire de la recherche pour nous aider à décider qui sera le sujet de notre interview. Nous avons un large éventail de personnalités parmi lesquelles choisir, chefs de cuisine, architecte, artistes, personnalités politiques, chefs d’entreprise etc.

Rejoignez- vous à nous la semaine prochaine quand nous révélerons les personnes que nous contacterons pour notre interview.

Allons-y !

Indulge in some French comfort food

By | Cooking and Food, Uncategorized | No Comments

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.

Sources:

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/11/french-toast-was-not-invented-in-france/

http://ouialwayshaveparis.com/2015/08/11/croquemonsieur/

How to plant your thyme seeds!

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If you want instructions on how to grow your thym (thyme) seeds from Earth day, you’re in the right place! Thyme is excellent for container planting inside and outside. If you do plant outside, it is very attractive to bees which is great for the rest of your garden and the environment.

For the seeds we gave you, here is what to keep in mind as you plant them:

Days to emerge: 10-15 days

An example of the thyme plant.

Seed depth: 1/8”

Seed spacing: A group of 5 seeds every 10”

Row spacing: 12”

Thinning: When 1” tall, thin to 1 every 10”

Sow outside: 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost, and when soil temperature is at least 68°F.

Start inside: 6 to 8 weeks before average last frost. Ideal soil temp for germination is 70° – 80°F.

Height: 12”

 

Once it grows, make your thyme shine in some French recipes:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8175-french-lentils-with-garlic-and-thyme

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/12/french-in-a-flash-salmon-with-thyme-and-three-lemon-creme-fraiche.html

 

If you want to learn more about French culture or the French language, visit our website or the Alliance itself (810 N. Dearborn St)!

Verlan your French! How can your French sound more like a native speaker?

By | French Community, History, Uncategorized | One Comment

If you have ever learned a second language you probably have had the experience realizing that the language you are working so hard to learn might be very different from the way that language is actually spoken. Think of how in the English language, numerous words become trendy and other words fall out of fashion. Sometimes rather than a few single words changing, an entire separate grammar structure is born within a language. You may be familiar with pig-latin or cockney rhyming slang but did you know that there is a secret language that has become a big part of everyday spoken French? It’s called verlan!

Verlan, basically, involves taking a word, isolating the syllables, and switching those syllables. Sometimes it is necessary to drop or add letters to the verlaned version of a word so that you can still pronounce it. There isn’t really any hard and fast rule with this but the more you verlan, the more you will be able to figure it out. The word “verlan” itself has a couple of possible origins. The main theory is that it is itself a verlan of the word l’envers which means reverse.

If you want to listen to some live verlan, La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz) is the movie to watch.

 

You may ask, “why would anyone want to do that?” In general, you verlan a word to emphasize or downplay it. The first time someone decided to verlan seems to be unknown. This isn’t surprising since, while there are many verlan words in mainstream French now, the practice’s start was as a way for young people to speak in code in front of police or other authority figures.

 

Here are some examples of verlan:

  • laisse tomber becomes laisse béton (never mind)
  • bizarre becomes zarbi (weird)
  • honte becomes tehon (shame)
  • dingue becomes geudin (crazy)
  • fête becomes teuf (party)

There are some verlaned words that have been part of the common vocabulary for so long that they have been re-verlanged. For example the verlaned version of femme was meuf and then that was re-verlaned to feumeu.

Verlan is fun and is easiest when you have a good baseline of French. So to build up you French, register for a class at the Alliance Française de Chicago!

Verlan Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verlan
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ambigramme_Verlan_fond_noir_rotationnel.jpg
http://www.academicroom.com/article/verlan-talking-backwards-french
https://www.thoughtco.com/verlan-vocabulary-1371433

 

Francophone behind the scenes

By | Events, French Community, History, Uncategorized | No Comments

During the entire month of March, we at the Alliance Française de Chicago have hosted a variety of events as part of our Festival de Francophonie. By the end of the month you’ll have had the opportunity to learn about Russian and French cultures influencing each other, hear about books from around the world, eat amazing food, and see films that explore a variety of Francophonie experiences. While we have a lot of fun presenting you with these events and we hope you have fun attending, we thought it would be good to also give you a little bit of background on why exactly we celebrate Francophone cultures and International Francophone day beyond just the fun of experiencing new cultures.

This past Monday, March 20 was the annual International Francophonie Day. It’s observed in the 80 member states of the Organization of La Francophonie (By the way, that’s 274 million people) and is meant as a day to celebrate the French Language and the cultures of those who speak French.

Logo of Organisation Internationale de la francophonie

Why March 20th though? It turns out that beyond just

being the first day in Spring, this date also commemorates the signing of the Niamey Convention on March 20 1970. This established the Agence de Coopération Culturalle et Technique which later became the International Organization de La Francophonie. On the website of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie their mission is said to be “to embody the active solidarity between its 80 member states.” To accomplish this the organization “organizes political activities and actions to promote the French language, peace and sustainable development.”

We like to do our little part to expose people to different francophone cultures with our events. Our aim is for people to learn more about cultures that they might not know very much about. We hope that this exposure can kindle previously unexplored interests and deepen understandings of what we can learn from cultures that are different than our own.

Karel, a twelve year old attendee of soirée commune had the following to say about the event:

“I think that the Soirée Commune was a very fun event because it brought a lot of people together to share their country’s culture and get a glimpse of the culture of other countries. This was very important to me because at school they teach kids about the country they live in. Like what happened in the past, what is happening now, or what might occur in the near or distant future. Because of this, kids are often ignorant about what is going on in other smaller countries and what the culture  their is like. This event showed that there is more to Switzerland, France, Haiti and other countries, then the shocking news that is broadcasted worldwide and the general perspective that foreigners have on this countries. Overall, the whole experience was wonderful. I think the way they set it up was really brilliant. I enjoyed walking around to each booth or “country” and getting a taste of their food. I also think the passport idea made it a lot more fun too”

https://www.francophonie.org/Sites-specialises.html

https://www.francophonie.org/Welcome-to-the-International.html