Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brought Together by Dessert

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brought Together by Dessert

Article excerpt

A STORY in the paper says a motorist had trouble finding the beach because of a faulty map. The story suggests the map was probably like one that Columbus used. Except, of course, that Columbus used charts, and they were much more sophisticated than you might think.

I've seen some of the charts available to Columbus, and that puts me in mind of Dominique Beaulieu, whose romance I assisted some years ago. I met `Minick in the library of the University of Freiburg, where he was having trouble speaking French to a German attendant. One thing led to another, and I invited `Minick and his Alsatian girlfriend to take supper with me at a Freiburg restaurant that was famous for its inedible cake. You can see how Columbus comes to mind.

Dominique, as is his invented name, turned out to be a French-speaking Acadian from Maine's St. John Valley, a native-born United States citizen attached, at that time, to one of the missions connected with our occupation of Germany. His native tongue was the 300-year-old French of Canada's first settlers from Europe - not all the dispersed Acadians of Grand Pre went to Louisiana with Evangeline Bellefontaine. His girlfriend was on the staff of the French consulate, and it also turned out that he had nearly as much trouble speaking French to her as he had with German to the librarian. Which does make sense.

The girlfriend, being from Alsace, was bilingual in French and German, and `Minick, being from the valley, was competent in French and English. Their problem was being separated by their common French. She told me, "He speaks like Montaigne." As he should. Acadian French has had no dealings with France since the days of Montaigne, and in that respect is older than the French of "habitant" Canada.

The early cabins of the "colons" had lofts for "upstairs," and the word "staircase" never came to America with those settlers. They gained a loft by a ladder, and in our valley today the French word for a ladder is often the French word for a flight of stairs. The three of us had a most pleasant supper, and in a small way I felt I had helped love along in a time of need.

The cake helped. …

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