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Far Breton is a traditional dessert from Brittany, and related to the better known Clafoutis. Far Breton is a bit more egg custardy, a bit less pancake battery than Clafoutis, and has prunes rather than cherries.
25 prunes, stones removed
1/3 cup apple juice or cider
500 ml milk
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
75 g sugar
60 g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
2/3 cup flour
Butter and flour for coating the baking dish
Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis is a living fossil, discovered as recently as 1994 and only growing in the wild in three remote locations in a National Park 150 kilometres north-west of Sydney. It is a member of the Araucariaceae family which includes Monkey Puzzles and Norfolk Pines, but is the only living example of its genus. Related plants have been found as fossils.
|A young Wollemi Pine photographed by me in 2003, in a protective cage to prevent theft in the Botanical Gardens, Canberra.|
The wild trees have been cloned and are now propogated under licence as part of a funding scheme for their conservation. Happily they've turned out to be extremely resilient in terms of temperature tolerances and will take quite cold weather, so are thriving in botanical gardens from Inverewe in Scotland to Melbourne in south-east Australia. There is one in the gardens of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Only about a hundred individuals survive in the wild, and they are slow growing and extremely long lived.
The species is threatened by virtue of the small size of its population and lack of genetic diversity. They are vulnerable to infection by the waterborn mould Phytophthora cinnamomi, an aggressive tree pathogen which is believed to have been introduced to the wild population by unauthorised human visitors carrying it in the soil on their boots. The wild trees also had a close shave during the dreadful 2019-20 bushfires, but the specialist team of firefighters sent in to save them were successful.
The windmill in Montmartre known as the Moulin de la Galette is in fact one of a pair, but only one is visible and accessible these days. Together they once formed the venue for a weekly dance that was hosted by the milling family Debray in the 19th and 20th centuries. They acquired the site for very little in the early 19th century, when the windmills were in a very sorry state. The two windmills are actually called le Blute-fin and le Radet, but the venue created by the Debrays became known as la Galette because that is what was served there (along with donkey milk, and later, the sour local wine...). The windmill we can see is le Radet, gutted of its milling equipment and moved here in 1924 when the Debrays opened a restaurant and put the windmill on top. The singer Dalida was a regular in the 1980s, and her table has been preserved.
|Le Moulin de la Galette in 2002.|
Montmartre is on a butte, outside of Paris proper, and these two windmills are the last survivors of a group of twenty-five on the hill. In the 19th century the Debray family used to claim that their windmills were built in 1295, citing as evidence the date scratched into the wood on the gable. But other sources indicate that they were probably constructed in 1621. But there may well have been windmills on the site earlier, and the spot was certainly used as a lookout in the 14th century. By 1834 the Debray family opened their property as a dance venue on Sundays and holidays, from three o'clock in the afternoon until nightfall. This sort of pop up venue was known as a guinguette, and the dances were referred to as bals populaires. The place was officially named the Moulin de la Galette from 1895, by which time milling activities had been abandoned for twenty-five years, and in 1914 the venue opened four days a week. On Tuesdays, actors and actresses, often well-known, would come in droves to eat galettes washed down with a glass of muscadet.
In the first half of the 19th century Montmartre was home to winemakers, ploughmen, quarrymen and millers and it was an established tradition for mills to also act as the venues for cabarets or dances. These cabarets had a bad reputation due to the quarrymen getting a bit carried away, and because the quarries offered shelter to thieves and vagabonds who also frequented the cabarets. By the middle of the 19th century Parisians were making the trip up to the more rural Montmartre to walk in the vines and hang out in bars or guinguettes and dance halls. The enterprising millers used their donkeys, which during the week were carrying flour down to the city, to carry tourists up the hill.
Initially the festivities at the Moulin de la Galette were held outdoors, in the courtyard between two of the three windmills owned by the Debray family, but over the years it developed into something more like an outdoor fun fair attached to a big covered ballroom decorated with chandeliers and potted palms. On top of the Blute-fin windmill was a wooden platform where tourists could sit and look at the view over Paris. The Blute-fin is still in its original position and in working order (the last of its kind in Montmartre) but privately owned and not open to the public.
Auguste Renoir, who lived in the area, painted the by then gaslit scene at the Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876, and the painting now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay. By the end of the century, many painters who would become famous had frequented the place, and several famous cabaret dancers made their debuts at the Moulin de la Galette. The management was strict about ejecting drunkards and women were expected to be smartly dressed and behave with decorum (no soliciting...).
The Manoir de Roziers is an attractive privately owned property near Pouzay. The current buildings in the manor complex all date from the 16th century. In 1545 it was inherited by Louis Brossin de Méré, Governor of Loches. He sold it in 1549 to Antoine de Jussac, whose father had been killed at the Battle of Pavia (where Francois I was captured). Antoine had two sons and the daughter of one of them got permission to marry her uncle, the other son of Antoine. Despite this type of avunculate marriage required a papal dispensation, and meaning the couple were more closely related than first cousins, who were also considered too closely related to marry, it was surprisingly common. Antoine was buried in the church at Sepmes.
|From the side.|
The manor sits at the top of a slope, surrounded by well preserved walls. In the middle of the complex is a large round tower which is a dovecote, with its niches still intact on the upper level inside. The main house has gable ends, and an upturned boat style carpentry roof space in between them. It is accessed by an irregular sided staircase tower lit by a dormer with a curved pediment and a little balustraded balcony. Two other towers are nearby, one with a stone roof on the corner of a barn and an isolated one with an unusual staircase coiling around it, visible because of damage to the tower.
|Barn and stone topped tower.|
|Front gate, dovecote, animal shelters, coach house.|
|Dovecote, ruined tower with staircase, gable end of main house.|
|The complex as seen from across the valley.|
|Dovecote, ruined tower with staircase, main house.|
|Dormer window above the staircase tower in the main house.|
|Back of the main house and dovecote.|
|Animal shelters (kennels? veal pens?). |
Between the Wars there was a tremendous fashion for Richelieu Work (Broderie Richelieu in French), with many women making their trousseaux in the 1930s to include household linen in what was more generally referred to as 'white work' (Broderie Blanche). Because there is no distraction of colours, technique matters, so it was important to demonstrate your skill with finely embroidered white on white tablecloths and napkins, sheets and pillow cases. If this altar cloth in the church at Sainte Catherine de Fierbois is anything to go by, the enthusiasm for white on white cutwork spilled over into the ecclesiastical realm too.
The altar cloth is made using a stitch called Point de Richelieu, a small scalloped closed blanket stitch which is used to create the outline of a design, then small sharp pointed scissors are used to cut away the cloth inside the stitching, forming something that is a halfway house between embroidery and needle lace, known in English as cutwork. To prevent a complex piece from simply falling apart, stitched bars with little bobbles called picots are made to bridge the larger cut away sections (if the bars don't have the picots then technically it is Point de Renaissance). Its heyday was 1920 to 1939. Once World War Two broke out, fripperies like embroidery were packed away, and the knitting needles came out to produce more practical items. After the Second World War women did go back to embroidery, but adopted much less technically demanding styles, such as cross stitch and needlepoint. Broderie Anglaise (another type of white work) patterns were published in women's magazines from time to time, but they are a far cry from the intricate and delicate Broderie Richelieu done by the previous generation of stitchers.
Nowadays, you probably couldn't make an altar cloth like this. Not because modern embroiderers don't have the skills, but because it is quite likely neither the quality of cloth nor thread would be available. It is particularly difficult to find long filament natural fibre thread of sufficient fineness to do this sort of work these days.