Happy St Honoré Day!

Today is the 16th May and something I was reading recently drew my attention to the fact that this means it is St. Honoré Day.

Almost every day in the French calendar has a saint allocated to it. Some days even have more than one.

You might be wondering what is so special about St Honoré? In a nutshell (mixed metaphor alert!) he is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. He was born in Amiens, N France, where he later became Bishop in the 6th Century.

After St Honoré died, processions were held in his honour and, according to legend, water shortages and floods ceased. This resulted in excellent wheat crops and henceforth he became the ‘favourite’ of all bakers!

In the 17th century, he was made the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. In pictures, he is often seen with a baker’s peel (a flat, shovel-like tool used by bakers to slide loaves of bread, pastries etc in and out of an oven) and loaves of bread.

You may have heard of a ‘Gâteau St Honoré’. This is most likely if you are a fan of ‘The Great British Bake Off’, as it was a featured showstopper bake in one of the series! This cake was invented, in Paris, in the 19th century. It is a ring shaped pastry which is filled with Chiboust cream (crème pâtissière and Italian meringue) and topped with small cream puffs glazed with caramel. To finish more whipped cream is used to decorate.

Ugh! I’m sorry but this is not my kind of cake. It is far too sweet and I don’t like cream. Although I do appreciate that it’s a special occasion cake and takes a lot of skill.

I’m more of a ‘tarte au citron’ person.

Have you ever tasted a ‘Gâteau St Honoré’ or even made one?

If you’re tempted – you’re a braver and more accomplished baker than I am – here’s a video that may inspire you.

 

 

1st May – La Fête du Travail and La Fête du Muguet

Happy May Day! I don’t often repost posts but here’s one I published previously.

May 1st is a special day in France. It’s a holiday, a day off work.  May Day is also known in France as the Fête du Travail

It is also la Fête du Muguet, when it’s traditional to give loved ones a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of spring and of good luck.

The tradition of offering small bunches of Lily of the Valley, le muguet, to friends and family, as a good luck charm, apparently dates back to the Renaissance. Charles IX gave  the flower to the ladies of his court and decreed on May 1st, 1561, that anyone in France can legally sell flowers without a license, on May day, as long as they are a reasonable distance  from the nearest flower shop.

I have also read that  the lily of the valley flowers sprung from Eve’s tears when she was forced to leave the Garden of Eden. Elsewhere it is said that the flower comes from the tears of the Virgin Mary when she cried at the Crucifixion.

The photo below is of some lily of the valley growing in my garden. It looks a bit sad, at the moment! if you would like to see some more stunning photos of lily of the valley, follow the link to my Pinterest board.

https://www.pinterest.com/Junedesilva15/fancying-france/

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Top 20 first names in France

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I’ve  always been fascinated by children’s names. As a teacher, learning – and remembering  – the names of your students is extremely important. I have always been interested in the fashion for first names and how this was reflected in my class register. I remember, one year, when I was teaching in London and had a class full of Kylies!

Of course, when it came to naming our two sons, there was another problem. Certain names immediately conjure up memories of naughty boys. I’m being very polite here! We also have a long and unusual surname. In the end, we went for very traditional, ancient names. They are both Biblical names but, to be honest with you, that is coincidental.

When I taught, in France, it was a similar story with certain English names being very popular. However, I was very surprised when Kevin topped the list of most popular boys names, in France. This is how you pronounce it in French!

This is the top 10 girls names in France, at the moment, according to my research in various French magazines and on several websites:

  1. Emma
  2. Louise
  3. Jade
  4. Alice
  5. Mila
  6. Chloé
  7. Inès
  8. Lina
  9. Léa
  10. Léna

And here are the boys:

  1. Gabriel
  2. Louis
  3. Raphaël
  4. Léo
  5. Adam
  6. Jules
  7. Lucas
  8. Maël
  9. Hugo
  10. Liam

I think there are some lovely names, some interesting names and some surprising ones. What do you think? Do you have a favourite first name? I’d love to know!

Sharing with #AllAboutFrance

Lou Messugo

 

Pancake time – La Chandeleur

I love pancakes or crêpes and welcome any opportunity to eat them! So, I’m delighted that today is Pancake Day. If you’re reading this in the UK, this may come as a surprise.  Let me elaborate!

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February 2nd, in France, is ‘La Fête de la Chandeleur.’  The name Chandeleur comes from the Latin ‘candelorum festum’, which means festival of candles and is also known as Candlemas.

Apparently it was Pope Gelasius I who helped to establish the festival of Candlemas and was said to have fed pancakes to the pilgrims who processed, holding candles, to his church.

Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas and, in the Christian calendar, marks when baby Jesus was first  presented, by Mary, in the Temple at Jerusalem.

However, the festival can be traced back to Roman times when candles were lit to scare away evil spirits in the winter.

In the UK pancake day 2019 will fall on March 5th; more pancakes!

As well as eating pancakes, I enjoy making them! They were always a go-to favourite with my sons and their friends, whether for tea, breakfast or sleep overs. There are many recipes for making pancakes but the one I have always used is by Delia Smith.

https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/basic-pancakes

Although, I must admit I don’t bother to add melted butter to my batter!

Bon appétit!
Are you a pancake fan? I’m a traditionalist and I love mine with lemon and sugar!

Here we go again…

… was my immediate reaction when a promotion for this book, by Mylène Desclaux, caught my attention.d7b641e7-f264-4ef2-9b21-0e0b85fe78a0

I decided to find out some more. Through the power of the internet, it is now possible to dip inside a book and read a sample before you buy! There has also been a fairly widespread reaction to the book across the media; articles, reviews etc which I have been reading with some interest, cynicism and amusement, depending on who has written them.

However, I must confess that I haven’t read the whole book and it’s unlikely that I will.

In the last few years, we have been told that ‘French women don’t get fat’ and  ‘French women don’t get facelifts’ and that’s just for starters.

Here are some of Mylène’s suggestions for feeling young at 50:

  • never have a birthday party – you don’t want to risk people finding out your real age
  • never wear reading glasses on a date
  • never keep a first name name that reflects your true age

Mylène (and I quote here) writes: ‘My experience has taught me that you should never, EVER, tell people your age… Being however old you are is nothing to be particularly proud of…’

WHAT? I am very proud and glad to be sixty-five. I know (knew) people who are no longer with us and would give anything, I’m sure to be fifty, sixty or just here. Thankfully, there are many writers and bloggers who celebrate age.

I’m afraid this post has turned into a bit of a rant but if you read my blog fairly regularly, you know my opinion of the stereotypical, chic French woman with which we are constantly being presented. I am a Francophile and have some wonderful French women friends who do not all conform to the image with which we are so often presented.

You may be interested in reading the most popular post I have ever written on this topic:

https://fancyingfrance.com/2017/09/26/cest-chic/

Thanks for reading and I’d love to know what you think.

 

 

Bonjour 2019 et Au revoir 2018

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I hope you all had an enjoyable festive season. For me, it was wonderful to have all the family at home (plus two cats!) but I must admit that in some ways I’m looking forward to ‘normal’ life resuming. Although I know I will find the house very empty and quiet at first, I also need ‘my own space’ – apologies for over-used cliché!

New Year Resolutions are not for me but I am embracing ‘Dry January’, except for the two family birthdays we celebrate in January. Is that allowed, I wonder? Who cares? I’m setting my own rules on this… Especially as tomorrow we are going to be celebrating the first birthday with a seven course tasting menu, at a Michelin star restaurant, plus accompanying wines chosen to compliment each course.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do like to look back and see which posts have been the most popular. In 2018 in reverse order (!)

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and ‘Parapluies de Carcassonne’

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I’m not sure if I can draw any significant conclusions from this result … but it was fun looking!

When I looked back at my first post of last year, I remembered that I had made some plans for the blog. I said I would set up an Instagram account. I did manage this and I do enjoy it but – if I’m honest – I do prefer writing this blog.

However, I failed to update my profile and photo.

I have also moved my blog from a free WordPress one to a self-hosted one. And next? I’m going to try a new theme. Wish me luck and watch this space!

 

 

 

Who pulled the plug out?

 

These are the photos I took before returning to the UK earlier in December. Not particularly Christmassy but very surprising… to me. It’s a bit of a joke but I always like to check that the Canal du Midi is still at the end of our garden, particularly if we have been away. Imagine my surprise when I looked over the garden gate to see that most of the Canal water had disappeared!

I know that the Canal is closed from about the first week in November until March, so that routine maintenance and cleaning can be carried out. This is the first time I’ve seen evidence of this happening. We decided to walk into Castelnaudary, along the tow path, to give us a clearer understanding of what happens to the Canal in winter. We were pleased to see that the ducks were unperturbed and actually seemed delighted by the delicacies they were finding on the Canal bed. We were less pleased to see a mud covered moped that had found its way into the Canal.

We just missed seeing Castelnaudary illuminated for Christmas. I would have liked to catch a glimpse of all the boats, in the port, lit up – perhaps another time.

I hope you all have a wonderful, happy, Christmas.

Joyeux Noël!