The secret to having a French conversation when you don’t actually speak French that well is to make your face into a slightly amused neutral expression and look at the person’s lips. Try to find some kind of word that you know. For instance, poulet (chicken). Then focus on all the possibilities for the conversation. Maybe they would like to have poulet for dinner. No. That’s not it. Their husband keeps a poulet at their house. No. Their husband is a poulet. Yes, this must be it. For some reason, this person has married a chicken and it’s their femme (wife) or they have recently caught a female chicken in some kind of barnyard scenario. It is unclear why, but just keep nodding and saying things like, bien sur (but of course).

Last night, I attended a dinner with the French consulate. Obviously, it is because I am extremely important. I thought it might be a trick and I would be invited to receive the legion d’honneur. I wore a super nice dress with really high heels just in case. I also didn’t wear a necklace. Obviously. If I were to be given the award, I would wear it instantly. You gots to be classy with this kind of thing.

The dinner was going well. Everyone was kind of chatting in French and I was intensely starring at people’s lips.

“You adore avocados.” No. “You are a lawyer” (avocat)

“You teach at a far away university that is called the State University of New York.” No. “You work at UB which is like five minutes from where I live.”

“You are not French but you grew up with a French speaking nanny.” Um. Yes. That’s right. “No, you were in the French navy?” Oh mon dieu. I have no follow-up questions.

Anyway, all of a sudden, people started standing up and there were hand motions like, “We’re going to go around the circle and each say something.”

I panicked and asked Vincent, “Good God do we have to give a speech?”

“I can do yours for you,” Vincent offered.

“Non! Non! I CAN DO THIS!”

So, when it was my turn to get up. I started by saying, (and I’ll translate this in English for you” “Sorry for my France! I am learning it. I love the country of French. The culture! The tongues! I love it. Thank you!”

Then a question from the French consul representative of Buffalo, “Quoi tu fais?”

What do I do?

“Ah, I am writing! I am writing. Books! For the little children. A blog! It’s called The Fish Swims. Thank you!”

So, that was my speech. My hands were shaking when I was done and I felt like I needed one of those space towels they give you after races.

A cool French woman next to me put her hand on my arm, “That was really impressive.”

We immediately became best friends and talked for the rest of the night in English and then I snooped in on some other French conversations. I really had no idea what was going on, but it was fantastic. I think I was either in the bathroom or had inadvertently fallen under the table when the legion d’honneur was handed out though so I guess I missed it.





As a fake French person, I have a lot of hobbies. These include eating processed croissants from Aldi’s. Tasting wine by sucking it through my nose. Wearing a beret to bed and for naps.

A lot of people recognize me as a fake French person when they hear how I speak English, with a slight French accent. This adds to my charm. Obviously.

I have also found that a baguette makes a perfect key chain holder. I rarely loose my keys, unless I am out somewhere, not having eaten lunch. Then I am forced to eat my key chain: the baguette.

In order to increase authenticity, I have made a spreadsheet of all of my friends. It is based on a point system, where each friend who is French gets more points. Then, my friends who are married to French people also get points. The people who are not French or not married to anyone French, but do speak some French, get a few points. If you have no connection to France you are put in a column called “The Danger Zone.” I know these friends will not bring me any French status so I am careful not to hang out with them too much. Unless it is the fourth of July. If it is the fourth of July, all rules are inversed and all America born people get tons of points on my friend spreadsheet. If you are wearing an American flag swimsuit, you get even more points. If it is a speedo and you are running in the Turkey Trot, you get points and I also give you a handmade sweater because you look a little cold to me. I find this spreadsheet useful when I am wondering what move to make next in my social hemisphere. In this way, I operate like someone who has old money and lives in New York City at the turn of the century.

At this point in the essay, you might be wondering one thing: “What happens when the baguette key chain gets stale?”

Good question. I’m glad you are reading so attentively. The answer is simple and I will use rhetorical questions to increase the time I am talking and decrease the time you are talking because I can kind of see from your face that you are going to want to talk more than me. This has turned into a defensive conversation where I have to defend my allotted time for talking.

So, here is my answer, please don’t interrupt me.

Have you ever been hit over the head with a stale baguette?

I can see you are nodding and your mouth indicates you have a story about this experience but I’m still not done talking.

Well, as you know, baguettes, when stale, cause concussions. So, therefore, my keychain is also a handy street weapon.

Okay, I think that clears that up. I’m just about to go take a nap, so I need to put my beret on. I know that you want to tell me a story from your own life, but I’m sorry I have an appointment with my beret. A plus dans le bus.

Would you like a mustache?


My French is excellent. You should know this.

I am in Lyon, France. I am spending a lot of time with my husband’s French family. Pretty much all of the conversations are in French. Does this cause me trouble?

Pas du tout! Not at all! I can always keep up. Like for instance, yesterday at dinner, my father-in-law had a basket of bread and he asked me something in French. I understood this to mean “Would you like a mustache?”

Bien sur! But, of course, I would like a mustache or . . . oh yes, I see: a piece of bread.

My mother-in-law told me that my French was “trés bien!” She may have just been saying this to be kind, but I like to believe that my French is actually super good. If I am unsure about what is being said, I simply make it up. This usually works out.


This trip I am trying to break my habit of monologuing in French as a way to avoid having to listen to French. This is what I did before, when I was young and naïve. Now, I am old and sophisticated (I wear scarves and jewelry). I am really trying to listen to my French in laws. I am quiet for long periods of time, especially at dinner time. I try to desperately figure out the subject and add in an intelligent response, but sometimes this is difficult, so I just repeat the word that I heard. Like if they are talking about horses, I kind of sigh, knowingly, and say, “Ah oui. Les cheveaux.” Oh yes, the horses. I may actually be saying, “Ah yes, the hair.” I’m not entirely sure, but no one says anything. Maybe they just think I operate on a different plane. It’s unclear.


I am also attempting to read an entire book in French.

This book is a murder mystery by Michel Bussi. He is a very famous French writer. The book is about a very famous French writer who invites loyal readers to a tropical island. Apparently there is a murder, maybe even a series of murders, but I don’t know who is killed yet. I don’t know if the murder happened and I just missed it, or if it has not happened yet. I am about 80 pages into the book.

It’s a challenge, of course, to read this, but being a genius, it’s no problem for me.

No, really, I feel like my brain is getting really big and sort of touching my skull. It is so full of language.

There is only one solution to this: wine and sleeping. And then immediately feeling bad about how much wine I drank.

My brain sort of absorbs all of the French during the day and then at night, the chemicals in my brain connect all of the words.

I do find myself speaking French without realizing that I am speaking French. This is a really great feeling.

One day I will be bilingual. I know it. It’s just not today. And luckily, for me, I did not inadvertently get a mustache. Just a piece of bread. Sometimes things work out much better than expected.

Please cover your mouth because it’s painfully beautiful.

So, I made it to France. We had an excellent time in the airport. Lucky for us, we got free Covid tests. Thank you, French healthcare.

However, in my mind, I get this interaction confused and think of it as a fun date, rather than as an official test ordered by France’s equivalent of FEMA.

It went a little something like this:

We landed in Paris and met with the French interrogation officer. We said, “Oh no, we don’t need the Covid test. We already got them in Buffalo and we are vaccinated so double slam, we are good.”

But then the officer was like, “Ah, wait a minute, guys. You do need them because you are going to Switzerland.”

I couldn’t really understand exactly what Vincent was saying to the French officer but I thought it was something like this because the French officer was using the typical “bah oui” attitude common in French people when they are pointing out how wrong you are about something.

So, we got in the long line for the Covid test. Then we waited. I was feeling rather woozy at this point because we had just gotten off the seven hour flight from Buffalo to Paris. It was about 2am my time and I had taken a melatonin the night before to try to help sleep on the plane.

Landing in Geneva, Switzerland

Anyway, we got up to the front of the line and the woman separated me and Vincent. Basically, while in France, Vincent is my language. He is how I effectively communicate with other people. Sometimes I can do it on my own, but mostly, it is me relying on him to help me. Or else I only understand part of what is happening. So you could say, I was a little worried about how this was going to go.

The person was like, “Go to number 5”(allez a cinq)

and so I did and this is when the sexy, French Covid date began.

There was this large man whose face I could not see because he was wearing plastic over it. He had on a white cloth antispetic covering. The man was like, “Sit down, please.” (assez vous svp)

And I was like, “Why of course.”

And then he was like, “How are you doing?” (ca va?)

And I was like, “Oh you know, pretty good. A little tired.” Then I realized that he was asking me this because he wanted to know if I had Covid, not just to see how I was doing.

Then I like, “I really love your hazmat suit. It’s so . . .mmm. how do you say . . .appealing?”

And then he was like, “Okay, lean back while I stick this up your nose.”

And so I did.

Then he was like, “Cover your mouth with your mask” (something something BOUCHE something something)

And then he was like, “Merci madame.”

And I was like, “Non, non, Robert. Thank you. This has been lovely.”

Then I didn’t know if I was supposed to leave, so I just sort of got up and he was like, “Bonne journee.”
And I was like, “Oh okay, I’m supposed to leave, but now I don’t want to.”

Then I was walking down the fake hallway that FEMA had set up and I realized I had been so rude. He was telling me to have a good day and I was just giving him the cold shoulder. I called, “Bonne journee.

And he called back, “Merci!”

And that’s when I knew that it hadn’t just been a Covid test, it had been something really special, just between me and French FEMA.


And, we’re back.

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written. All of my sponsorships are now gone. I used to have the best sponsorships: Baguettes, Scarves, Perfume, French Tennis, French Soccer, even Emmanuel Macron sponsored the blog for some time. But, I couldn’t keep up with the content. I was busy “trying not to get covid.” So, they left. C’est triste.

But, I’m back. And better than ever. And, badder than ever.

THIS SEASON ON LE POISSON NAGE EXPECT . . .slime wipe outs, forbidden kisses, kitchen catastrophes and a surprise guest. There will even be an elimination round where someone from this island will be voted OUT! It could be you!

So, for this episode of Le Poisson Nage, I want to tell you my travel plans in case you are a stalker and want to follow me.

I am going to France. C’est vrai! I am leaving on Sunday. Dimanche!

What have I done to prepare?

Studied French of course. Quickly and desperately, I have been watching these Youtube French shows about Aix-Les Bains. One of the shows was about dogs. The dog seemed to have a kind of fungal infection. The very thin French woman was explaining how to cure it. I’m not exactly sure what the solution was. But everyone seemed excited. I mean, it was fungus after all. I, too, was excited. Dogs with skin fungus. What could be better?

I’m also listening to Duolingo’s French podcast. Although sometimes my Google podplayer (not its real name. I have no idea what its name is but it looks like a pod and it wants me to say, “hey google” in a sexy voice in order to listen to NPR), will play Duolingo Spanish podcast. This is no bueno. Obviously. But sometimes I keep listening. Donde estas los banos?

So, do you want to know the reason we are going to France? Well, here it is. Two of our friends left the U.S. to move back home to France and we are on a quest to bring them back to America. We are going to search far and wide. We will look in every Boulangerie. Baguettes will go flying. Little mopeds will crash into each other. People will look annoyed at us as we are running down the streets screaming, “Marc! Aurore! Allons-y. Come back! Bring cheese!”

No. This is not true. We are actually just going on a “fun holiday” to “see” Vincent’s “family.” Do you like my use of quotation marks? It’s called suspense. That sentence is confusing and mysterious. You have no idea what is real and what is not. But, I’ll give you a hint: I’m not sure either.

The only problem I anticipate is my recent love affair with beets. Okay, if you are French, stop laughing. Seriously. It’s rude. Alright, that’s enough now. Yeah, you, you with the scarf and the mustache, stop laughing because I said “beets.”

In French, the English word beets is very forbidden. Vincent has explicitly told me not to say it while in France.

But the problem is that I’m on a major health kick and I love beet salad. I have been getting these beets from my co-op. They are yellow. Some are red. They are delicious with a little bit of oil and goat cheese.

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it. Beet=dick. Yes. Ew, gross. Gosh. I feel gross. But, this is what French people know and we, innocent, puritanical Americans do not know. So, I need to say betteraves. However, this sounds Russian. And anytime I speak Russian, all I want to do is drink vodka.

This is probably a good place to end. I am not having beets for dinner tonight. Instead, Indian food. Miammmmm.

Wish me luck in France, my friends. I’m fully vaccinated and ready to part-tay.


Vin Chaud.

The first time I met Vincent’s friend Marc, I thought he was a fake-o French person. You know the type. So typical. Gets off an “airplane” from “France” and then meets us in our living room with a “French” accent.

Yeah, right!

First of all, Marc is nine feet tall. There’s no way he can be French. French people are small. That’s why they make incredible actors and also incredible plumbers (they fit very easily under the sink. When they go in to look at the pipes, they close the cupboard door behind them, it’s amazing! Very polite!).

Second, Marc was really into sports. French people hate sports! French people think sports are a giant waste of time that could be spent smoking cigarettes in Paris.

Third, Marc was very optimistic. He really sees the positive in people. Like if I say something like, “ugh, merde, cette homme est un canard” Marc’s like, “No! Come on. He’s not so bad.” NOPE. This guy: not French.

Fourth, Marc doesn’t like cheese. QUOI! This is a big red flag of a pseudo-french.

I thought perhaps he was Norwegian. Or German. I didn’t know. Being an American, I just kind of grouped him as “not-American.” Just “foreign.” Possibly Canadian but he wasn’t quite that chipper. I mean, allez, let’s be honest.

However, Marc recently came over to our covid-safe (hopefully! please!) backyard and made us Vin Chaud. Hot Wine.

He made it in our Les Crueset. How many times can I tell you that we have a Les Crueset. I don’t know but I’m prepared to find out! Pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

It was delicious. It tasted warm in my belly and good and sweet and I loved drinking it outside near the fire and I served those little goat cheese pockets I was telling you about and it was so nice. Even Eric, the guy who knows nothing, absolutely nothing about France, enjoyed it. Who would have thought!

I guess Marc is French.


Poulet au Vin.

When I used to be on dating sites, my name was pouletauvin. It was the sexiest French phrase I could think of, literally meaning, hen in wine. You might have thought that I would choose coquauvin (rooster in wine) because there is a sexual innuendo (coq! Oh you naughty squirrel!), but no. Clearly, I don’t like to be vulgar.

I found pouletauvin was useful because it attracted farmer types. People who were good with hens, roosters and collecting eggs.

Well, now, I’m a happily married urban farmer and I no longer need to use a screen name, except on all the QAnon sites I belong to (je rigole! c’est un blague! geez don’t form an angry mob or something.).

Tonight I am cooking, mon petite chou, you guessed it: coq au vin.

Am I good at cooking coq au vin? Define “good.”

Do I follow directions exactly?

No, of course not.

This is not why the famous pouletauvin is a James Beard awarded chef. It is precisely because she doesn’t really care what the recipe says.

If the recipe from David Lebovitz says to: separate the chicken into eight parts, does the pouletauvin seperate it?


But, does she do it eventually at a later, more weird stage when the chicken is super hot? When it is slippery and it feels a bit more like murder?



We really do not know.

How do we know the madness of the French chef? How can we question her methods?

Did the pouletauvin yell at Vincent when he offered her a French recipe? Bien sur! Did she later regret refusing the help and then asked him to come back out into the kitchen to help her figure out how you “cut bone?” Oui!

So, I felt a lot like Julie in that famous cooking blog movie, Julia and Julie. Only I felt like more of a hipster, feminist rather than a New York City insurance (? some kind of office with cubicles) agent. Why? Because I had previously named myself pouletauvin on dating sites and went on dates that involved milking cows and putting seed down. Also, I haven’t received like 4,000 calls from publishing companies that want to publish my blog into a book. This part is surprising.

I have not eaten the coq au vin yet, but I did mention that I was cooking it at party I went to on Sunday night. By party, I mean five people standing far apart from each other in our pod, one was vaccinated and we were all slightly terrified we would get covid. So, yeah, “party.” There was some confusion about why the French used a rooster and Americans used a hen. I also noticed that two of my American friends didn’t in fact know what a hen was. Does this mean that Americans are so disconnected from their food source they don’t even know basic barn yard vocabulary? Je ne sais pas.

I do know that we spent a lot of time translating the sounds animals make in French and English.

And, that’s how I will leave you, much like how I ended my dates with the farmers.

The American Rooster says: Cock-a-doodle do!

Le Coq Francais dit: Cocorico!

It’s amazing that none of those dates produced a love match.


The one where Le Poisson Nage Becomes a Satirical Cooking Blog.

Am I professional chef? Yes.

Do I work at a Michelin star restauraunt? Obviously.

Did I win a James Beard award? Multiple. I won so many I had to declutter them when one stopped sparking joy for me.

Do I know both the word “duck” and the word “confit?” Bien sur.

Do my friends called me Jacques Pepin? Yes, they do and I have to tell them to stop because come on guys, I mean, I’m a modest person.

So, obviously I am going to start a cooking blog about French food. This goes without saying.

And obviously, if you are anyone who wants to start a cooking blog, you have to start with a French ingredient.

So, I start with the leek.

Les Poireaux

The simple leek.

It looks so unassuming and yet it is so full of Frenchiness. It is a beautiful vegetable. Green and virulent. Strong, yet when you make a soup out of it, it will help you magically lose weight–according to Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat.

So, being an unusually accomplished chef who has learned everything she knows because of her extensive training with the podcast Home Cooking, watching the television series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and The Great British Bakeoff, plus reading David Lebovitz’s My French Kitchen, today, I got to work with three leeks I had in my fridge. I made what I like to call, “Le Poche de Poireau.”

I decided to mix some goat cheese, bacon and leeks with le poireau and wrap it up in some leftover phyllo dough I had.

Le bacon.

You may be wondering, mon Dieu, she’s a genius. Did she go to Cordon Bleu?

Well, mon amie, the name of my first born son is Gordon Blue. So I think that answers your question. Doesn’t it?

I chopped up the onions, careful not to chop mes doigts (fingers). I did not want my kitchen to turn into a bloodbath.

Those knife skills! Incroyable.

Then I chopped up the leeks and put everything into my hot Les Creuset pan. I received this as a wedding gift because my parents’ friends knew I would need it. They figured that I needed my kitchen to have the best of the best. Le meilleur! And, also, they wanted me to look like a millionaire! Because who trusts a cook who cooks with peasant pots and pans? Not me! Pas moi, mon cher. Pas moi.

Anyway, the little pockets came out of the oven with smiles on their faces, ready to be eaten by my French friend, Marc and of course, my French husband, Vincent. My other friend Eric will also be eating it, but who cares what he thinks? He’s an American and wouldn’t know the difference between Brittany and Normandy! He wouldn’t know the difference between the Sun King (or as I like to say, Louis Quatorze) and Louis 16.

Did I want Marc and Vincent to like these hors d’oeuvres so much that they tell Brigitte Macron that Americans are actually amazingly knowledgeable about food?

No. Of course not. That would be absurd.

I just wanted them to think that this American, this one, lone, great American, (dare I say the greatest American?) knows how to pocket those leeks like Julia Childs herself.

And so, I am off, to drink mulled vin and eat my leek pockets with my friends over a hobo fire while staying six feet apart from one another. Goodnight. And good luck. This is where we say au revoir.


Are Americans really that friendly? Or are the French secretly super chipper?

Not to brag or anything, but I have a lot of European friends. A LOT. I get invited to parties at European soccer bars all the time. Uh duh, I speak A-2 French and wear lipstick reminiscient of the allied troops during World War 2. This is not surprising.

I like my European friends because, even though they do complain about some many things they don’t like about America, they tell me all the time how friendly Americans are. I always find this surprising.

Quoi le putain? Friendly? Us? We hate immigrants. The last four years have been spent talking about building a giant wall around our country. We actually call human beings “illegals” and then try to keep them out of our country, even though our country is founded by “illegals.” How can this be that they think we are so friendly? Guys, we are assholes. How can you not know this?!

Honestly, I don’t really know why they think we are so friendly. I think they would probably explain it by saying American culture is “simple” and therefore friendly. However, American culture is not simple. American culture is crazy. What the heck is American culture anyway? Big cars and hamburgers? I drive a VW golf and am a vegetatarian. Ergo, am I not an American? J’espere que je suis americanne.

But, guess what, every European I know: FRENCH PEOPLE ARE SECRETLY REALLY FRIENDLY.


I have a perfect example.

Last Christmas, I went to an extremely fancy dining location. So fancy that other people make food for you. Yes! And they have these people called “servers” who bring you the food. You probably forgot that places like this used to exist, but they did. They were called: restaurants.

Anyway, we had this very tall, very thin French waiter. I don’t know his name. Maybe this does prove to all the Europeans that Americans are really friendly because American servers always tell you their name and then by the end of the meal, you are like, “Oh this is Robert and he is my best friend who brings me my food. Yes, there is an inverted power dynamic in our relationship because I give him money, but honestly, we are good pals.”

In France, the servers don’t tell you their names. Well, at least, this guy didn’t. Maybe he didn’t want me to google stalk him and then message him later. Typical.

Anyway, every time I gave him something: my menu, my plate, my other plate, my glass, blah blah, he would say, super loudly, “MERCI BEAUCOUP!” And then he would smile really big and bow.


Every single time.

To the point, where I, a simple, overly friendly American, was laughing out of discomfort.

So. French people are really friendly. Case. In. Point.

No, let’s be honest. This guy was a total exception to the culture. Americans are weirdly friendly. The other day, my dad waved to this guy in the restaurant and then that guy waved back and I said, “Do you know him?” And then my dad was like, “No, but now I do!”

We can’t help it. We just like knowing people. It’s our insatiable need to be well-liked. The French don’t really have this problem.

Oh, slam!

French don’t like to be well liked because they are so snobby. Classic French joke.

No, the French are pretty cool.

You should see these European soccer bars. You probably don’t remember this either, but you used to be able to go into places and drink beer and then like kiss whoever you wanted on the cheek and then you could smell their beer or smoke breath and it was amazing. Those were the good old, non-pandemic days.

Okay, everyone. Good luck and good night.

Also, I’m killing it on Duolingo. I have to go and try to beat Malou who has 335 XP. I have 140XP. Wish me luck.


I need to be an American again.

I’ve recently made friends with two founders of a company here in America. They are originally from an undisclosed country. Let’s say it’s somewhere between Prussia and Ireland. They are incestrual siblings who are makeup influencers on Instagram. Lots of blush. Sticky lipstick. Sparkly eyes. That kind of thing.


That part is not that interesting. Incestrual siblings. Who cares, anymore. Man, our president has orange skin and recently told us to drink hand sanitizer. #wtf

What I want to know is if I’m still American. Or what is an American?

These siblings were telling me that they don’t like certain things about America. I find this hard to believe. Our country is so calm and peaceful. It’s so relaxing to listen to the news. Move over, Sweden, we are totally taking your spot as “chillest cousin.” Pass the joint over here, sistah, because we are so relaxed we are like making all the other countries put little yellow flowers in their hair.

I’m kidding. Je rigole.

America is nuts. It always has been. We started off with a revolution. Then we had a civil war. Then the wild west didn’t really end until World War 1 and World War 2 and then it started back up again, about three years ago in 2016 when a certain election happened.

So, what is America? What is “an American?” God, who am I? Should I try to get in this throuple with the incenstrual siblings? Game of Thrones made it looks sort of okay. No. I can’t. It’s just too weird. Sorry, guys. But, I will take some of that make up that was made in China out of rat urine. That seems really cool.

American food. What is it? Fast food? Big portions? The siblings insist that “an American” is a big, fat, white guy who eats McDonalds. When I think of an American, I think of Miles Davis. When I think of American food, I think of avocados and Alice Waters. I think of Ithaca, NY and delightful hippies in straw hats harvesting their own vegetables in their backyard gardens with their husbands who are all named Pete and are university professors. Is this America?

Or is America the show Transparent? Is it American Jews who have transgendered parents? I feel like that’s America. That’s closer to America. But, how can I explain it to the siblings? And, God, it’s so annoying they want me to buy this make up all the time when I’m scrolling through my Insta feed. Lay off the mascara demos guys. I DON’T WEAR MAKEUP; I READ BOOKS! Actually that’s not true. I wear a lot of make up. The kind Queen Elizabeth wore in the 1800s. Thick, powdery make up to hide my pock marks. Yes, it’s true. That’s the only true sentence in this whole piece.

Anyway. I have no idea what America is. All I know is I’m about to go camping and I just got a fishing license and I want to go out there into America’s great big wilderness and explore and conquer and befriend indigenous persons in the fur trade and eat fish together at night and complain about how horrible Prussia/Ireland is! This is what I want. Wish me luck.