Friday, August 28, 2009

Lily of the Valley

A symbol of love and friendship, Lily of the Valley
flowers are sold in the streets of France every year on French Labor Day (La Fête du Travail), on May 1st. Friends and families exchange the flowers as
sentiments of good luck and prosperity in life and love. Lily of the Valley is referred to as a "porte-bonheur"--literally, "bringer of happiness" or perhaps what
we would call a good luck charm.

This tradition of exchanging a small sprig
of Muguet-du-Bois is believed to have been
begun by Charles IX in 1561 after he was
given a small bouquet as a symbol of good luck
and Spring time. He was so delighted
that he in turn ordered several bouquets
to be made up, one for each Lady in his Court.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Fields of sunflowers are everywhere in the South of France – and not just growing in the ground. Provencal linens, pottery and tile seem to echo the bright blues and yellows that Van Gogh talked about when painting in the region.
The latin name for sunflowers is Helianthus annus – which comes from the greek word helios (sun) and anthus (flower).

The French word for sunflower is tournesol, and is literally a perfect translation. “Turn sun” illustrates the fact that young sunflowers orient themselves towards the sun, which is exactly what they do.
Provence is the land of Van Gogh – who lived in the area and was inspired by the light and the sunflowers as you may know from his famous sunflower series of paintings.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wedding Cakes in France

The French lay claim to starting the tradition of the wedding cake. There are two main styles of wedding cake in France. Regarded as more traditional is the croquembouche, a cone made of round cream-filled pastries which is dipped in hot toffee. Croquembouche comes from the French words "croquant" meaning crunchy and "bouche" for mouth or "cracks in your mouth." A cone of cream puffs is filled with French pastry cream coated with carmelized sugar and decorated with elegant marzipan roses made petal by petal. The croquembouche is often the dessert at a French wedding, baptism, christening, and other family gatherings. Its origins date back to the medieval tables of the French Royalty and Nobility.

The second style involves multiple round sponge cakes each cake a smaller size than its predecessor. These are placed on a stand with the smaller cakes on top. The number of layers can go up to ten, and often a support which cuts through the middle of the cakes is used. The tiered cake symbolizes prosperity.
In Anglo Saxon times guests brought little cakes to the wedding and piled them into a heap over which the
Wedding couple would try to kiss. This was later turned into tiered cakes in France. The European tradition in
Wedding cakes is mostly white, as a symbol of purity. Wedding cakes in other cultures are often more colorful.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

La Maison des Trois Thés

Deep in the heart of Paris's Latin Quarter, lies a tea-house with more fabulously expensive tea than anywhere else.

La Maison des Trois Thes, an exclusive
tea shop and importer, supplies the
restaurant at the Four Seasons George V,
Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Senderens
and many other top Paris tables,
and is considered to be one of the four or
five most knowledgeable tea merchants
in the world.

The shop was born of Taiwan native
Yu Hui Tseng’s passion for tea.
Tseng comes from a family that’s
been in the business of growing
and selling quality tea for generations
and is considered to be one of the finest
tea tasters in the world. Among the
rarest types on sale are the very best
Oolong teas as well as an intriguing
selection of white, yellow, and aged
black teas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pizza can be French, too!

The nutty, buttery flavor of semi hard cheeses distinguishes much French pizza from Neapolitan-style pies made only with milky mozzarella. When the cheese is spread over a thin round of dough coated with tomato and herbs and then subjected to the relentless whoosh of heat in a brick oven, the result is a bubbling, molten masterpiece.

In the South of France, especially in Provence (pictured) and along the Côte d'Azur, they understand tomatoes, basil, olive oil and anchovies. The region's proximity to Italy and its influx of Italian immigrants, vacationers and retirees has, over the decades, provided a steady supply of pizza cognoscenti.

The divinely thin crusts constitute the hallmark of the best wood-fired French pizza: crisp but not hard, delicate but not brittle, charred but not burned, flour-powdered but not dry.
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