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Cakes, contests and calendars – bon weekend from France…

Puff pastry with almond filling, topped with a gold paper crown - a galette des rois, Kings cake


I hope that you and yours are well.

Sometimes I sit down to write the newsletter and I think… hmm not much has happened this week in my tiny village of 142 people and 1000 cows. At least not anything of newspaper-worthy importance.

I have no problem with this. I am happy that the most talked about event in the village is often something that Madame Bernadette has baked. Her Carambar tarte recipe is currently the most popular thing around.

Carambars are long and very chewy (pull your fillings out style) French sweets. Legend has it that the French sweet company that created them in 1954 did so by happy accident. Extra cocoa was mixed in with caramel to see what it tasted like, the machine developed a fault and spewed out long, thin bars of sweet toffee – but everyone agreed they were delicious, so they kept the long bar formula even though it’s hard to get a whole one in your mouth!

At some point, someone thought it would be a good idea to put jokes on the inside of the wrappers. They’re pretty awful. Things like “what is a female hamster?” Answer Amsterdam. Or “Why should you not tell jokes to a balloon?” Answer: It might burst out laughing. Groan. They’re very popular in France and apparently the company makes a whopping 82,000 km of Carambars each year!

The most talked about topic this week in our house was the 2021 local pompiers calendar. Normally at Christmas, the pompiers, firefighters, visit all the villages they support to give residents a calendar and we all offer a monetary gift in return as a thank you for their hard work. Most of them are volunteers. Several times I’ve been queuing up at the meat counter in our local supermarket when the butcher has had a text and leaped away from the counter, ripped off his apron, and dashed off to attend an incident.

With life the way it is currently, the pompiers couldn’t knock at the door like usual and wish us a Happy New Year. They left the calendars in our post boxes instead, and the local town hall collected the gifts for them. This year’s calendar features a smouldering haybale, a tractor churning out clouds of smoke, and a wasps nest. I’m not sure who chooses the photos but they’re certainly different from your usual firefighter calendar.

Wherever you are I hope you have a peaceful weekend…
Bisous from my little pigsty in the middle of nowhere, rural northern France,

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PS: Photo is of a galette des rois, Kings cake, in my local boulangerie. It’s a tradition to eat one in France on 6 January, to celebrate the Epiphany. Yes, it was delicious!

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream – ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online, and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life

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