13 CHRISTMAS PROVENÇAL DESSERTS: easy recipes

The thirteen Provencal Christmas desserts, or calenos, presented at the end of the big Christmas dinner are part of the Provençal tradition and are linked to a tradition of opulence common to other Mediterranean societies.

In 1683, François Marchetti, parish priest of a district of Marseille, quotes them without giving the number, retaining the fresh or dried fruit and the oil pump and dwelling on the use of the three white tablecloths which cover the table on which are arranged thirteen loaves of bread, the twelve small representing the apostles and the largest Christ. Between 1783 and 1787, Laurent Pierre Bérenger, cites figs, fresh and dried grapes, prunes from Brignoles, oranges, apples, pears, candied citron, cookies, nougats but does not give any number. In 1854, reunited in Font-Ségugne, the seven Félibres with their leader Frédéric Mistral, gave themselves the mission, not only to restore and maintain the Provençal language, and to preserve Provence's cultural identity through the conservation of its festivals and uses.

François Mazuy, disciple of Mistral, who never quotes the number thirteen but evokes the exquisite sweets of the Christmas Eve, the year of the foundation of Félibrige, agrees that in Marseilles the ritual of the calendales festivals (the Provençal Christmas festivals start from December 4 and end on February 2: it is the calendar period) has remained alive through the big supper and its desserts that it lists: dried figs, grapes, almonds, walnuts, pears, oranges, chestnuts , nougat and cooked wine. The first mention of the thirteen desserts did not appear until 1925 in a special Christmas issue of the newspaper The Pignato, a writer from Aubagne, Doctor Joseph Fallen, majoral of Félibrige, affirms : "Here is a quantity of sweets, delicacies, the thirteen desserts: you need thirteen, yes thirteen, no more if you want, but not one less". In this list, come at the head the four beggars (fig, almond, walnut and raisin) which must be used to make the nougat of the poor or the nougat of the Capuchins. Hazelnuts, pistachios, and muscat grapes follow. Then come the sorbs, dates, apples, pears, oranges and “the last slightly wrinkled melon”. The list goes on with clusters of clairette, jars of jam, quince water, chestnuts in boiled wine. Then come the traditional desserts, the olive oil pump, the fougasse, the atria, the white, black and red nougats, small cookies and sweets, and even cheese. Depending on the regions, cantons, cities and families, the composition of desserts varies. It has been counted more than fifty-five.

The main ones are as follows:

And also dates, green melon, hazelnuts, walnuts, oranges, pears, apples and fresh grapes.

Quote about cooking:

“The kitchen of a human group is the reflection of the sky, the earth, the waters of the country where it is fixed.”

Edward de Pomiane

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