February 2 marks La Chandeleur, a day celebrated in France with the making, and eating, of crêpes. But Provence has it’s own special traditions for this pancake day…
How did La Chandeleur start?
La Chandeleur is the culmination of the Calendale, the festive holiday season which begins with the feast day of St. Barbara (la Sainte Barbe), celebrated on December 4. On this day, Provençal celebrants plant wheat and lentil seeds in small containers. If the seeds germinate and grow quickly, one can be assured of a good harvest and a prosperous New Year. The new shoots are often tied with tinsel and ribbon and used as Christmas table decorations. Aix-en-Provence celebrates La Bravade Calendale each year with a street festival and the offering of “La Pompe de Noel” (a sweet brioche, one of the 13 desserts of Christmas) to city authorities.
These holidays have their roots in pagan and Roman customs. At the beginning, farmers ate a meal based on wheat on La Chandeleur. The aim was to encourage spring to come quickly while they prayed that the wheat harvest would be abundant. During lean times, they tried to use as little wheat as possible, combining it with a bit of liquid and, voilà, the crêpe was born!
Pancakes are popular in France
Nowadays, you don’t need the excuse of La Chandeleur to prepare crêpes.
In fact, socca crêpes made with chickpea flour are a street food staple in the south of France, especially Marseille and Nice, all year round.
With a bit of practice and the right pan, crêpes are easy to prepare. Crêpes can be served as a sweet dessert or snack (crêpes sucrées) with a simple jam filling and usually made with wheat flour. They can also be savory (crêpes salées), traditionally made with buckwheat flour and filled with mushrooms, spinach or ham and cheese. In Brittany, these pancakes, called galettes, are a daily staple – and utterly delicious…
Here’s how to make the perfect crepe
By Martine Bertin-Peterson of Gout et Voyage, cultural and gourmet tours of Provence where you’ll make mouth-watering memories…