Traditionally, people hate Monday mornings. I look forward to them. That is when I go to a French class at Esher Green Adult Learning Centre. Learning French is not easy. Lots of irregular verbs and it seems that thousands of objects were thrown into the air and, as each one fell, it was given a name and allocated a gender at random. Then there are hundreds of corresponding male and female adjectives. Not to mention a mediaeval method of counting.
However, when all the components are mixed together they produce a spoken language that is a pleasure to listen to and a joy to learn. Especially, when taught by Sonia Dreux, a Parisian whirlwind and our tutor. Each lesson is planned, in a professional manner, with an objective in mind. Then it is broken into five or six different activities that maintain our interest for 90 minutes. Her enthusiasm, tolerance, smiles and Gallic charm are innate. The classes are always full and my fellow students are a joy to be with.
I like to cook international recipes on a Saturday. Not always with great success, but my wife is courageous, so I continue. One afternoon, as I was cooking a posh nosh, three thoughts coalesced: friends, food and French. I told Sonia that I would like to create a booklet containing the favourite recipes of my friends in classes French – Stage 4+ and 5+. I did not dare propose that I would like them written in French, but Sonia made that suggestion and told me that she would read and correct them all. She would also contribute her favourite Thai recipe. I wrote the first one as a template for the others. It took me two hours. Sonia then forwarded the recipe to all the students with my request for their favourite recipe written in French. It could be a starter, main course or dessert.
I had total confidence that everyone would join in enthusiastically, although the task was totally unfamiliar. Each one had to look up the French words for the ingredients which might include a meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. They also had to look up the appropriate methods of measuring quantities together with processes such as dicing, cooking in an oven, boiling, simmering, frying and browning.
The recipes trickled in and I used clipart to add a colourful national flag and an icon of that country. My secretary printed over 800 sheets and my wife took pity on me when she saw me putting one sheet at a time slowly into each of 33 booklets. She collated the sheets so that all the recipes for each book were gathered in 33 piles. One of us has to be practical!
Voilȧ! That is how 33 booklets, were produced. Each contains a favourite recipe, in French, written by each of my friends. A souvenir that I shall treasure as a reminder of the good friendships I have made whilst learning French.
Graham March, French – Stage 4+
(Photograph taken by Roger Mendham)