OF POPPIES AND CORNFLOWERS

Article dans Riviera Buzz pour commémorer la fin de la première guerre mondiale. Article in Riviera Buzz to commemorate the end of World War I.

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Today is Remembrance Day, commemorating the armistice between the Allies and Germany, which marked the end of World War I in 1918.

In the UK, most people will be wearing poppies on their lapels to pay tribute to the brave young men who died for our freedom. On the other side of the Channel, you might come across the odd cornflower, the Bleuet de France and Gallic version of the poppy.

Le Bleuet is still relatively unknown outside France and no longer very popular here, but things are slowing changing, thanks mostly to last year’s Bleuet campaign. This was a huge success, raising more than €1,120,000, one of its best results ever, in support of families of service people and police officers who died or were injured in the line of service, as well as victims of terrorism.

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The bleuets, which resemble the British poppies in their design, are being made in France by disabled people, a symbolic link to the start of the first campaign in the 1920s, when the flowers were made by injured soldiers.

Les poilus, as the French soldiers were known, suffered terribly during the Great War and many of them came home maimed, mutilated and mentally traumatized. French nurses Suzanne Lenhardt and Charlotte Malleterre decided to start a workshop, where those veterans could create cornflowers from tissue paper to recall the recruits of Class 15 – born in 1895 –, and their trousers, pristine blue upon their arrival at the front. The initiative spread slowly around France, and while President Gaston Doumergue publicly gave his support to the Bleuets in 1928, the sale of the symbolic flowers on Remembrance Day did not become official in the country until 1935.

In the middle of battle, cornflowers, like poppies, were the only flowers that could grow in the mud. With destruction rife and millions of young men losing their lives, the flower became a real symbol of hope for the soldiers. In 1916, they became immortalized in the Alphonse Bourgoin poem, “Les Bleuets de France”.

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Lead image © beppenob

LA FÊTE DE LA TRANSHUMANCE IN ROUBION, WHERE THE SHEEP IS KING

Récit dans riviera Buzz d’un dimanche ensoleillé à Rubion pour la Transhumance. Story in Riviera Buzz of a sunny Sunday in Rubion for the “Transhumance”.

Roubion

Every autumn, thousands of sheep leave behind the upland pastures where they spent a peaceful summer to find shelter in the low-lands.

And every year, this procession gives rise to the traditional Fête de la Transhumance in the village of Roubion, a perched village located on the descent from the Col de la Couillole.

Last Sunday, just a few hours after torrential rains transformed most of the French Riviera into a terrifying flood zone, the sun was back and people turned out in large number to cheer on the farmers, their dogs and their adorable woolly quadrupeds as they passed through the 12th century old village on their way to the Var.

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The festivities started at 8:30 am with the baking of bread, some traditional dancing and a craft market. Then it was time for everybody to gather on the main square to welcome the colourful and noisy procession (the sheep wore tags and the few goats that accompanied them tinkling collars) in a friendly atmosphere.

A bit behind schedule, the animals finally arrived around 11:45 am to the applause of the waiting crowd. If today most flocks are moved by large double-decker trucks, this annual celebration offers a unique opportunity to witness the sheep being herded down the small roads and to walk with them from the village to the station of Roubion Les Buisses, just a couple of kilometers away, to the sound of traditional Provençal music.

The hike is easy and takes about half an hour but for those who cannot walk, free shuttles are also available.

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Once in the station, the sheep continued grazing on the lush green pasture but the festivities did not end for the bipeds. Many stalls offered delicious food (cheese, sausages, ham, socca…), home-made jams and local wines, while a small farm provided for some great entertainment.

Roubion has been hosting this annual transhumance fête since 2003 and this year’s celebration once again offered a breath of fresh air – a nice parenthesis in a somewhat difficult weekend on the Côte d’Azur.

GOURMET BAG AIMS TO MAKE FOOD WASTE A THING OF THE PAST

Les doggy bags arrivent en France…Et c’est dans Riviera Buzz! The doggy bags are coming to France…And it is in Riviera Buzz!

Gourmet bag

Are things really starting to change with the introduction of the doggy bag in restaurants in France? Waste not, want not, is what we say!

Who said the French were reluctant to accept change? After years of snubbing the practice of bringing leftover food home from restaurants as too American a thing, they now finally seem ready to adopt the concept of the doggy bag. And not before time!

To be fair though, the French do not think of food in the same way as the rest of the world might. For starters, they generally dine out less than in other countries, often preferring a homemade meal. So when the French actually do dine out, they want to enjoy the experience and take the time to relish it.

Dining out is no different than anywhere else, but portions in France remain moderate and adequate. And even if carrying half-empty bottles of wine around is considered normal behaviour, not finishing one’s meal is still considered rude; even the sauce accompanying a dish has to be carefully mopped up and savoured with some bread.

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Now that the government has charged restaurants with tackling food waste, the oh-so-American doggy bag no longer seems like such a bad idea. So much so, that two French entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to come up with their own version, which they call the Gourmet Bag.

These little boxes, made in France and 100% recyclable, have a very simple and elegant design, can be microwaved or put in the oven and come with the caption “trop bon pour gaspiller” (too good to waste).

So far, they have garnered a very positive response from both restaurants and customers, but of course, France still being France, it may still take a while before prejudices about taking home leftovers are totally overcome. Most restaurant owners are only too happy to prepare a doggy bag if requested, but waiters will rarely spontaneously offer to do so, and most customers still remain too ashamed to ask!

All images courtesy Gourmet Bag

BANISH THE POST-CHRISTMAS BLUES WITH LA GALETTE DES ROIS!

C’est le moment pour de la galette dans Riviera Buzz. (It is time for some galette in Riviera Buzz).

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Come the 6th of January, one French tradition is always guaranteed to please — say goodbye diet and hello la Galette des Rois!

If losing weight was one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may want to wait a bit on that one, at least until the end of the month…January is indeed still a festive time in France, and be it at home or at work, with your family, friends, colleagues or even neighbours, chances are that you are going to eat a lot of “galette des rois“, literally the Kings’ cake, over the next few weeks.

Originally made to celebrate the Epiphany and the arrival of the three Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus 12 days after Christmas, this culinary tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages and the Avignon popes, is now used by the French as a way to start the new year surrounded by loved ones to “tirer les rois” (find the kings).

The traditional cake, the so-called Parisian galette, is a puff pastry pie filled with almond paste, symbolising the return of the sun after winter, while in Provence, it takes the form of a brioche shaped like a crown with fruits confits either incorporated into the cake or used as a garnish. But no matter which one you end up sharing, there will always be a little charm, the fève, hidden inside. Centuries ago, it was just a dried bean, but nowadays, it is a porcelain or ceramic figurine that sparked the desire of more and more collectors each year, and whoever finds it, gets to carry a crown.

To avoid any cheating, the “galette” is cut into slices, one for each person around the table plus sometimes an extra one, “la part du Bon Dieu” (God’s piece), for loved ones who are no longer here, the poor or the unexpected visitor, and traditionally the youngest person crawls under the table and calls out each person’s name, randomly, indicating how the cake is to be distributed.

Being named King or Queen for the day remains great fun for everybody, young and old, even in a country that has not always treated its royals that well over the course of its history.

image © Richard Villalon on Dollar Photo Club

February is just around the corner – time for some Crêpes!

Article publié dans FR2DAY en février 2011 (article published in FR2DAY in February 2011)

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February is now just around the corner and, as often in France, with each new month come new festivities to look forward to, as well as some particular culinary traditions! If in January it is customary to share some “galettes des rois” with family, friends and colleagues, February is the month when the French make crêpes, particularly on the 2nd of February to celebrate the Catholic holiday of La Chandeleur (Candlemas).

Candlemas is a Christian feast commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Like in English, the name comes from the word «chandelle» (candle), as people used to bring back the lighted candles from church to assure good crops for the year to come and to chase the evil.

The reason why crêpes are eaten in France on that particular day is unfortunately quite vague. According to some versions, the tradition dates back to the time of Pope Gélase I, who was famous for feeding crêpes to the pilgrims coming to Rome. For other sources however, the form and colour of the crepes evoke the Sun, which is just about to reappear after a long, dark, and cold winter.

One thing is sure though, crêpes still symbolize today good crops, wealth and health for the year to come. Just as goes the popular saying, “Eating crêpes on Candlemas Day will bring a year of happiness”, it remains traditional to hold a coin in one hand and a crêpe pan in the other before tossing the crêpe into the air. Whoever manages to catch the crêpe in the pan without dropping it on the floor, will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

Galette des Rois – the Christmas Feast continues!

Article publié dans FR2DAY en février 2011 (article published in FR2DAY in february 2011)

galette

If you thought the holiday season was nearing to an end, think again! Over the last few days, in every bakery and food shop across France, “the Galette Des Rois”, literally the Kings’ cake, has been making its appearance to the delight of little kids eagerly awaiting the ceremony that goes with it. This special cake which is eaten throughout the month of January is made to celebrate the Epiphany and the arrival, 12 days after Christmas, of the Three Kings, bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. It is a culinary tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Depending on the region of France, the cake comes in different forms: In Provence, the classic galette is essentially a brioche shaped like a crown with fruit confits either incorporated into the cake or used as a garnish. Meanwhile, the most common variety, the so-called Parisian Galette, is a puff pastry stuffed with almond paste (frangipane).

However, no matter the form of the cake, what really sets thegalette des rois apart from other delicacies is the fève hidden inside, or even two, which can be a real fava bean or a figurine.

The cake is usually cut so that there is a piece for everyone present as well as an extra piece called la part des pauvres for loved ones who are no longer here and for those who are less fortunate. Nowadays however, the slice is also designated for the unexpected visitor.

Traditionally, the youngest family member crawls beneath the table and calls out each person’s name, randomly, indicating how the slices must be distributed to avoid any cheating. The person who discovers the charm is then crowned king or queen for the day and can choose a royal partner.

La Fête des Rois is a wonderful ending to the Christmas season and a good way to celebrate the New Year at home but also at school or at work.