I Have 51

j'ai 51 ans

In French, if someone asks you how old you are, you respond, “J’ai 51 ans”, which translates to “I have 51 years.” It one of the quirks of grammar between the languages, which don’t always intersect. In English, we do say, “I own _______” (fill in blank with something of which you have global, all-encompassing command of), which is a popular phrase, one that I haven’t been able to translate to French friends.

(I recently said on Twitter that “…Karen Carpenter owns the Christmas carols”, which probably confused non-native English speakers, and perhaps a few English-speaking ones that aren’t wise enough to appreciate Karen’s proprietorship of Christmas music as much as I do.)

Last year when I had 50 years, I celebrated with a birthday bouillotte. But this year, I’m not going to get so crazy. When your birthday falls two days after Christmas—and an unspecified number of days after Hannukah, and during Kwanzaa, it’s hard to rouse much enthusiasm amongst friends and family. And because it’s a week where a lot of people choose to travel, most people have headed out of town. Either that, or I’ve finally done it, and managed to offend everyone I know because they’re not returning my phone calls or e-mails. (And who says I have no talents?)

In the past, Romain invited some folks and made a festive dinner at his place for all of us. However after spending a couple of days cooking and getting ready for the holiday dinner, even though he said he’d do it again, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for the most important day for the year, so toady is going to be spent engaging in low-key activities instead of revving up for a big fête.

For example, the excitement du jour is my going to buy apples and tangerines at the market. I still have tons of root vegetables left over from an over-anxious shopping expedition a few days before Christmas. And to go with them, I might even go wild and get one of those out-of-control-good crispy-skinned poulet crapaudine. I can certainly see myself celebrating by having one of those today, in addition to having my cinquante et un years.

coconut cake

Speaking of gifts to myself, I never did get a Coconut Cake, which I’ve been waiting 10 long years for, and now the opportunity has gone. So I’ve decided to give up hope once and for all of having one on December 27th.

But today I’ll have apples, tangerines, and one mighty good spit-roasted chicken. And fifty-one years? I’ll have some of those, too.


  • Congratulation David, hope you had a great birthday!!!

  • It’s good “to have” the 51 years and not “to be” the 51 years. Perhaps a small difference but an optimistic air slips between the ownership and the years if one does not have to be ALL those years.
    Happy Birthday! Happy New Year!

  • Bon anniversaire!

  • Happy Belated Bday, Daveed!!! ;-)
    Best wishes from San Francisco, and also a Happy New Year 2010 to you…

    I’ve finally tempted to try your recipes…now that I’m not intimidated anymore of anything cooking/baking, thanks to hands-on cooking program that I’m in now.
    In Room for Desserts, I tried your Lemon Semifreddo for a friend’s bday with raspberry coulis, YUM!

    I did read your begging for a Coconut Cake for your very own special day, since you had always made it for someone’s father before, but no one has made you one. My Mr P loves coconut and anything islandish, so instead, you gave me an idea and I decided to make him a Coconut Cake for his bday this past Dec 10th! And it blew his mind! You’re right, David, it’s really delicious! But I have to say so so so sorry that I couldn’t send you one this time around on your bday ;-)

    From your The Sweet Life in Paris, I tempted some chocolate recipes from there: Chocolate Macarons, Chocolate Mousse, and Chocolate-Coconut Marshmallows (which didn’t turn out firm enough cause I was missing 5gr of gelatin…which I thought I could get away with it :-) Yum, yum, yum! My friends loved them all…I’ve become an addict of GREAT recipes now! Give me more…(what else did I try?; I gotta see some of my ‘firsts’ photo shots again to remember)

    Your recipes ROCK! I love them and trust you for following them.
    You’re my teacher, un vrai maitre, for anything sweet for sure. And you made me look GOOD so far…:-D

    Thank You, Chef!
    More successes, joy and happiness to you in 2010.

    A bientot, Ciaooooo

  • Happy Birthday David! By the way, I completely agree that Karen Carpenter owns Christmas Carols :)

  • Un petit beurre, des toullioux!
    I love your blog..You can’t be 51…you are adorable…Reading your blog is like being able to breathe. I, too, have lived in France and as an American I find your commentary to be spot on…..you own it!!
    Bonne Annee!

  • Happy belated, David. I hope you enjoyed a splendid day. I do sympathize with you, and everyone else that celebrates birthdays around major holidays. You do suffer a bit due to the shopping, and many other festive extremes we non-birthday folks have indulged within. Fear not, I am sure that many delved into a bit of vicarious, though imaginary baking, all in your honor. We love you dearly and hope you enjoyed our toasted coconut cakes.

    Many Happy Birthdays are wished for you.

    P.S. I burnt my fingertips trying for a trans Atlantic delivery. Oh, and a few of my brain cells are frayed too. The ESP factor was vamped up extra high. It caused a brown out along the Eastern shore. Please blow these candles out, ASAP!


  • Happy Birthday!! My sister’s birthday is the day after Christmas, similar to your situation. One positive thing is that more often than not, the entire family IS together because we make an effort to be together on Christmas. Hope you enjoyed your birthday. :) Happy New Year as well.

  • Happy Belated Birthday to you, David. And Happy New Year 2010! I’ll be in Paris soon. :)

  • Bon anniversaire Daveed! Hope its a good one!

  • Happy Birthday! May 2010 be a year of happiness, good health and much prosperity!

  • Happy Birthday David! Blessings to you for the new year.

  • Happy belated, David.
    Regarding the use of “own” as being good (the best?) at, it could be translated by “maitrise”, although it is a bit slang-ish. As in: “les macarons, je maitrise…”

  • It’s similar in Spanish. Yo tengo _____ años. = I have _____ years. (The tilde on the n is crucial here.)

    Happy birthday. Besos,

  • Ugh, my bad for not looking at the date on here, ha, oh well. Happy belated then!

  • Anna: That’s ok. The “tilda is crucial” comment gave me a good chuckle anyways! : )