February 2nd–French Style

2 Feb

French Recipes via Wikimedia Commons


When I was spending my junior year abroad in Paris, I went on a date with an aristocratic French guy named Grégoire.  Things didn’t really get much farther than that first date, and I probably would have forgotten about him altogether if a single detail hadn’t gotten stuck in my mind.  This was back in the days of answering machines, and he played the messages when we got back to his flat. There was a message from his mother, warbling in her high pitched French lady’s voice:  “Grégoire….où es-tu Grégoire? Je vais te faire des crêpes, je vais te faire des nouilles…” (Where are you Gregoire? I’ll make you crepes, I’ll make you noodles…) The idea of a French mama trying to entice her twentysomething son home with crêpes and noodles was so funny and sweet. I knew it then, as a (undoubtedly tipsy) twenty year old. And it still charms the hell out of me. I can’t even picture the guy’s face, but I can still hear his mother’s voice. The crêpes were all about love.

Francophilia is a condition I’ve lived with for most of my life.  I lived in France for a couple of years and spent a number of years working as a local contractor for the French government in New York and DC.   I miss life in Europe and my regular trips  abroad over the last two decades.  Circumstances have kept me close to home in the last few years, but I try to keep a little bit of France in my life: you know–wine, movies, approaching random West African guys in Costco for conversation…And I’ve tried to introduce a few French culinary traditions into my family’s life. My husband’s cousin, a former pastry chef, brings a Bûche de Noel whenever she’s able to celebrate Christmas with us (I haven’t gone there yet myself). And I like to make a Galette des Rois on Epiphany. A few years ago, I heard about the tradition of crêpes on the February 2nd Chandeleur holiday (Candlemas in English)  from a former intern when I was working at the French Embassy.

Chandeleur celebrates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem. According to Wiki, a fifth century pope initiated a festival of lights on Candlemas as a substitute for the midwinter pagan holiday  Lupercalia.  It’s celebrated by lighting candles and (in France and in our house) eating crêpes.   Alas this year we’re going to have to push back crêpe day thanks to an unfortunate stomach virus.

For a long time, I was afraid of crêpes.  I thought they’d be tricky to make.  I thought you needed a special pan.  Then I found this wonderful recipe and video from Food Wishes, and it rocked my world.  Crêpes, it turns out, are piece of cake, easy and delicious–and you don’t need a special pan. We celebrated Chandeleur with savory crêpes (ham and gruyere) last year.  This year, I’m thinking Nutella crepes for dessert. Powdered sugar and lemon is another favorite. The kids love them, of course.

And by the way, it’s not an accident that Chandeleur takes place on the same day as Groundhog Day.  Both revolve around the idea of winter’s end. According to a post I found on About, the round, golden crêpes are also supposed to evoke the sun (love this image) and remind us of the impending return of spring. The French have a number of proverbs for the holiday, including this one : À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur (On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens).  Sounds familiar, n’est-ce pas?


2 Responses to “February 2nd–French Style”

  1. Stasha February 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I hope you travel back to France with your kids soon.
    I only know how to make crepes, which to us are pancakes. But my son wants me to pour maple syrup on them and a little part of me dies every single time…

    • Janann February 3, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Ah yes…Europeans and maple syrup! There’s definitely a time and place for it, but I’m a nutella girl all the way :)

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