It is me, Claude. . .

A French mouse with something to say

Jewel of the Sea – Chapter One

Eek! Bonjour!  Eet eez me, Claude. I have a storee to tell you about some dear friends and their merveilleuse aventure.


Once upon a time there was a girl and her brother.  They were twins as a matter of fact.  They lived in the little coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, not far from the border of Spain.  Their names were Chantal and Georges and they had just turned ten years old in May.  Here is a little map to show you where they lived in the world:


Chantal loved everything about the ocean.  She had already decided that she would live near the ocean forever and would write wonderful books about sealife and take amazing photographs of all the oceans of the world.  Chantal’s father had given her a very nice camera for her tenth birthday and she was already learning how to compose her shots and how to use all the adjustments it had.

Georges too loved the water and was learning how to surf.  Saint Jean-de-Luz was a good surfing beach and Georges went out every day to practice with their cousin Remy who was fourteen and an excellent surfer and swimmer.  Georges had to borrow cousin Remy’s surf board in order to practice and cousin Remy didn’t like to let Georges use it all the time.  So, for his tenth birthday, Georges asked for a board of his own and he got one.

Life couldn’t have been sweeter for Chantal and Georges!  They had the entire summer ahead of them to do everything they loved.  Every morning after breakfast they went out to the beach. Chantal loved to collect sea shells and combed the water’s edge looking for the best ones for her collection.  She had sea shells everywhere in her room and sometimes she would make things from the best-looking shells.

Georges would meet cousin Remy after breakfast and they would go out and try the surf, although often the waves were not big enough until the tide was rolling in.  Georges and Remy would spend hours polishing and waxing their surfboards and talking about all sorts of things.

This particular morning the three of them had been on the beach and decided to do something new.  So they went into town to look around.

At the town pier the fishing boats had gone out already. The boats leave before dawn each day and come back with full nets every evening. But there was one small fishing boat that looked like it was turning around and coming in and here is where our story really begins. You realize, of course, that these children only speak en francaise, but I will do my best to translate!

“Why do we have to sit here and watch that old boat, Chantel?’ complained Georges.

“I just want to see it, that’s all! We don’t get to see the boats come in usually because Mama serves us dinner at that time.”

“I want to DO something. This is boring! C’mon Remy,” said Georges,”Let her sit here if she wants. Let’s go to Monique’s.”

The boys scrambled off the rocks where they were sitting and headed for the small pastry shop. And who could blame them? The soft, sweet aromas of cake and cinnamon and chocolate beckoned anyone who was within a few blocks of Pâtisseries Par Monique.

“We’ll bring you something,” shouted Remy, running.

it was a calm morning. The sea was flat and glassy. “Not good for surfing,” thought Chantal. She pulled her camera from its pouch and looked through the lens, finding the best shots to take. Chantal loved to watch the water and the birds and the clouds. She was happy to sit there and just do that.

Looking through the lens of a camera gives a different view of what is around you. You only see what the camera sees without all the distractions of everything else going on. Chantal focused on the small fishing boat.

Click went her camera.

commercial fishing boat

It chugged along, coming in fairly fast. Chantal could see the fishermen scurrying around with nets and ropes. As the boat came closer to the pier she could hear the captain shouting orders, but she couldn’t quite hear exactly what he was saying.

Chantal, looking through the lens, could see the boat had turned north and was headed beyond the pier. Click, click. It continued coming closer to shore, but it was not going to dock. Instead, the boat disappeared around the bend of the shoreline.

Chantal hopped down off her rock and began running along the water’s edge. “If I can just get around this bend, I might get a really great picture!” she thought.

Barefoot, Chantal ran following the shoreline all the way to the end of the harbor. She followed the chugging sound of the little boat and the shouts of the men which she could now hear very clearly. As Chantal got around the bend she came upon a small sandy beach along a tiny cove.

“There it is.” she panted, out of breath. “There’s the boat. But why would it come here? There are no piers, no dock, no merchants to buy their fish!”

Click. Click. Click.

As the men dragged their nets into the shallow water of the cove, Chantal kept taking her pictures.

“Maybe they’re catching something over here,” she thought.

Click. Click.

Commercial fishing boats put their catch on ice as soon as they pull their full nets onto the boat. The fish are sorted and thrown into troughs of ice immediately. On a big commercial boat, the crew guts and cleans the catch and prepares it for sale to the merchants who meet them at the pier each day. On smaller boats, like this one, they ice the fish but they don’t have enough crew to gut and clean. And sometimes they keep some of the fish in tanks, making their catch more appealing to merchants because the fish are still alive.

Chantal watched as the men lowered a tank into the shallow cove.

“Easy now, boys! the captain commanded, “Don’t let it down too hard and crack it. We don’t want to lose this. What an opportunity!  Merci Dieu!”

The captain grinned a toothy grin and wrung his hands in anticipation. His scruffy red beard jiggled when he shouted orders to his crew and it made his ruddy complexion look tough and age-worn and not the least bit kind. Chantal had goosebumps and made sure that Captain didn’t see her.


Oh mon dieu!,” Chantal whispered out loud, “what in the world are these fools doing? Letting their fish go?”

Click. Click. Click.

“Chantal! Chantal! What are you doing here?” Chantal turned to see Remy shouting and waving at her. “Come on, Chantel, here are your cinnamon buns!” Remy waved the white bag in the air and then stuffed one of the buns into his mouth.

Un moment, Remy,” she shouted back. “I have to take more pictures!”

Click. Click.

“Chantal, come on.” It was Georges who now appeared and was pointing toward the ocean. “The tide’s coming in now, Chantal. We’re going to go surfing and we can’t leave you here. Come on now.,”

The three of them walked along the shoreline talking and laughing and eating buns. They passed the still quiet pier and came upon their beach. The water rolled and waved, bubbly white foam cresting each deep blue surge.

Blanket spread, Chantal sat shaded by her umbrella as the boys took off with their boards into the crashing waves. Chantal reviewed the photographs she’d taken, rolling through dozens of shots.

Qu’est ce que c’est?” she gasped, staring at her final shot. With a flick of her fingers she enlarged the picture to get a closer look. The camera had indeed seen something Chantal had not. She couldn’t believe her eyes!

“Georges! Remy!” Chantal ran along the water’s edge waving and calling to her brother and cousin. But they couldn’t hear her above the roaring sea. Chantal would have to wait to show them.

She couldn’t stop looking at that picture.


Okay, mes amies! Theese eez zee end of Chapter One. Chapter Two eez coming next.  Rendez-vous ensuite!

Votre ami, Claude.


Fan Mail from Qod

It is me, Claude.

It is me, Claude.

Bonjour Mes Amis!  Eet eez me, Claude Mouse, and I have received la surprise la plus merveilleuse. Eet eez a letter from a fan! Eemagine that? Il est étonnant—amazing eez your Eenglish word! I am honored and besides, theez guy eez très comique! I hope you enjoy reading eet.

Dear Claude,

I’m quite a fan of yours so I thought I’d write you a letter instead of just commenting on your blog.

My name is Jones, Qodfish Jones. You probably wonder why I don’t spell my name with a “C.” We’ve always spelled it with a “Q” since I was a young fry. My mother has always been a bit bohemian. You know the type—wears psychadelic scales that glow in a black light—doesn’t believe in  blindly following the current school of thought. Hahahaha! Get it? Current? Mom would rather do almost anything that is different from what everyone else is doing. So when she hatched me, she named me Qodfish, which is pronounced just like the regular “codfish.”

Little did she know that the “Qods” are the Revolutionary Guard of the Ayattolah Khomeini! Boy has that gotten me into the proverbial hot water at times! But we’re just fish living in the icy depths of the north Atlantic near Norway so you can’t blame Mom. She was just trying to be creative. (Sometimes I wonder if calling me “Qodfish” wasn’t just coincidental because of her Scandinavian accent.)

This is a self-portrait.

This is my self-portrait. I call it, “OMQ!” and use it for my facebook profile. As you can see, I’m growing a goatee. Hey I’m a poet and don’t know it!

Obviously we are a family of cod. But when you’re a little fishy and your name is “Qod,” some people get very confused and they try their damndest to come up with a creative pronunciation instead of the usual. So a lot of fry in my school started pronouncing it “god” with a hard “g.” That sort of stuck and the connotation stuck with me too and my name gave me some kind of authority and power with those guys. So my nickname became “Qod” pronounced “god.”

Geesh! Some people. Not that I minded really. Being called “Qod” has it’s advantages let me tell you! Anyway, that’s my name and maybe someday soon I’ll tell you some funny stories about that.

Your friend,

Qodfish Jones


And this year’s Lifetime Achievement Kitchen Inspiration Award goes to . . .

S Q U E A K!!!!! Theez eez zee most exciting thing that has ever happened to me! I got theez amazing award for my work that I do! I hope you like to read about eet.


Claude is looking a little down in the mouth lately.  And who could blame him?  He’s been hanging around in my kitchen for at least twenty years.  Here I am going on and on in my blog about all the people and things that inspire me and how I am the big-time cooking expert and I never once even mentioned Claude.

Before I introduce you to Claude, believe me when I say I am dead serious about the important place he has in my cooking life.  A day without Claude would be like a day without a stove to cook on or a spoon to taste with.  I would be a lost soul without Claude.

Claude is dedicated.  Who else do you know that expresses his love of food and cooking by wearing a sweater with a big orange carrot on it every single day?  He’s downright insouciant, that’s what he is!


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