Scratchy-Backside Jam

confiture de grattes culs

I’ve sometimes been surprised by how cavalier bodily functions are discussed in France. I consider myself a pretty open person, but sometimes things get discussed that make me a little uncomfortable. And I’ve learned that being undressed in front of others is no big deal. I’ve always been fine with public nudity—well…as long as it wasn’t me—but I’ve had to modify that stance a little since I moved here.

Last week I went back to my sock store and they had a man come and measure my legs. (That may be because my last visit probably sent the elderly salesclerk into her early retirement.) I stripped down to my euro-briefs and he ran that tape measure up and down my legs and around my calves, at one point using his thumb to firmly hold the end of the tape measure down on the end of, um…somewhere relatively private…that would not have made me all that uncomfortable except he did it with all the care of someone trying with great purpose to jam a thumbtack into a concrete wall.

So when I was walking home (which kinda hurt), I passed a store that specialized in products from the Auvergne. The Auvergne is the central region of France and the people from are known as being particularly hard-working and industrious (which is a quality that is both admired, and frowned-upon) and historically many of the cafés in Paris were owned by people from the Auvergne. And if you’ve ever had a salade Auverngate, which is basically a hill of meat and cheese cut in large cubes and piled high atop a few measly leaves of lettuce, you know they have to work pretty hard to merit calling that a “salad.”

In the window were a line-up of jam jars, which I read as I was walking by. But as I got just past the store, and I stopped and went back for a look.

“Did that say what I think it said?” I thought to myself.

The jam was Confiture de Gratte Culs, which translates literally to “Jam of Scratchy Backsides.” And according to what I read, it’s because rose hips (also called eglatines, or cynorrhodon…which is one of those words I think that you have to be French to be able to pronounce) have fuzzy seeds inside that must be removed before you eat them. At least if you want to avoid a scratchy you-know-what.

I took this to the master of French language and culture, ie: Romain, to ask him more about it. And yes, it’s true – that’s what it’s called.

C’est normal, Daveed. The French are très provinciaux”, he replied, meaning that the French are “provincial.” Because I’m a rationalist and want to get to the proverbial bottom of this, I say, “Okay. Hypothetically, let’s say you were invited to the home of someone very chic and very bourgeois, like someone who lived in the 16th, and they were offering you some of this jam. Would they say over breakfast – “Would you like some scratchy-backside jam on your toast?'”

crottin de Chavignol goat cheese

“C’est normal! Of course they would” he said. Which also got me thinking about another word used frequently around (and sometimes stepped into) here: crottes. Les crottes are what animals leave behind. And if you need further explanation, here’s a more spot-on, although not an especially more appetizing, translation.

So a Crottin de Chèvre round of goat cheese is literally a “goat dropping”, meant to refer to its shape and appearance. (Although Wikipedia says it may also refer to “small oil lamp made from burned clay, which resembles the mold used to prepare the cheese” which sounds a bit more far-fetched. I’m not so sure about that. At least I see the farm-animal connection with the first definition.)

Pissenlit came up recently as well, since I posted a dandelion pesto recipe. The name is a mash-up of “piss on lit” or “bed-wetting” due to the reputed diuretic properties of dandelion greens. It’s seems to work in French but I can’t imagine going to a market in America and asking the vendor to give you a bag of the “bedwetting greens” without getting some funny looks.

I haven’t tasted my jam yet, but I ate all my dandelion pesto without incident. However anything that says “scratchy butt” on the label I’m keeping in a closed cabinet—tightly capped.


Related Posts

Rose Hips (The Kitchn)

Apricot Jam

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Rose Hip Jelly and Jam (Simply Recipes)

Le Glaneur

Rhubarb-Berry Jam

106 comments

  • I think this entry sums up everything I love about the French attitude towards life.

  • Same word (and same jam) here in Piedmont (gratacù). ;D

  • Ah, well you must try some ‘Trou du Cru’ cheese, which is, from what I can surmise, the best pun in the land. (please don’t make me explain)

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for this… I needed a laugh to start the morning!

  • About the origin of “gratte-cul”, it’s called this way because itching powder is made from the fuzzy seeds of rose hips (although I don’t know what happens if you eat them).

  • as kids we would make “itching powder”‘ out of rose hip seeds and chuck them down peoples backs…..it’s really itchy!

  • Love those funky translations. I buy a salami in Italy that translates as grandpa’s willie, though the actual translation is somewhat more literal.

    Also kind of fascinating that in France you get measured for socks. Full body sock?

  • LMAO Daveed! Especially the part about the sock store. Great post!

    So did you buy some jam? And if so, does it taste good?

    I PROMISE this week I will work on the Mexican food crawl. Talked to Shey about it this morning.

    Gros bis,

    Suzanne

  • Hey, we used to eat that all the time in Turkey (and by that i mean rose hip marmalade), it tastes pretty good actually. It’s also supposed to be all kinds of good for you. Can’t say I ever noticed any.. um.. scratchiness.

  • This naming policy seems to be … somehow european. ;)

    Thinking of any precarious food names in German, all I can come up with is “Pinkel” which loosely translates into “piss” or “prick”, yet the “prick”-meaning is derived from “piss” so there you are. It’s a smoked sausage made out of bacon and groats, commonly enjoyed with curly kale.

    And something not as vulgar … Maultaschen aka “Herrgottsbscheißerle” (which means “things that fool god” but in a rather colloquial way) are the swabian ravioli filled with spinach and meat. Yet “bescheißen” originally means “to shit on sth./sb.” but now is only used in the meaning of “to fool sb.”

  • Fun name for a fun jam. I’m partial to flower-flavored foods. Btw, my name means eglantine in Persian :)

  • I do know what you mean by the French not being body-shy – I was very fed up at the weekend when there simply wasn’t a changing-room at the Boulogne-Billancourt ice rink dedicated to women-only. I need to change to my skin, so had to do that in the hotel and then walk through the streets….

    I hadn’t come across that particular translation of rose-hips before! When I was a little girl, many, many years ago, babies in this country were given free rose-hip syrup, that you diluted with water to drink; I believe they are a prime source of Vitamin C.

  • Trying hard to not laugh really loudly at my desk right now!

  • Your sock story reminds me of a Friends episode. In the episode measurement was probably not the gentleman priority:)

    It seems (and I may be wrong) Americans are considered more direct and open during conversations and more restrained when it comes to naming food. There are quite a few dishes in Euorpe with a descriptive name. I wonder what would happen if they called the double cheese burger ‘obesity burger’.

  • I must get some immediatement pour mon nouveau petit ami Francaise.

  • Ha ha, I’m sorry but that tailor story was hilarious! And it sooooo reminded me of that episode of friends :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp6IApV9lwE

    “Isn’t that how a tailor measures pants?” “Yes yes, it is…..in prison!!!”

    No but honestly, I love the the French.

    Sunny greetings from the Côte d’Azur!,
    Alex

  • “Backside” + “Jam” are two words that should never, ever go together ….

  • You forgot the “crottes de chocolat” as well ! means chocolate marble….

  • Oh, well…it’s clear what it does! I am glad you made it home, though – ouch!! Thanks for the smile.

  • ha! great post.

  • David, you’re hilarious! I love having my morning coffee with your blog!

    “Confiture de Gratte Culs” is a great name for seedy jam! I’d buy it in a heart beat.
    On a side note, I live in Newfoundland, Canada, where we regularly eat dandelion greens and we still call the flowering plants “piss-a-beds” to this day!

  • Did you ever notice how much French people discuss digestion? It’s like it’s a normal topic of conversation!

  • Around here (Lyon) you can buy ‘pets de nonne’ (“Nun’s farts”) — they’re a kind of donut.

  • Some names given to villages, in France, are quite funny as well…”le bourré”, “Trécon”, “Kaunas” (they are related!) ,”Arnac-la-Poste”, “le salle village”… :)

  • Tres drole !

  • HA this post is hilarious!! Thanks for posting :)

  • I’d just go all the way and call it “Scratch-Butt Jam.” Why bother being dainty with “backside”?

  • Hilarious! Sometimes I think we may have gotten a little prissy with our words, call it what it is, why not.

    -Brenda

  • Haha! I had no idea they could make jam out of that. I love rose hip tea, I wonder if it has a similar sweet/tart flavor?

  • That was hysterical David! I laughed out loud for the whole second half in the middle of the office. Thanks for making my day!

  • great post! so have you tried that jam yet? :)

  • David, Here’s an American product that could come in handy after breakfasting on Scratchy Backside Jam….It’s called Boaudreaux’s Butt Paste. Check it out: http://www.buttpaste.com/BLButtPaste.php

  • This post had me chuckling. It reminded me of a slip of the tongue my son made when he was about 5 and tasted Trou du Cru cheese for the first time. We were visiting some friends who had invited us for lunch and he was on his best behavior at the table when he politely requested, “Jamerais bien manger encore de trou de culs s’il vous plait.” Of course all of the adults at the table burst out laughing, because, well you know the smell of that particular cheese does lead one to think of “bottom holes”….

  • With respect to the French “pissenlit”: In Newfoundland, a part of Canada with unique linguistic roots (we have our own dictionary) people used to refer to dandelions as “piss-a-beds” long before the first part of that word lost its vulgarity among the mainstream of English speakers.

  • jajajajaja
    well, in spanish rosehip is “escaramujo”, but we also call it “tapaculos”, that means “backside stopper” or something like this. But usually in the jam they call it with the polite name, jajajajajaja

  • I hope you enjoy this jam. It is one of my very favorite. I used to have a friend in Germany who made her own rose hips jam. It was to die for. I have never seen it in a store in the US, but in German it is very expensive to purchase.

  • Of course cheese curds are called “crottes de fromage” ou “fromage en crottes”.

  • David, I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where they would hold community suppers. One of the highlights in the spring was a salad made of fresh young dandelion greens with chopped hard boiled eggs & bacon, & a hot dressing. The name of the salad? ‘Piss-A-Bed’, lol…no one even blinked an eye!

  • Hi David , my mother tongue is french even though I´m not french but I´ve lived many years in Paris and I know about all these words but the way you spoke about them was so funny that I had my “dose” of laughing today,so thank you for that.

  • One of my best friends is from Paris. Now I see it’s not just her.She says with a perfect naturalness things that I would never utter in public. She eez Francais!

  • I love your post!!! For two reasons…
    First, my mum (a real great French cooker) made some “confiture de gratte-culs” last summer. I know that you haven’t ate your jam yet but I can assure you that it’s delicious on buttered bread for breakfast. The texture is particular, but it’s worth it!!
    Secondly, the subject of your post is very funny and reminds me a lot of my own experiment in USA. Indeed, I also faced some facts and manners which surprised my French education a lot and confirmed my first prejudices. Even if the shocking facts are not similar for both of us, I’m glad to read your own experiment as a reminder of my american trip.

  • Awesome. Rose hip is such a delight.

  • I echo Jessica’s comment. Gratte-culs is not properly translated with Scratchy-Backside (= derriere ou fesses). Another word starting with an A would have been more accurate.

  • In south Louisiana, a sure sign of spring are the blooming yellow “pissenlits” on the roadsides. The Cajun French word refers not only to dandelions but also to a kind of bitterweed, though the bitterweed has no culinary uses.

  • This is the first time I’ve heard of being measured for custom made socks. Those French think of everything! Good post.

  • Good for a morning laugh! And I also learned that’s rose hip jam I’ve been eating that I brought back from Paris in October. I kept meaning to look up the translation, but I kept forgetting. I thought it might be plum. You’ll be very happy when you open the jar.

  • Oh my. I’m reserving a seat for you the next time all my boys get together at the dinner table. This all makes me a bit misty-eyed over our dinner talk when they were growing up. Anything related to the nether regions was game, and at the end of a long day, the ensuing snorts and snickers were something we all looked forward to. I just may have to try and make some scratchy backside jam. Thanks for the morning chuckle.

  • I’ve always known rose hips for their vitamin C content, not their itching properties. It is a good thing to know! Thank you for the amusing post this morning. I’ve missed your observational posts about every day French life. Measured for socks?!?! Oh my….

  • Hi Darveed: A delicious jam and it was served to me once by a good friend from the Auvergne, and they called it “gargaillou” and since she had lived in Germany for many years, they called it “Hagebutten” there, which come as a jam or a tea.

    Changing the subject: Do you know of anyone in Paris who rents out short-term vacation apartments. Wife and I spend 2-3 months in Paris yearly in the spring. Looking for a 40-50 m2 one bedroom place with fully equipped kitchen and internet access (tres important!). Was on rue d’Aligre for 2 months last spring which was heaven! If you hear of anything, please let me know. Thanks.

  • David did you know there was a restaurant up on the Butte Aux Cailles named “Pisselits par racine”? I have a photo of it I wish I could send you!! I almost died laughing when I passed it—fortunately with my camera in hand. It’s on the corner of Rue de la Butte aux Cailles at the Passage Boiton. I don’t think it would ever make the Michelin Guide.

  • Did you get measured for pantyhose?
    I love the French sense of humour, the Germans just call it boring old rosehip jam.
    Friends of mine live in the French villages of Condom and Agay and we do have one called Scratchy Bottom in the UK.

  • In true David Lebovitz style…this post is hilarious! A true gem, and one I will re-read whenever I need a good laugh! Thanks, David.

  • In Lourmarin on a Friday for the weekly market, we bought a wine called “le Cul du Loup”. Literally this means “the wolf’s asshole”, but the wine seller kindly explained that it is Provencal slang for an isolated place, like “the middle of nowhere”.

  • I’ve had to measure many an inside leg in my time, but never for a pair of socks!

  • And yet you got strange looks when you ordered ‘confiture des grosse selles’?

  • That’s so funny. I love these posts of an educated English speaker in France. So “impertinent” without being belittling. Much appreciated, maybe you are almost French now? How is the jam? I’ve never tasted it…

  • Yours is the only blog that makes me laugh out loud almost every time.

  • Delightful post. When I moved to Austin in 2009 to attend the University of Texas, I found out that Texans (particularly college girls like myself) have a much higher tolerance for discussing bodily functions than citizens of my home state, Oklahoma. This surprised me, but I’ve found it convenient. Austin is more than a city ready to discuss the bathroom, but also has some great food! Of course I had to start a blog. If you’re interested visit longhornfoodies.wordpress.com.

    By the way, I’m reading The Sweet Life In Paris right now. Started Sunday, should be done by the end of today. Thanks for publishing!

  • Thanks for the reminder of how incredibly fun travel is. Yes, rose hip jam (minus their cilia) would be expensive. Not every rose produces hips, and it would take a bunch of them – both hips and bushes. And then there are the misunderstood translations and mondegreens. You’re the best.

  • In Canada everything is labeled in both French and English. Every Christmas we have to face the rows of Lait de Poule. Somehow that was the best they could do for egg nog. Chicken milk!

  • As funny as the jam is, I’m more flabbergasted by your sock story. Pardon my naivete, but they have stores completely devoted to socks in France? And you have to get measured for socks? And why do you have to get measured… ummm… there… for socks? I feel like I’m totally missing out by running to Target for a 6 pack of Hanes Ankle Socks with reinforced toe.

  • I’m still trying to figure out how getting measured for socks has a man driving his thumb into your manparts as if thumbtacking something to a wall…

    Ah, c’est la vie.

  • Hmmmm… There is also a sausage here in Italy called Cuglioni di Mulo (Donkey BALLS) which I have not tried for fear that it really IS donkey balls and I do not need to eat that.

  • Brenna: Yes, I’ve heard a lot of conversations about digestion in France (and plenty about cholesterol as well!) When I moved to France, people I knew were really surprised I didn’t know my cholesterol level and got me so worked up – and concerned – that I made an appointment to get one right away. It was fine but was thinking that perhaps having high cholesterol is another way to take a pill, which is a pretty popular activity.

    robynsk, Jill, et ali: I wrote about the sock store – and a previously embarrassing experience there – in my Paris book. Let’s just say this time I kept my clothes on, thankfully.

    Ed K: I did a post on renting an apartment in Paris. You can find it using the search engine and I have tips there.

    Nicole: I’ve had donkey (or mule?) sausage in France. It wasn’t that delicious, but perhaps there’s good versions. I don’t know which parts it was made from, but I suppose if you’re squeemish, you shouldn’t really be eating sausage in the first place.

    Jacques & Jessica: I did ‘censor’ the title a bit, but yes, the actual translation is a little, um, different…

  • David, yes indeedy, the actual translation is somewhat different. If “gratte-ciel” is “skycraper,” then “gratte culs” is….

  • Giggle.

    Here in a VERY politically correct bubble of Southern California, the farmer’s market simply advertises dandelion greens as having diuretic properties. At least that’s the limit of the signs posted in English. Perhaps I shall ask for a translation of some of the signs posted in Korean. Although I have a suspicion that one vendor isn’t completely honest with me. She just says her signs all translate to “good medicine.”

  • Giggle, giggle :-) I hope the jam is tasty

  • In England, the “rustic” name for medlar use to be open-arse. Google a picture and you will see why!

  • Totally cracking me up with this one “However anything that says “scratchy butt” on the label I’m keeping in a closed cabinet”— HAHA!!!

  • David,

    very funny. Do you know “Pisse Dru” wine from Beaujolais ?

    Thank you for making me aware of how easily body related subjects are discussed.

    But remember, “on ne parle pas de son corps à table” (don’t discuss your body while sitting at the dinner table). Is that why so many french people eat McDo and Subway sandwishes ?

    Bisous,

    Paule

  • About the Pissenlits par la Racine…”manger les pissenlits par la racine” (eat dandelions by the roots) means “pushing up daisies”, ie: be dead. Bon appétit!

  • Great story David,

    It is very healthy to read something hilarious as this one and laugh your heart out; although I still do not understand the stock story, unless you were a women? Do people were socks on their private parts in France?

    I must say however, I am not surprised about anything that comes from Europe. It always reminds me my European trip in the early 80s, when going to have a cup of coffee in the Hotel’s bar and a few minutes later a topless women comes in and orders the same; and there were many others in places that in the US we usually were a suit. Of course, someone next to me wanted to extend our stay

  • Very funny!
    I think you could devote an entire blog on weird (food)names.
    My favourite Dutch one: blote billetjes in het gras. Translates to: bare bums in the field. It’s a dish with white and runner beans…the name is better then the dish I guess…

  • What good fun! But it’s only a matter of time before some European blogs about Screaming Sphincter Hot Sauce, or Baboon Gone Rabid Hot Sauce. Or how about Fat Bastard Hawgwash BBQ sauce or Pain is Good Salsa? Hard to top the French in body function bravado, but us Mericans got some dumb ass namin’ too!

  • I love rose hip jam. It’s even better if you warm it up a bit. I like adding a little liqueur to mine and spreading it over crepes…

  • Ha. Love this! Oh dear, I think my Scotch-Irish mom might actually be French!

  • I’m surprised that no one has brought up that awful Heinz Spotted Dick from the UK in all these comments.

  • If you like funny names, you should go to Switzerland! I lived near a town called Porrentruy, there, which literally means “pig in sow”…

  • David,

    This has to rank right up there as one of your funniest posts ever – it makes me truly wish that I had the gift for language – but fortunately for me I have your blog!!!

    All I could think of when reading about the socks is that if this were the case in this country I would never get my sons out of flip flops…. (and trust me this is harder than you can imagine!!)

    As for the jam??? I can only hope that it tastes good enough to get past the name….LOL!!!

  • My Parisian (Vietnamese) hairdresser thought it was hilarious that we called them “cowlicks”.

    It goes both ways. :)

  • Ha! Back in the old country, Romania, you ask a fidgety child “Have you eaten rosehips?”
    There is also a potato dough dessert, shaped like elongated gnocchi, called ‘little penises”. Dear Lord, writing it makes it all sound so bad!
    Rosehip jam/paste is wonderful on crepes.

  • This post made me chuckle – thank you. From my English childhood, Rosehip seeds were something that you put in someones bed as a joke (mean trick?) to make them itch. A more direct version of a scratchy backside.

  • David,

    Needed a good laugh and you provided it. I’m still puzzled about the leg measurements in a sock store though!
    I did try yellow raspberry jam once, it is amazing how something as simple as colour affects your response but I shall never think of Rosehip jam in the same way again….now where did I put that hazelnut paste …my homemade croissants are calling!

  • I love your attitude and sense of humor. Thanks for posting this on twitter and letting me find you.

    Can’t wait for more.

  • As a child here in Australia, dandelions were always referred to as “wet-the-beds”.

    Great post David!

  • Great story! Thanks!

  • I’m currently reading The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by food writer/gastronome Roy Andries de Groot, set in eastern France near Grenoble. He writes about “Scratch Arse”, an Eau-de Vie Gratte-Cul D’Alsace which they drank after one of their many gastronomic dinners, as well as the many types of “crottins”. A great read for those interested in the delights and traditions of french cuisine.

  • Janet: Isn’t that a great book? It’s one of my all-time favorites.

    Janice: I don’t know if those translate (kind like these..) but glad you know it’s not a European thing. Although I can’t see a chic hostess offering guests that hot sauce!

    to others: The sock story is based on one from the one in my Paris book – oof!

  • Mon Dieu, what do they do to you for a new suit?

  • In Acadian (East-coast French-Canadian) parlance, there’s a pastry called “Pet de Soeur”, or “Nun’s Fart” – supposedly because it’s sweet and light, but I think really it’s a rural mangling of “Pate de Sucre”.

    …and did you know that a popular short, full-skirted women’s jacket of the 18th century is called a “Pet-en-l’aire”?

  • just for the record: to SarahBHood and for our general knowledge: it is not:

    nd did you know that a popular short, full-skirted women’s jacket of the 18th century is called a “Pet-en-l’aire”?

    It would be ‘PET EN L’AIR”. Just so we know…

  • Wow, very funny, I have tears in my eyes. I wish folks in the US were a bit more comfortable discussing and applying the practicalities of life.

  • Bonjour David! I’m curious– where is this Auvergne products specialty store located in Paris? I don’t think I know ANY products from that region, and would love to check it out.
    Merci!

  • Wouldn’t that jam be delicious dolloped on a plate of pets de nonne?

  • I’m laughing my un-scratchy ass off!

    About those socks, seriously, what kind of socks are they??

    Merci beaucoup!

  • haha I love being a french canadian, best of both worlds.

    The traductions you make are a LOT more polite than what it actually means! It would literally sound like: scratchy ass and goat poop. And by the way, nun’s farts are delicious ^^

  • I don’t think it’s been mentioned but here in Quebec (Canada) “Gratte-cul” is sometimes used as an adjective that somewhat means undemanding, soft/easy. I’ll give an exemple :
    (French first!) : Le cours de Mr. X est plutôt gratte-cul comparé à celui de Mr. Y.
    Mr. X’s class is softer than Mr. Y’s class.
    Another exemple : It was pretty slow at work today.
    Ça été assé gratte-cul au travail aujourd’hui.
    Anyway, if I were you I’d stick with the french from France!
    Great “blog” by the way !

  • Hilarious.

    My Southern grandmother, Melba Emma-Lou, who cooked everything, was once asked how to cook kidneys. She replied, ” You boil the piss out of them.” She would have loved your article.

    Love your charm and wit.

  • You’re so right! I laughed out loud when I read this. French people are way too forthcoming about bodily functions for my puritanical American ears. I know a lot more about some of my friends’ digestive systems’ reactions to various fruits than I ever wanted to, but they just say it, like it’s no big deal. “Les raisins me donnent la chiasse.” I can’t imagine anyone saying that in the states… or saying “bedwetting greens.”