Sunday, April 4, 2010

Amelia + dessert = holiday

It's entirely possible that I mark the passage of time with the changing displays in the bakery windows. France never fails to delight me with its rich tradition of rich food. Christmas was the buche de noel, a cake shaped like a log, complete with little frosting mushrooms. Just as American New Year's Resolutioners were kicking into gear, the French busted out the month-long galette des rois party. If your slice of cake includes the feve (which is a little figurine, here, a traditional Provencal character), you get to wear the tacky paper crown, and the next cake is on you. And so on and so forth until February 2, Chandelier, which, as far as anyone knows, is when you take down the creche (nativity scene) and devote yourself to eating crepes. It may be the day that Jesus ate his first crepe, but we're really not sure.

Eventually, there's Lent (Careme), which has no special desserts associated, but there was Carnaval somewhere in the middle, perhaps to show that France is an equal-opportunity disdainer of religious practice. That brings us up to Easter, featuring mouna (which seems like a strangely un-French word), a light brioche-like cake, like sweetbread with a hint of orange water, I think, and most importantly, little crystallized beads of sugar on top. David Sedaris fans will know that the French are not visited by the Easter bunny, but by the Easter bell, and while I have not confirmed this with any real French people, I have seen quite a few chocolate Easter bells at the bakeries. They also have large chocolate cats, fishes, hens, the occasional bunny, and eggs. There's some debate as to whether or not we saw chocolate turtles.

Part of the thrill is that I didn't know about any of these traditions until they started appearing in the bakeries. So who knows what the next big event will be? I hear May 1 is big around here, at least for disrupting bus schedules, so we shall see what that brings.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you of how much I love ice-cream. Ice-cream in France (especially when there are Italian influences involved) is exciting every single time. Lavender ice-cream will never get old. And yogurt ice-cream -- who knew what tangy delights awaited me? This country is full of pleasant surprises.

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