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The 13 Christmas desserts

They are supposed to symbolize Christ and the twelve Apostles at the last supper. They are the total culmination of what is definitely very much a very traditional meal. The differences between a Provencal Christmas table and what is customary in the rest of France are definitely noticeable in the table decorations. In Provence three white tablecloths overlap each other, symbol of the Holy Trinity. Candlesticks are the completion to a Christmas table arrangement. As far as the food, it is totally true to say that Provence is a country onto itself. Provence offers some traditional dishes such as a vegetable fondue with anchovies or dried salt fish, various Provencal cheeses, followed by cakes and fruit are definitely part of the Christmas table.

They are accompanied by sweet dessert wines from Rasteau or a Baumes -de- Venise Muscat. But what is the real story behind the thirteen desserts which does not include cream and candies on the table. We will start with the four mendiants ( mendicant monks): raisins, the amber color of which is reminiscent of a Dominican  monk’s habit, dried figs, almonds, and hazelnuts or filberts, symbolizing the Franciscan, Carmelite and Augustinian monks.

Then the fresh seasonal fruits, usually pears, apples, mandarins, or oranges, occasionally melons or grapes. Depending on the local traditions and of course of personal taste, these can be followed by nuts or dried other fruits, such as dates or prunes, possibly candied fruits and quince bread. Then the nougat, white and softer, followed by black nougat with its harder consistency, accompanied by a few calissons d’Aix. A very magnificent Gibassier provides the grand finale to this humble banquet. This is a yeast cake with  eggs, flavored with orange and lemon peel and a little bit of orange water. It is still as soft and sweet as in the days when the baker gave it to its customers as a seasonal gift. It is a tradition to break the Gibassier into pieces instead of cutting it.

January is the month of honoring the three white men and once again, the festivities are accompanied by sinful sweetmeats. The Galette des Rois, or Epiphany cake is on sale in every bakery and often served with coffee or tea during a family get- together. Sometimes or even now days it is made with puff pastry and filled with almond cream, or it can take the form of a yeast cake filled with candied fruit and sprinkled with sugar crystals. The latter version is the one favored in the South of France. Tradition requires that it contains a lucky charm, such as a little porcelain figure depicting a particular trade or a biblical figure.

Merry Christmas & peace on Earth from Luxury Travel Consultant2.

Join us in May for a tour to Provence. Visit us online at http://www.luxurytravelconsultant2.com if you have any question email us at anne@luxurytravelconsultant2.com