Crêpes in Montmartre

“Want to get crêpes for lunch?” I asked my mom as we were wandering through Montmartre after our visit to le Sacre Cœur.

Her eyes answered me, there was no need to ask such an obvious question. Of course, she wanted crêpes for lunch, probably filled with chocolate.

“We could split a savory one to get some protein and a sweet one to share for dessert?” she suggested.

We had a busy day ahead of us, so it certainly made sense to fuel our bodies with something a little more substantial than just sugar. I was glad Mom was thinking ahead, because my cravings would have led me to a sugar crash later in the afternoon.  We found a promising crêpe stand and joined the end of the line.

“Obviously we should get a Nutella one, but what kind of savory crêpe do you want to share?” I asked, not worrying about my mom’s decision since we would have something sweet to finish with.

“Whatever looks good to you, just nothing with mushrooms.” she said, even though I shared her dislike for mushrooms and would have vetoed any of her suggestions containing them.

I peered over the heads of other customers to read the menu, translating the words in my head. “Ham and cheese? Or spinach and tomato? I’m good with either.” I offered my suggestions of the options that looked tasty.

“Ham and cheese.” She paused for a moment before asking, “Which one do you want to order?”

I thought about the French words for each crêpe and made my decision, “I’ll order the ham and cheese, fromage is more fun to say”. Mom smiled at me, knowing I would have ordered a grapefruit crêpe if it were on the menu, even though it doesn’t sound appetizing. Pamplemousse was my favorite French word and I was always looking for an excuse to use it.

I had crêpes to thank for my decision to study French. When it was time to choose between learning Spanish, German, or French, my 12-year-old mind weighed the different food options from each culture. At that age, I wasn’t a big fan of enchiladas or tamales, and bratwurst were okay, but I didn’t want any of these dishes to be the featured item of a class party. Nutella-filled crepes and the traditional Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) were the biggest factors leading me to take French. The other reason? My parents had chosen French as their newest way to communicate secretly in front of my sister and I ever since we were able to spell.

As we got closer to the counter I began to rehearse my order aloud, “Je voudrais achete une crêpe du jambon et fromage”.

Always a stickler for grammar, Mom corrected me, “It’s ‘je voudrais acheter’ not ‘achete’. You’ve already conjugated the first verb, so ‘acheter’ must be in the infinitive.” She tutored some of my classmates on a weekly basis and tutored me on a ‘there’s a test tomorrow and I have no clue what I’m doing’ basis.

I practiced the revised version of my sentence, hoping the woman at the counter wouldn’t have any clarifying questions. She seemed to be understanding the tourists in front of us, so I hoped my beginner’s French would be comprehensible.

We reached the front of the line and I nervously approached the woman who would take our order. Letting go of my insecurities about grammar and pronunciation, I ordered my first crêpe en français, “Je voudrais acheter une crêpe du jambon et fromage, s’il vous plait.” The woman smiled, perhaps appreciating my effort after the long stretch of American tourists ahead of us who had ordered in English. Mom completed our order with confidence, “Et aussi une crêpe avec le Nutella, s’il vous plait.”

One thought on “Crêpes in Montmartre

  1. Elizabeth,

    I enjoy your writing style and I think you’ve structured this piece well. Your budding understanding of French is complemented nicely in this setting with your mother, and it was an excellent choice for a prompt about showcasing dialogue.

    From the beginning, there is also a nice playfulness, both in your writing and in the dialogue, demonstrating this relationship between you and your mother. I love the second paragraph, and especially this line: “Of course, she wanted crêpes for lunch, probably filled with chocolate.” I also loved the section about grapefruit (and this also very relatable for readers studying another language – I love saying the word for the color orange in Italian – “arancione.”)

    Her American voice is further brought forward with the mention of “protein.” These small details are what make the piece effective.

    Of very small note, I’m curious to know if the photo is yours and if so, from where? Not from the same trip, presumably?

    Anyway, good job. I love the ending with your mother finishing the order. Again, there is a playfulness and yet a poignancy. She is the mother; she finishes the order; she speaks French better, but she is ordering the dessert.

    Good work!


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