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.


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216 comments

  • December 27, 2009 5:47am

    Congratulations, felicitations! Feliz cumple! You keep catching up to me, one day you’ll pass…..

  • December 27, 2009 5:54am

    Buon compleanno!

  • jean
    December 27, 2009 6:09am

    feliz bon anniversaire cumpli años birthday…happy birthday

  • December 27, 2009 6:12am

    joyeux anniversaire!

  • vmc
    December 27, 2009 6:19am

    Happy Birthday, David !

  • December 27, 2009 6:20am

    Happy Birthday!

  • December 27, 2009 6:39am

    Feliz cumpleaños!!!

  • December 27, 2009 6:50am

    happy happy birthday!

  • December 27, 2009 6:58am

    Bon anniversaire David!

  • December 27, 2009 6:59am

    Tanti Auguri di Buon Compleanno!

    I would make you a coconut cake if we were friends and lived closer.

    CIAO!

  • December 27, 2009 7:14am

    And what good use you have made of those 51 years! I’m right behind you at 50. Happy Birthday, David. Your bring your readers laughter and joy.

  • Mrs Redboots
    December 27, 2009 7:18am

    Happy birthday, and many happy returns of the day!

  • Noah
    December 27, 2009 7:19am

    appie birzdé, daveeed!

    oh, and if you want to get the French back for using avoir when it should be etre, try rubbing your stomach and asking, ‘are you angry?’

  • December 27, 2009 7:24am

    You have 51. I have wishes happy!
    Bon anniversaire, David.

  • Sarah
    December 27, 2009 7:27am

    Bon anniversaire David!

  • December 27, 2009 7:39am

    Bon anniversaire!!

  • Judy Konopka
    December 27, 2009 7:52am

    David, I’m sorry you didn’t get a coconut cake :(. But I do like the French version of “I have 51 years”….and I hope you have many more -filled with great food (including coconut cakes), fun friends, and good health. Happy Birthday!

  • December 27, 2009 7:58am

    tanti auguri e appi börthdaye, Davide!

  • December 27, 2009 8:02am

    Happy Birthday David. December birthdays have a tough time of it – except of course the December 31st babies… they are always guaranteed a party!
    I lift my mug to you – CHEERS !
    Michaela

  • December 27, 2009 8:04am

    Bon anniversaire!!

    Spanish and other Romance languages express age the same way. I love it when I find myself saying, “Oh, she has 13 years,” in English by mistake even though I’m a native, English speaker.

  • December 27, 2009 8:09am

    Happy Birthday, David! That is one lovely cake!

    Cheers and best wishes for the New year,

    Rosa

  • Daniel
    December 27, 2009 8:10am

    J’ai 63 ans aujourd’hui. si heureux anniversaire à nous deux.
    Aussi, merci pour votre blog.

  • Leslie
    December 27, 2009 8:10am

    On your birthday I would like to thank you for your wonderful blog, your sharp wit, your amazing talent with food and most of all sharing your continuing fascination with Paris – our favorite city. We will be there for a 10 days in May. I will keep my eye out for you at the markets! Happy Birthday, David!

  • December 27, 2009 8:14am

    Happy birthday, Daveed!

  • December 27, 2009 8:14am

    Happy Birthday David! :D

  • Krystle
    December 27, 2009 8:19am

    Happy Birthday David!
    51 wishes for you!:)

  • Courtney
    December 27, 2009 8:26am

    Happy BirthdAy.Sounds like an excellent way to spend it.

  • Lou
    December 27, 2009 8:30am

    Happy Birthday. Here’s to having 51 more years full of saturated fat, trouble-making, love, sweetness and coconut cakes!

  • Julie
    December 27, 2009 8:31am

    Joyeux anniversaire, David!

    My husband had his 54th birthday on Christmas Eve. We know that pain of trying to keep birthdays and the Holidays separate, so we can celebrate properly. It always seems that the birthday is secondary, because some one wraps gifts in red/green vs. all the other colors that one should choose.

    Hope that a Gâteau de noix de coco is made for you!
    All the best!

  • Ana
    December 27, 2009 8:33am

    Happy 51st Birthday, David! I wish you lots of happiness and many more birthdays to come : )

  • December 27, 2009 8:53am

    Happy birthday! I hope you will have a delicious day and a wonderful year to come.

  • carla
    December 27, 2009 8:55am

    Happy birthday, David! Wishing you 51 more years of life, love and food!

  • December 27, 2009 9:06am

    Bonne Anniversaire, David!

    I hope you have a very Happy Birthday!!!! (And so sorry you missed the boat on that coconut cake…it looks DIVINE!)

  • December 27, 2009 9:11am

    Happy birthday. And thank you for the gift of your blog.

  • December 27, 2009 9:12am

    Happy, happy birthday, David! Wishing you more to come!

  • December 27, 2009 9:14am

    Happy Birthday from Calgary!

  • December 27, 2009 9:15am

    Happy Birthday David! You know, if we ever meet, I’ll have to make you a coconut cake. It will be a late birthday present! I seriously wouldn’t be able to wait 10 years for something…

  • December 27, 2009 9:21am

    Hey David! Wish you a very, very happy birthday! You’re awesome…

  • December 27, 2009 9:24am

    Happy Birthday!

    I want to make you that cake. Someone has to.

  • December 27, 2009 9:40am

    Happy Birthday …Hauskaa Syntymäpäivää (in Finnish…for a change of pace) David!
    Always enjoy dipping into your posts to discover/rediscover Paris treats. Santé! and may you post many more…

  • Ophir
    December 27, 2009 9:45am

    Happy B-Day!

  • Ophir
    December 27, 2009 9:45am

    Happy B-Day!

  • December 27, 2009 9:48am

    Happy Birthday David! Enjoy some cake for the rest of us still recovering from the overindulgence that is the Holiday Season.

  • December 27, 2009 9:53am

    First of all Happy Birthday :) My husband’s birthday is on the 16th, my daughter’s boyfriend’s birthday is on the 23rd, and several of my sister-and-brother-in-laws have birthdays around Christmas. You’re right, it can be a bit pushed out of the way for the big holiday, so why not celebrate six months later? instead of Dec 27th, declare your birthday on June 27th instead :)

  • Ulrika
    December 27, 2009 9:53am

    Happy Birthday, David!

    Your blog is my very favourite.

  • December 27, 2009 9:58am

    Happy Birthday, David! And many more!

  • Janet
    December 27, 2009 10:19am

    Happy Birthday David!! May the new year bring you joy.

  • December 27, 2009 10:22am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to YOU, David!

  • Ed
    December 27, 2009 10:23am

    Happy Birthday, David! Mine was on the 23rd, Sadly, I have a couple more than you (54)! Have a great day!

  • cara
    December 27, 2009 10:35am

    Joyeux anniversaire, David.
    I love that this entry is catagorized into whining. :)

  • December 27, 2009 10:36am

    happy birthday! its the same grammatical structure in arabic as french saying: “i have x years” btw.

  • smita
    December 27, 2009 10:38am

    Christmas? Kwanzaa? Hanukkah? Pshaw!! Absolutely the best reason to celebrate is your birthday – Happy Birthday David! You are the bestest!

  • December 27, 2009 10:46am

    Happy Birthday!! I hope you get spoiled rotten on your birthday!

  • Cort in St Helena
    December 27, 2009 10:48am

    Happy 51 David!!!
    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. Your humor makes me smile daily,
    your the BEST! Enjoy your special day.

  • Tanja
    December 27, 2009 10:59am

    Happy Birthday, David!

  • Devery
    December 27, 2009 11:02am

    Happy Birthday, David ! I’ll have 51 on January 7. I agree with you completely, after all the feasting of Christmas and New Years, I can’t get very excited about a special birthday dinner. Still, I feel much luckier than my brother who celebrated his birthday yesterday, December 26 . . .

  • December 27, 2009 11:02am

    I hope you have fun devouring your apples, tangerines, root veggies, and chicken!!

    I just finished devouring The Sweet Life in Paris (I *finally* got a copy! Thank you, future sister-in-law, who got it for me for Christmas — I just got engaged on Christmas Day to her brother). It took me less than 24 hours as it was such a fun read, and I was hungry to read it. Now my goal is to make it to one of the signings in town one of these days… ;-)

    A very Happy Birthday to you. Here is to another 51 years of food, and fun, and life adventure! Thank you for all you do for the promotion of Paris, good food (especially dessert), and a joy-filled life.

  • Elizabeth
    December 27, 2009 11:09am

    Today is my birthday too, I totally feel your pain… :) Happy birthday and enjoy your trip to the market.

  • sandra
    December 27, 2009 11:18am

    Happy Birthday! Feliz Cumpleaños!

    My elder son has his Birthday on New Years Eve. Great you may say, lots of parties…
    Sadly, it doesn’t work like that, of our two sons, he is the quiet one who hates parties, while our younger son is the party animal but his Birthday is in the summer hols, so most of his friends are away for his! Seems like I just can’t win. At least neither of them ever had to go to school on the big day though!

    Perhaps you should be like the Queen, and have an Official Birthday in the summer!

  • indosungod
    December 27, 2009 11:28am

    Good Karma will reach you David, however long it takes. You make so many laugh out loud and sin with those delicious goodies. Happy Birthday!

  • Tom
    December 27, 2009 11:31am

    Speaking of that coconut cake, is “Room for Dessert” ever going to be reprinted in a reasonably priced edition? I wanted a copy so bad this year for my birthday (well, actually, I’d take one even if it wasn’t my birthday) but no one will pay the $100 plus prices (for a used copy) to get me one. Best to you on your special day!

  • Debbie
    December 27, 2009 11:39am

    Happy birthday David. I too have 51 years, as of November 25th. Both my mom and my brother were born on December 20th. Oh, and my dear departed grandmother would have been 100 on January 1st. So, we have/had plenty of holiday birthdays in our family. As a child I had way too many Thanksgiving dinners as my birthday dinner, which probably contributed to my apathy about turkey.

    Love your blog, and your Twitter feed often makes me laugh out loud. You brighten my day quite often, so thank you and happy birthday!

  • Susan
    December 27, 2009 11:40am

    Happy Birthday, Davif..you mere kid (yes, I can call you that..darn it) About the cake..I get to make my own, as I am the only one that bakes of my family and my aquaintances. I’m actually glad to do it! I get to have exactly what I want and to my liking..and without having to be appreciative for someones effort, that isn’t. So..get on that coconut cake and let the others celebrate you..your way!

  • Arthistorian
    December 27, 2009 11:42am

    Happy Birthday David, I discovered you about the time you had 50 years and have enjoyed every word you’ve written on your way to 51.
    My son turned 18 yesterday and shares your pain. Coincidentally, someone did bring a white chocolate coconut cake for Christmas dinner. We saved some and put a candle in it for his celebration (the curse of the December 26 birthday – leftover desserts serve as birthday cake). We’ve decided people who have birthdays so close to Christmas/Hannukah/New Year’s need a birthday week – so keep on celebrating (and hold out for that cake!)

  • Susan
    December 27, 2009 11:44am

    Sorry about the name..although..I kinda like Davif..has a kind of a French ring to it..pronounced as such…!

  • December 27, 2009 11:49am

    Happy, happy birthday! Yes, keep celebrating…’tis the season.

  • Cecilia
    December 27, 2009 11:55am

    Happy Birthday David!

  • December 27, 2009 12:04pm

    Joyeux anniversaire David! May your apples and tangerines be the sweetest and juicest that you’ve ever tasted. Lulu was born on Christmas day — although we kept advising her that she should not be born on that day — which means that from now on, for us, that day will be her birthday before it is Christmas. The meaning has totally changed in a marvelous way.

  • December 27, 2009 12:05pm

    Joyeux anniversaire from the North Pole, David :) Et bon appétit, le gâteau looks amaying!!

  • Rachel
    December 27, 2009 12:14pm

    Joyeux anniversaire! Hope you get that coconut cake sooner rather than later… I’m all for extended birthday celebrations ;)

  • December 27, 2009 12:23pm

    Happy Birthday David………..and many more. I feel bad that no one has given you a coconut cake. If you are ever in the Boston area, let me know. I’d gladly treat you to a fabulous coconut cake. After all, I’ve received so many compliments from many of your recipes (Chocolate Idiot Cake to name one), so making you a cake would be my pleasure. It’s the least I can do.

    Mark

  • becky
    December 27, 2009 12:36pm

    happy birthday david…i love your blog and hearing about your expat experiences…especially with food. i’m an expat living in germany and i wish you…alles gute zum geburtstag. most germans though say happy birthday, because by the time it’s said in german the candles have melted. viel spaß!

  • naomi
    December 27, 2009 12:51pm

    I hope you have a most wonderful birthday, and new year. You are inspiring to this old (by one year) woman.

  • Susan B.
    December 27, 2009 12:53pm

    Happy Birthday, David!

    I understand how you feel…my birthday is Dec. 30th. As a child, my parents once told me that they weren’t going to make a big birthday dinner for me that year because we’d just had Xmas and they were going out the next night for New Year’s. My sister was famous for the combined gift – which I threatened to do for her (her birthday is June 17).

    When I was dating my husband, he decided we should celebrate half birthdays. My husband’s half bday is Christmas and my half bday is our wedding anniversary and now also our oldest’s birthday.

    I wish you continued success and good health for the next 51 years! And, may you get the cake of your dreams sooner rather than later. Bon Anniversaire!

  • Vera
    December 27, 2009 1:00pm

    Hullo David and the happiest of birthdays to you! Please never try to forget you actually LIVE in the most exciting city in the world – a wondrous accomplishment for the happy few… regardless – oops- those tiny and totally unimportant drawbacks as described in your books, which I have read most eagerly. My Francophile position dictates you are so very right – although such things do not bother me in any way ( will be Paris for the sixteenth time in March). Speaking of your books, I have tried to find them in Spanish, Portuguese and German to give them as Christmas gifts to friends. I was unsuccessful. May I give you this idea to have them translated as I am sure you will be surprised at the number of books which will quickly disappear from the bookshops! Bonne anniversaire!

  • Sandra
    December 27, 2009 1:11pm

    Happy 51st Birthday, cousin!!
    It’s too bad that you weren’t stateside–as I made your gorgeous Coconut Cake for a birthday party for Stan’s 70’th that Emily had at Mom’s as a surprise party. Mike said that it’s a good thing that they don’t appreciate gourmet baking–as there was more of the coconut cake for him. So, we will each have a piece and toast you!! ( Besides, I’m the only cousin with not only all of your books, but the recipe binder with a huge amount from the site and willingness and ability to do justice and love every bite!!
    Happy and Healthy Birthday once again!! Best wishes!!

  • December 27, 2009 1:16pm

    Happy Birthday! This year, I spent mine en route to HK, so I literally skipped mine. I also understand the awkward birthdate situation since mine is in the summer when for all of my childhood, I never had the chance to celebrate it at school, and during college, not many friends were in town. Perhaps we should both celebrate half-birthdays instead?

  • December 27, 2009 1:23pm

    It’s NEVER too late for your coconut cake David! I would have made you one, you know I would have.
    We’ve moved Christmas to July, it’s so overrated in December, December is best spent at the beach! ;-)
    Joyeux anniversaire!!

  • frank
    December 27, 2009 1:28pm

    Best Wishes! Hope you had a great birthday. Cheers.

  • Chaitali
    December 27, 2009 1:34pm

    Happy Birthday!

  • December 27, 2009 1:38pm

    Happy Birthday! Feliz cumpleaños!
    Joyeux anniversaire!

  • Juli
    December 27, 2009 1:40pm

    Happy, Happy Birthday David! I too am a Christmastime baby (Dec 22) and after too much celebrating this past week have decided to go back to my childhood tradition of celebrating my “half birthday”. My mother made half a birthday cake with half the candles (I now see the benefit of this :) and everyone sang “half a birthday to you…” This year, my half birthday wish is to sip champagne in Paris! Cheers to you.

  • H. S. Gudnason
    December 27, 2009 1:56pm

    Happy birthday!

  • December 27, 2009 2:02pm

    happy birthday from me too!

  • cat
    December 27, 2009 2:05pm

    wishing you a very happy birthday and a year filled with good health, laughter, and happiness!

  • December 27, 2009 2:19pm

    Happy 51st Birthday David! I read your blog religiously and enjoy every minute of it.
    You make all of our days a little brighter and funnier.

  • December 27, 2009 3:06pm

    Cinquante et un ans! C’est impossible! Apparently 51 is the new 38, because that’s where I pegged you. Thanks for sharing your special day. I hope that your youthful glow can be credited back to the role that dessert plays in your life, because…let’s just say that bodes well for me, I MEAN, for a lot of us.

  • December 27, 2009 3:12pm

    Buon Compleanno!!

  • Mary
    December 27, 2009 3:13pm

    Happy, healthy Birthday David! Have a wonderful year ahead. Thank you again for all your wonderful posts, tweets and blogs. You enrich our lives –

  • December 27, 2009 3:32pm

    Joyeux Anniversaire David!

    I’ll say that one of your talents is to look younger than what your I.D reads :)

    Come to SC and I’ll make you a Coconut Cake. Scratch that, I’ll take you to taste an award winning coconut cake.

  • Tracy
    December 27, 2009 3:35pm

    Happy birthday, David. And many more! If you’re ever in Minnesota, I’ll be happy to try my hand at a coconut cake — you might not be happy with the result though…. Thanks for lots of inspiration throughout the year, a few extra pounds and a great deal of enjoyment. Many happy returns!

  • December 27, 2009 3:38pm

    Happy happy birthday! Hope the mortars & pestles made up for the lack of coconut cake. Thanks for another year of your fabulous blog.

  • December 27, 2009 3:49pm

    Happy Birthday David! I wish you many more birthdays and happiness to come!

    I would bake you that coconut cake if you were in New York City. Next time, perhaps.

  • December 27, 2009 3:59pm

    Muy feliz cumpleaños David! I wish you a very happy birthday and many more to come.

    Love the coconut cake, I hope you get yours someday, even if it’s not your bday.

  • Molly
    December 27, 2009 4:02pm

    Happy Birthday, David! Today is my birthday, too, so I understand.

  • Jan
    December 27, 2009 4:04pm

    Bonne fete et bonne annee! I was thinking you could adapt the French tradition of celebrating your name day (I know, that’s a Catholic thing) but pas de chance, that is Dec 29th! Best wishes and many thanks!

  • Sharon
    December 27, 2009 4:25pm

    HB 2 u 2. My daughter is 43 today, her husband 51, just like you!! We’ll be in Paris this summer and I hope we get to say hello. Oder Morgen! Or Hi! Or Hey! Or Wassup! Thanks for your blog. Je l’aime.

  • December 27, 2009 4:29pm

    Bon aniversari, my fellow Capricorn!

  • December 27, 2009 4:58pm

    A little late, but Happy Birthday anyway!! Hope you had a delicious one!!

  • December 27, 2009 5:16pm

    Happy Birthday David! Sorry you didn’t get to eat a coconut cake. Maybe coconut lokums next year?