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.


  • Happy Birthday et Joyeux Anniversaire, David!

    I think you definitely look more like you ‘have’ 41 one years than 51:-)

  • Happy Birthday! Just had to stop by and say that and I love Karen Carpenter’s Christmas carols, too! You are so right–she totally owns them! Happy New Year! (By the way, it’s your fault I gained a few pounds this past summer after buying your Perfect Scoop book! ;) )

  • I would have made you a coconut cake! I’ve had to make one for myself on a couple of birthdays and I have a couple more years on me than you do. And, yes, the coconut must always be toasted – as must the birthday person. ha, ha. Happy Birthday, David and many more.

  • Happy Birthday David! I, too, am an after Christmas baby (the 29th). Why does it seem like us “after Christmas people” always get cheated on our birthday? No one seems to have any energy to do anything – they’re all still in a food coma from Christmas (and heaven forbid you wrap my birthday gift in Christmas paper!!!). I have considered celebrating my 1/2 birthday in June but so far haven’t. Maybe you should give that a try and you’ll get your coconut cake then? Happy Birthday again!!

  • Happy birthday David!!

  • Happy Birthday David!

  • David,

    Why don’t you post the recipe for the coconut cake you want on your birthday? If you come to San Antonio to promote your new book this spring I will bake it for you!

  • Happy Birthday to the ground!

    Enjoy your blog so much!

  • Happy Birthday David! I hope your day has been wonderful!

  • Happy Birthday David! I hope your birthday was restful and joyous.

  • I hope you had a very, very happy birthday!

    My Grandmother, who lived to be 100, always said that life is to be lived and enjoyed each and every day you get the chance. At 54 I am looking forward to at least 46 more years of enjoying every day. I hope you do too!

  • Bon anniversaire, David! All my best and many happy returns!

  • Joyeux Anniversaire!

  • David :
    Joyeux anniversaire !
    “Is there a Happy Birthday to you” song en francais comme ici dans la Louisiane?

  • David,

    Happy Birthday! I make an old fashion coconut cake with boiled icing. We always have at Christmas time. If I could I’d send you a slice!!

  • I didn’t get it until I read your birthday post from last year in which you specifically mention you turned 50 and my jaw dropped. On another look at the picture on the right column of this page, maybe you do look that old? :) (I was thinking around 40.)Happy Birthday!!! Thanks for your blog.

  • Hi David,
    I wish you a wonderful birthday with many surprises!

  • Happy Birthday!

  • Happy Birthday, David!
    Mine is near Halloween. I always get orange and black stuff. Good grief!
    If you ever get near my house (but you won’t unless you are hiding from the world), I’ll make you a southern favorite–an Italian cream cake. It’s three layers full of coconut and pecans in both the cake and frosting!

  • Bon Anniversaire David. Have a great time as I know you will.

  • Birthday greeting number one-hundred-twenty-something-on-this-page here–surely we add up to the feeling you get from a good coconut cake? Hmmm…probably not. But we are certainly trying.

  • Happy Birthday David. I live in Ohio and enjoy reading your blog. I own your book too. Thanks for sharing all the great info. We appreciate it!

  • Happy Birthday! It’s good to know I have plenty of company of Capricorns when it comes to a post-Christmas birthday. With mine landing on January 2nd, I have had the lifelong experience of the lack of gifts from folks who are broke from the holidays and hung over from The New Year.

    I’ll bake an extra cupcake for your 51!

  • Happy Birthday David from Toronto! I am a recent fan to your blog and I enjoy it very much. I am currently reading The Sweet Life In Paris and love it so much that I am reading paragraphs out loud to friends. You are good company :)

  • Happy,happy Birthday David.
    God bless you always!!!

  • Been there and done 51. It all gets better as you get older. Love your book too.

  • Happy Birthday, David!!!

  • Happy Birthday David!
    p.s I got a copy of The Perfect Scoop for Christmas and I can’t wait to dive into your recipes!

  • Iyiki dogdun David! (Turkish version:) Happy birthday! I would make you the most delicious coconut cake you could ever dream of:) If you come to Boston, let me know…

  • Happy Birthday, David. I hope you had a wonderful day.Thank you for sharing your life on your wonderful blog.

  • Happy Birthday. For my birthday this year I got a copy of your new book…and I love it. Thanks. Wishing you a coconut cake.

  • Happy Birthday! You own your years well. =)

  • Happy Birthday!!! I have a shortly after Christmas birthday too. I’ve only celebrated it with friends maybe two or three times on the actual date! I wish you a lovely 2010, and I hope those apples and tangerines are delicious!!

  • Thank God someone besides me knows that Karen Carpenter owns Christmas carols!
    It’s one of the benefits of having 51…may you have 51 more!

  • David, Feliz Aniversario !!!

  • Well, happy birthday to you!!!!! We’re heading your way in the morning from Virginia…..be happy to bring you a good ole’ Southern coconut cake! Just say the word!!!! Hope to see you on the streets! Cola

  • Happy Birthday David!

  • Happy Birthday David!!
    In Brazil there is a cachaca (the alcohol used for our popular drink “caipirinha”) brand named 51 and their slogan is “51, a good idea”, so anything that has the number 51 in Brazil becomes a good idea… hey, maybe being 51 won’t be bad at all, right?!
    Hope you have a 2010 just as good as your new age, go ahead and celebrate!

  • Many happy birthday wishes to you, David! May your fridge always be stocked with french butter and your baskets filled with Meyer lemons. :-)

  • Happy Birthday David!!!

    Love all you do! Thanks for so much Happiness!!! Best Wishes for your New Year!!!

  • You’re a lot younger than me, dammit!
    Happy Birthday! You are a lot of fun to follow!

  • In our household we Celebrate the D. Lebovitz natal anniversary in honor of what you add to our lives. Happy birthday!

  • Happy Birthday! I am enjoying your blog and plan to make the Stollen for New Year’s Day (just couldn’t squeeze it in for Christmas).

    BTW: I agree. Karen Carpenter OWNS Christmas music. If I could sing like anyone, it would be like her. Truly the voice of an angel!

  • Mazal Tov ! 51 in Hebrew numerology means – please –

    So you must have your coconut cake sooner rather than later.

    Many happy returns of the day and all the best for 2010 !

  • Dear David:

    zhu ni sheng ri kuai le ! = Happy birthday to you! (in chinese)

  • Dear David:

    zhu ni sheng ri kuai le ! = Happy birthday to you! (in chinese)

  • Happy, happy birthday, David! You bring so much joy to your readers, I hope it is all returned to you in spades in the coming year. xo, Dawn

  • Joyeux Anniversaire David.

  • S dniom rojdenia! (с днем рождения, which means “happy birthday” in Russian).
    I think you deserve this coconut cake, so keep on insisting on it :)

  • Bon anniversaire David … Capricorne, ça te correspond assez bien je trouve, et on se voit très vite en 2010,



  • Thanks for all the birthday wishes! After ten lo-o-o-ong years of waiting for my coconut cake, I’m sure any psychiatrist out there would advise me to move on, which I am doing, reluctantly.

    I did get the most amazing birthday present ever: a set of old French porcelain mortars & pestles from Romain, which are really gorgeous. (Although I can barely lift them…I don’t know how he carried them on the métro!)

    Appreciate all your comments and thanks for reading—and best to you all for 2010. You guys rock!

    x -dl

  • Congratulations and felicitations (which is a word I’ve only ever heard from people for whom English is a foreign language…I learnt it when I was learning French, too, but I suspect the the French don’t use it either…).

  • It’s still better than being born on Norwegian Independence Day don’t ya think?
    Have a Happy 51st year!
    all the best,

  • A day late…sigh. Hope it was beautiful! Wishing you good health and happiness in 2010!

  • happy birthday!

  • Happy B-day David! Too bad for the coconut cake but I see you replaced it with a chocolate one that looks delicious ;-)

  • Happy Belated Birthday! Sorry, just got your post (AOL mail is a little slow). I too know the pain of having a birthday after Christmas. Mine is today. Everything is squished into the holidays and it is very rare I get anything on my birthday as a separate day. I have five more years on you but I wish you a wonderful 51st birthday. No cake for me either. However, I have been dreaming of extreme chocolate biscotti and think I will dip the ends in chocolate and coconut and make a toast to you! (I have to make them myself later today if I want to cure the craving). Have a wonderful year. I love your blog and books. Thank you for being yourself and again, Happy Belated!

  • Jan and Amy’s coconut cake

    2 cups sugar
    2 cups sour cream
    2 cups frozen or fresh coconut
    1 package yellow cake mix [ sorry , that’s the recipe]

    The night before baking the cake, combine sugar, sour cream and coconut. Store in refrigerator.
    The next morning, prepare the cake and bake in 2 layers per pkg. directions. Split each layer so you have 4 total layers
    Frost/fill with sour cream mixture and store in fridge. DO NOT CUT CAKE FOR FOUR DAYS.

    Bon appetit and have a happy coconut birthday..it’s my birthday cake ..thanks to my good friends..

  • Cumpleaaaañoooos feeeliiiiizzzz, cumpleaaañooos feeeeliiiiiz
    te desea sariiiiitaaaaaa
    cumplaaaañoooooos feeeeeliiiiiiizzzz!!
    clap clap clap clap

    you share your birthday with the Spanish “dia de los santos inocentes”, our version of April fool´s day in the U.S. if in Sapin you would get tons of trics played on you!!

    All the best and besos!!

  • Happy Birthday! I hope your coconut cake is everything you hoped for!

  • If you’re ready to give up on your coconut cake, this may be the perfect time to read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It may reignite your hope and keep the cake flame burning. :-)

  • Happy Birthday You Beautiful Man!

  • Hope the coming year is filled with happiness and health. Thanks for making my year(s) better with your blog and books. Love the humor but adore the cheesecake brownies and chocolate sorbet. Looking forward to reading how 51 is the new 21. :)

  • David, Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!
    and many many more with Health, Happiness and Peace.

  • Feliz Cumpleaños!

    In Spanish, we say , “Tengo 51 anos” — I have 51 years.

    If you ever make a coconut cake for yourself, check out Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for Coconut Seduction Cake in her book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. It is wonderful.

  • Happy, Happy Birthday. You may have an old soul, but it fills all of us with joy and laughter. Sounds like a xmas carol but so true when we all speak and think of you.
    Just traveled over 17 hours from Wash D. C. to Honolulu, Hawaii to cook and bake up a storm for my dear sister who also turns 51 today, Dec.28. On the menu, southern fried chicken, seared salmon, Caesar Salad, roasted new potatoes, consomme rice, and hot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. You’re invited, now or anytime, and that Coconut Cake, No Problemmo. Just send me a safe address. I will get it to you. Best wishes, good health, for this new year.

  • sang yaht faai lohk, David

    My youngest brother & the best man at my wedding share your birthday

  • joyeux anni.

    Perhaps you could offer me some advice. I wanted to make pate de fruits to ship to my boyfriend and i’m using a recipe that i worked with in france, but it’s not quite coming together. i suspect it’s the pectin, there’s a lot of ingredients that aren’t pectin in sure-jel and i’m wondering if that’s not watering down the effect. the pectin we used came from a plastic container labeled “pectine,” so i don’t know if it was vitpris or something else.
    the batch i made has been out for almost a day and is just not setting anything past super thick jam. i’m probably going to go for another batch with double pectin and if that doesn’t work then i’ll give up.

    do you have any suggestions for what i can do to the pate de fruits? or what i can do with the pound of thick sugary raspberry mass that i have? or what i should send to my boyfriend in lieu?

  • Bonne fete David,

    You look great and absolutely look nowhere near your age. My husband has the unfortunate birth date of January 2nd, where everyone is partied out, and no one feels like baking or celebrating anymore. I wish you good health for the coming year. Love your blog…you make me laugh!

  • Bonne fete David,

    You look great and absolutely look nowhere near your age. My husband has the unfortunate birth date of January 2nd, where everyone is partied out, and no one feels like baking or celebrating anymore. I wish you good health for the coming year. Love your blog…you make me laugh!

  • Happy Birthday David,
    May God bless you on this joyous day and all through the coming year.

  • Joyeux anniversaire, David! You share a birthday with my husband :)

  • happy birthday david.xoxoxo

  • Happy Birthday, David! I’ve never posted before, but I read your blog religiously, and cook from your books and blog recipes constantly. I can’t thank you enough. I hope it was a terrific day.

  • Feliz aniversário! (=Happy birthday in Portuguese)
    All the best, David!!!!
    Wish you an unforgettable 2010!

  • Congratulations to you David!

    My dad had 81 on 25th December, he’s brilliant, fun, active, brainy, can cook, write poetry, walk the hills. Enjoy your time on this earth and strive to do good.

  • Happy Birthday (Belated?)!! Congratulations on hitting your 51 year mark and having your coconut cake.

  • Hi David!

    Bon anniversaire, Happy happy birthday a little late!
    Love, Health and All the Best in the New Year,

    from Charlene :) (still trying to make things work out in the Wine Country…)

  • Feliz cumpleanos, David! You share this date with (one of) my favorite sisters-in law! May the year bring health, a little wealth, lots of laughs and many more wonderful stories and meals to share with us. Enjoy.

  • One more birthday greeting, from Maine.
    My daughter’s b-day is the 23rd and right now it’s harder on me than it is on her.
    I’m so burned out by Christmas day, that I don’t care what I make (see most recent post).

    I will be 50 next summer and hope to spend my big day in Paris, with beaucoup de chocolat!

  • Happy birthday, David! Wishing you another wonderful 51 years!

  • I realize I’m offering just another happy birthday, but you can’t have too many right? :)

    Happy birthday!!

  • Happy Birthday David.
    I met you briefly on the streets of Paris several years ago when a friend and I were gushing over a cheese store we had just walked out of. You stopped and told us of a local street market that was in session that morning. I loved the day. I love Paris. I love reading your column ( and all your books which I now own!) as it transports me back there. Best to you on your birthday.
    Keep cooking. Keep writing. Many thanks.

  • Happy Birthday David!!

    This is my first time commenting on your blog, but I have been reading it for some time in addition to The Sweet Life in Paris in preparation for a three week study abroad trip to Paris. I am leaving on Wednesday and I am so excited; I am definitely planning to hit up some of the restaurants and shops you have recommended. Best wishes to you as you continue to write, entertain, and inspire us all to live the lives we want to live.

  • Happy Birthday David!!

    This is my first time commenting on your blog, but I have been reading it for some time in addition to The Sweet Life in Paris in preparation for a three week study abroad trip to Paris. I am leaving on Wednesday and I am so excited; I am definitely planning to hit up some of the restaurants and shops you have recommended. Best wishes to you as you continue to write, entertain, and inspire us all to live the lives we want to live.

  • Happy Birthday, David! My birthday is the day before Christmas so I feel your pain!

  • My fondest wishes to you for every happiness, and a wonderful birthday with many, many more to come!

  • Happy Birthday, David!

  • Happy Birthday to you! I wish you more fruitful years and also more posts! And enjoy your day!

  • With many festivities in between, a great season to have a birthday. Happy Birthday! I wish you a happy New Year!

  • יום הולדת שמח לדוד

  • Masha pabien David!

  • Happy Birthday David!

    You don’t look a day over 35 — moving to Paris was probably a smart move for you. Keep up the good work and enjoy the next 51.

  • Happy Birthday David!

  • David
    Joyeux Anniversaire
    Two days late
    Happy Birthday
    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

  • Beste David.
    Hartelijk Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag en nog veel gezonde jaren wensen we je!
    Groet, Rijk

  • Feliz cumpleaños Daveed :)
    And a Happy New Year !!

  • Happy Birthday, David! I enjoy your blog so much!

  • Happy Birthday David! I will gladly bake you a coconut cake if you ever visit Santa Monica (or Los Angeles). It’s the least I could do after all the laughter and enjoyment your site has given me.

    BTW – your coconut cake is the most requested cake when i bake for someone’s birthday. It also happens to be my all-time favorite cake!

    Cheers to 51!

  • 생일 축하해요! It looks like I (or some other dedicated person) will have to go to your neighborhood to actually deliver that coconut cake into your hands.