Fiona Alderman: Blogging from Rural France in the New Year


New Year in France, A King’s cake

Happy New Year to everyone.They say Bonne Année here and always with” et surtout la santé” which means, above all good health. Many people however, have been struck down this holiday season with all sorts of nasty viruses and colds, myself included, that Christmas was spent in a wave of inhalation treatments and cough mixtures.

France celebrates Epiphany on the 6th January which was originally in biblical times, the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem , and a special cake is baked at this time called une galette des rois. It is made of puff pastry with a lovely filling of frangipane. (eggs, butter, sugar and sweet almonds)
Inside is hidden a little fève, originally a bean, and is now a porcelain or sometimes a plastic figure. These are highly collectable and I now have quite a few after so many years here!

They usually depict either cartoon characters, movie stars or something current to daily life.

It comes with a paper crown and whoever finds the fève becomes the King for the day.and wears the crown. He then chooses his Queen for the day! Traditionally when eating the cake, the youngest person hides under the table and calls out at random who has the next slice.

I will buy mine from la boulangerie this year, a bit more expensive than the supermarket , but worth it !


The Onion Johnnies

This name was given to French onion sellers from Brittany from the beginning of the 19th century, and who rode all over Britain on their bicycles to sell their produce. The classic image of a Frenchman comes to mind, a beret sitting lopsided on the head, a Gauloise cigarette falling to the edge of the lips, a striped sweater plus the bicycle brimming over with several kilos of onions, it is quite a picture!

The name “Johnnie” came from Yann which is a common Breton name and there were over 1,500 men working at one time all coming from or near the Port of Roscoff.
At the beginning of the 19th century as roads and railways were so bad they had to come over by boat across the Channel. Originally they were farmers, who would come in July, storing the goods in barns and then setting out over the highways right up to the Highlands of Scotland. They would sell from door to door and to pubs and hotels.

Today there are maybe less Johnnies but it has become a huge business, gaining AOC appellation , a controlled protection and distributed by other means than the bicycle.
 There is a museum dedicated to the pink onion in Roscoff, where you can meet with the professionals, have tastings of all the onion based foods and even go on a little train to visit the onion growers.

Apparently the legend says that these farmers were inspired in the 70’s to set up the now famous Brittany Ferries because of their initial travels over the Channel.


Lovely So French

I never think twice about putting on some perfume each day as routine as cleaning my teeth. It immediately makes me feel ready for the day. The names of Chanel No. 5 Shalimar, Givenchy, Armani ,Boucheron are all names of famous perfumes but how are they made? Before the manufacturing can begin there are many raw materials to be found in plants, fruits, spices, leaves and flowers which make up its floral base.

Chanel even have their own flower fields to enable them to have enough produce for their perfumes, as one small bottle requires the extracted oil from 660 roses!

The city of Grasse in Provence has been, since the 17th century, famous for its perfume making and is now the world’s capital. A pretty town which houses everything to do with perfume with its museums, factories and perfume shops everywhere. There are three main manufacturers , Fragonard, Galimard and

Molinard which are a very busy tourist attraction too.

It is from the oils from the plants and flowers that the perfume begins its long journey.

Extracting the oil can be done in several ways, from squeezing the plants, enfleurage and maceration which use grease or warmed fats or either steam distillation.

The creation of a scent is a skilled and long task , to test and mix ingredients before a formula is achieved. Then blending the extracted oils with alcohol to dilute the ingredients and to determine whether the liquid will be cologne, perfume or eau de toilette. After all this, it is time for a resting period of several months to a year for it to combine and settle.

Perfume tells people who you are, they can influence your mood and can also recall memories and places. I still have a little bottle of Chanel toilet water that my mum gave me many years ago and when I smell it the residue left in it takes me back in time.

That’s all for now . Fifi’s story from rural France . January 2017. 

Contemporary dance courses and Film/video courses.

Fiona Alderman's blog: The Muse of St. Germain
Fiona Alderman blogging from Rural France: Santons in Salignac

This section: Fiona Alderman blogging from The Salignac Foundation France

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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