Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Provençal Christmas 13 desserts

Several years my friend from Marseilles told me that in Provence, Christmas tables include 13 desserts. This perked my ears up! The Provencal holiday table is laden with food and symbolism. Three candlesticks and three tablecloths, layered one on top of the other, signify the Holy Trinity. The 13 desserts represent the 12 Apostles and Christ at the Last Supper. This feast of sweets follows Gros Souper - big meal - the Christmas Eve menu, which is a multicourse fish dinner. Searching around I found this list of the desserts: 
- White and black nougat, 
- Candied fruits,
- Dates,
- Tangerines,
- The mendiants or beggars: nuts, almonds, dried figs, hazelnuts, grapes, apples, pears and prunes, and sometimes even quinces and persimmons.

Raisins to represent the Dominicans
Hazelnuts or Walnuts to represent the AugustinesDried figs to represent the FranciscansAlmonds to represent the Carmelites

The Yule log has been on the calendal table for several decades in memory of the cacho-fio ceremony. Afterwards, in order to find some energy coming back from the midnight mass which consists in muscat grape seeds macerated in brandy, cherry ratafia or carthagène - a brandy-based wine, and is often prepared in people’s cellars.

When it comes time for dessert, each guest must taste all 13 with Sauternes or muscat wines with them. In the French countryside, whether or not the dessert table is elaborate depends on a family’s income. I found a quote from a chef who said, “You know, it is like if you make minimum wage, you have an apple. If you make more money, you have tarte Tatin."
 So from our table to yours - Joyeuse Noel!
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Hmmm, between Annamaria's piece yesterday and yours today, I'm beginning to detect an end of year trend in subject matter. I wonder, though, is any one truly surprised to find the French the contrarian?

  2. My stomach is groaning from just reading about all that food!

  3. I just gained 5 pounds from reading this post. Sprt of glad we keep desserts to a mere 3 or so,

    Happy holidays!