Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

The celebration of Mardi Gras came to North America from France where it had been celebrated since the Middle Ages.  The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons.

                      The actual founding of Mardi Gras was in 1702:Cider Press HIll: New Orleans:

 In 1702 French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile). In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras. Though most people associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, began holding the festival in 1703, 15 years before it started in Louisiana.

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Palissy Ware / Majolica

Palissy Ware / Majolica   Image result for books on palissy and majolica      

‘Palissy Ware’ was launched in great reproduction efforts in 1849 and is a term for ceramics produced in the style of the famous French potter Bernard Palissy (1510-1590), the great French Renaissance potter, who created a style of ceramic art that reproduced three-dimensional still lifes.

Very special Palissy Style Plates are shown below –  This particular plate is decorated in relief with a lobster and shells.  And another displaying a crab.  This originated with the idea that using naturalistic scenes of plants and animals cast from life brought authenticity into the home.

Palissy copied things like the fish, frogs, lizards, & snails arranged onto large platters (wall plates, wall platters, chargers) — He copied floral and fauna found in or near Paris. He patterned the fish after those found in the Seine River and the fossil shells are easily recognized as the tertiary shells of the Paris basin. These pièces rustiques, as Palissy himself called them, were made for decorative purposes only. Palissy was the mother of what is now called Majolica.

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Confit Pots

Confit Pots

Image result for history of confit potsImage result for history of confit pots

     Confit is the French word that means “to preserve”– the mustard and green pots were used for storing cooked meats and then buried in the ground or stored in stone-lined larders. This storage process preserved the cooked meat without refrigeration and could then be enjoyed throughout the winter months. The bottom halves were left unglazed for burying in the ground since the glaze would normally fall off sealed in the ground.  Meats, most often duck, goose, or pork, preserved in this method are often considered a delicacy. Confit d’oie is preserved goose and confit de canard is preserved duck. The meat in these dishes is moist and delicate.

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Absinthe Cocktails

Early history of the absinthe drink

Absinthe was first created in 1792 by Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Switzerland. His intention was to deliver the extract of the wormwood plant — which had long been known to have powerful healing effects — in a handy form.

The production of absinthe in a commercial sense began in 1797 when a man named Major Dubied bought the recipe from Dr. Ordinaire.  He began to manufacture the spirit with his son-in-law, Henri-Louis Pernod, in Val-de-Travers, Switzerland.

As the production of absinthe proved successful, Pernod in 1805, moved production to a larger facility across the border in Pontarlier, France. And then what began as a medicinal elixir, absinthe steadily grew into a global phenomenon.

In France, absinthe quickly caught on as the favorite drink of the aristocracy. In the 1850’s, the popularity of absinthe skyrocketed as the bohemian literary crowd embraced the “Green Fairy”. Many famous poets, writers and artists of the day routinely reached for a glass in search of inspiration.

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French Grape Hoppers

Harvesting to make wine and champagne begins with the collection of grapes.

Grape snipping in Bordeaux. Joanna Gonzalez photos.

Grape production serves as a major agricultural output in France. The harvest season for grape crops in France typically begins in September and may last until October. A Vendangeur is what a grape picker in France is called.

Grape hoppers are the backpacks that grape harvesters use to carry the grapes they are harvesting from the vines.  They were made of wood or woven natural fibers or metal. They are very attractive hanging on walls with arrangements.

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