The Thirteen Desserts are enjoyed after Gros Souper, the
Provencal equivalent of Christmas dinner. The desserts have a religious
connection, as they are in reference to Jesus and his twelve apostles at the
Last Supper. There must always be thirteen desserts, however, which desserts
are served will vary depending on preferences or village traditions. All of the
sweet treats are served at once, and guests must have at least a nibble of each
one. Traditionally, the food is placed on a table on Christmas Eve, where it
remains for three days, before being removed on the 27th December,
allowing the family to pick up nibbles as they walk by.
The Four Beggars
The first four of the desserts are known as les quatres
mendiants, or the four beggars. These dishes serve as a representation of the
monastic communities; raisins for the Dominicans, walnuts for the Augustines,
Almonds for the Carmelites, and dried figs to represent the Franciscans.
While many different types of fruit tend to be served, the
fruit platter is counted as only one of the desserts. Fruits typically served
include oranges, apples, pears, melon and grapes. Traditionally, these fruits
would have been preserved in basements or pantries, on a bed of straw, since
the autumn harvest. Some consider the fruit platter to symbolise the harvest,
bringing in luck for the next years.
Nougat is another dessert staple. Two kinds of nougat are
served each year; white nougat and dark nougat to represent good and evil. Nougat
noir au miel (black nougat) is a hard candy that contains honey and almonds.
The Nougat blanc, symbolising good, is made using sugar, eggs, honey, almonds
Pompe à lHuile
Also known as a fougasse, this olive oil flatbread is
eaten with grape jam. This jam is usually made during the last harvest season.
As tradition dictates, the bread is broken into portions using the fingers,
rather than with a knife. Doing this is said to protect your wealth from
bankruptcy in the year to come.
The above desserts make up eight out of the thirteen
desserts de Noel. These are considered the staple dishes, that are the most
traditional to serve. The desserts that push the numbers to thirteen can vary. However,
there are a number of popular dishes that regularly make the list:
These are a type of thin, fried waffle or pastry. Often
they include lemon zest and orange blossom for flavour.
Bûche de Noël:
The Bûche de Noël is the French version of a Yule Log.
Cumin and Fennel Seed Sablés:
While sables were originally sweet, buttery cookies from
Normandy, the Provencal adaptation puts a savoury twist on the biscuits, adding
cumin and fennel to the mix.
Calissons dAix en Provence:
These are a marzipan style candy made using almond paste and
candied melon. Other candied fruits are also often served as another dessert.
With dates originating in the East, this dessert is representative
of the region where Christ lived and died. Sometimes these dates are stuffed
with marzipan to make them a sweeter treat.
Its not too late to book your French Christmas villa holidays
so that you can get involved with this tasty tradition too! Which of the
thirteen desserts de Nöel are you looking forward to trying the most?
Here's a list of other related categories that you may wish to discover.news