Saturday, October 24, 2009

A French Potpourri

In early 17th Century France fresh herbs and flowers were gathered and used to make potpourri which was set out in special pots to perfume the air in their palaces and cottages. Potpourri is made by mixing oils, leaves, and/or dried flowers. When prepared, the mixture is enclosed in a bottle or jar, and allowed to sit for several weeks. During this time, the potpourri may smell rotten, however it soon improves.

The word "pot" in French has the same meaning
as it does in English, while the word "pourri" means rotten. The term "rotten pot" probably refers to some fermenting which may enhance the natural fragrances of a potpourri's ingredients.
In ceramics manufacturing, a potpourri vase is a vase specifically designed for holding potpourri. In the traditional designs a potpourri container is provided with a pierced fitted lid, through which the scent may slowly diffuse. This pretty potpourri diffuser is a trunk shaped Limoges Box made by Chamart with a porcelain top hand decorated with a pansy design and a pierced metal bottom in which to place scented potpourri.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Marché aux Puce St. Ouen - Paris

The marchés aux puces, or flea markets, of Paris are legendary. In fact, the name itself originated at the biggest and most famous, St.-Ouen, just outside the city’s ring road at Porte de Clignancourt, where back in the 1880s an “unknown bargain hunter” looked down from nearby fortifications, observed junk dealers selling scrap metal, rags and old furniture, and exclaimed, “My word, but it’s a market of fleas!”

The same vendors have occupied some of the market stalls for decades, even generations. The scale and scope of the entire Marche aux Puce is initially overwhelming, but actually quite manageable in one to two days. The great variety of items and styles, from all periods and countries as well as its unique atmosphere, put this spot at the forefront of the world's antiques markets. More than 2000 traders set up throughout the fifteen markets and in the many surrounding alleyways. The Marché aux Puces is not only very popular with the people accustomed to going there, but also with those who love to take a walk with a difference.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

France: The Oyster Capitol of the World

France and oysters go way back. Since Roman times, the coast of France has been the place of choice where prime oysters can be found. From North to South there are seven distinct growing regions: Normandy, North-Brittany, South-Brittany, West-Central, Marennes-Oléron, Arcachon, and the Mediterranean. Although some of these areas are far more famous than others, they all produce excellent oysters.

The European oyster (Ostrea edulis) is the native
oyster of France. It is called "Huître plate" or simply "Plate". The European oyster is often considered the classic oyster of France as well as the most expensive oyster in France (or in all of Europe for that matter).

The coast of France offers fantastic oyster experiences. Virtually anywhere along the
French coastline (including the Mediterranean) delicious oysters are served. Much like French wine growing areas, oyster cultivation areas are
often informally refered to as "crus". The best
part about the French coast is, however, the price of oysters. They usually cost half of what is charged in Paris.
As oysters go, the French have long been the undisputed leader in all of Europe. In France more than 143,000 tons of oysters are produced and eaten every year. It may take only about three seconds to swallow an oyster, but it takes three to four years to raise one. Like wine, oysters have different flavors depending on the region where they are raised.

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