Pas un radis

One of the pleasures of life in France is the many markets for fresh fruit and vegetables. I took this photo of bunches of radishes because I loved the color and shape, so different from what I was used to from the grocery stores back home. Radishes have a bigger role to play in French cooking and in French culture. During the Third Republic in France (1870 to 1940), political radicals were sometimes compared to radishes, “Roses à l’extérieur, blancs à l’intérieur, et toujours près du beurre“. It means “pink on the outside, white on the inside, and always near the butter.” The symbol of the political left in France is the rose, white is associated with the economic policies of the right, and the government is the “butter.” So the radical is someone who is left on the outside, right on the inside, and almost always a government employee.

A more current expression involving radishes is pas un radis (pah uhn radee), which literally means “not a radish” and figuratively means that someone has no money. You’d have to be really hard up to not even be able to afford a bunch of radishes. Here’s a recipe for open-face radish and butter sandwiches. I hope you’ll always have enough money to enjoy these:


  • 2½ bunches radishes, trimmed
  • Unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 20 ¼-inch-thick diagonal slices of baguette
  • sea salt


  • Place radishes in medium bowl of ice water and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain radishes and slice thinly.
  • Spread butter generously over baguette slices and sprinkle lightly with sea salt or coarse kosher salt. Arrange radish slices atop buttered baguette slices and serve.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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