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My French Life: Châteaus and macarons – Serendipity Part 2

Having experienced a happy accident in discovering the best pizza in the world (Serendipity part 1) after a morning of chasing birds round the garden to crop their wings I didn’t think things would get much better but on the way home I’d spotted a sign saying “château”…

We all looked eagerly out of the windows trying to spot turrets and such like – nothing, and we were almost out of the village of  Fressin where the sign was when I saw out of the corner of my eye a set of huge gates. I yelled at the OH to stop, we all got out of the car and were astounded to see the ruins of an ancient castle surrounded by beautiful gardens but sadly locked up so we couldn’t get in to have a good look.

It turns out that this was the Vestiges du Château Fressin – built in the XVth Century by Jean V de Créquy, advisor to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and a nobleman from an illustrious line of French aristocrats.  He was one of the first knights of the Golden Fleece set up by Duke Philip, an order which was begun in 1430 and which at its height included 50 knights of the highest calibre and the King.

Being a member of the  order of the Golden Fleece meant privileges – Wikipedia states that “the sovereign undertook to consult the order before going to war; all disputes between the knights were to be settled by the order; at each chapter the deeds of each knight were held in review, and punishments and admonitions were dealt out to offenders, and to this the sovereign was expressly subject; the knights could claim as of right to be tried by their fellows on charges of rebellion, heresy and treason, and Charles V conferred on the order exclusive jurisdiction over all crimes committed by the knights; the arrest of the offender had to be by warrant signed by at least six knights, and during the process of charge and trial he remained not in prison but in the gentle custody of his fellow knights… The knights were seated in choirstalls like canons, [it] was explicitly denied to “heretics”, and so became an exclusively Catholic award during the Reformation”.  Its still going today though its now “run” by the Spanish royal house and seems to consist only of heads of royal families and the President of France. I suppose the President gets a look in as, although not strictly royal  it was a French idea in the first place!

Assembly of the order of the Golden Fleece

Jean de Créquy also served in the Hundred Years War and saw service in Paris protecting the city against Joan of Arc. Sad to say, the Château was demolished by Louis XIV in the XVIIth century but the remains are impressive and it’s now an important historical site and puts on shows and events throughout the year.

When we got home I made macarons – I’d promised my son them for helping the OH out with the chicken hair cuts – and there the serendipitous day stopped. I had decided to make red and blue macarons and join them with a white filling to make a lovely tricolour macaron sandwich.  I put the red dye and blue dye into each half mix and it was a very pastel coloured paste so I kept adding until the bottles were empty.  It still didn’t look that coloured to me. Then I couldn’t find my piping bag so my daughter-in-law to be fashioned me two out of baking paper. I over filled them and got covered in deep pink and blue gunk which stained my fingers much to the amusement of the cats who couldn’t stop patting them afterwards.  I went with the flow, managed to pipe some shapes on to a tray and popped my creations into the oven. Unfortunately I forgot to grease the paper first (I don’t recommend it, you have to scrape the macarons off) and I have never seen any macaron that looked like these before. Nuclear coloured, in your face blue and pink… of course we still ate them – and guess what, they were delicious if rather revolting to look at!

Serendipity – all good things must come to an end…

A bientôt


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