Painted by Dean Morrissey, American, contemporary
Christmas memories are especially fun and sweet if there are little children around to celebrate. Our grandchildren received a special gift from their aunt - a dwarf "Lionhead" rabbit. These little rabbits originated from Belgium and are now recognized by the American Rabbit Breeder's Association. They are intelligent, friendly, affectionate and clean. They will not grow up much and have a "mane-like" layer of fur around the neck. Everyone wanted to hold the rabbit. Below it is held by my son-in-law and then hiding in my daughter's neck. (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)
The rabbit moved quickly so my pictures are a bit fuzzy.
I also received some nice gifts including a hand crocheted kitchen towel from my French blogging friend Claude. Now I have to study the stitches so I can make some similar pretty towels. Merci beaucoup Claude.
I have been collecting postcards for decades and still like to receive them. This year I was pleased to receive eight Christmas and Holiday cards. Merci and thank you to all.
As I showed in my last post, I received some music CDs. Books are always welcome - old books
and new books - fiction and non-fiction.
The cookbook above "The Pot and the Palette Cookbook" has wonderful recipes, beautiful illustrations and benefits worthy causes.
As you can see from the photo in the heading, I received some chocolate.
I would rather say that books and chocolate help make life totally enjoyable. In France boxes of chocolates are given as presents very often. In supermarkets at Christmas time there is a great variety of boxes of chocolate to chose from. Some boxes are very pretty - they may have well known paintings, like Monet or Van Gogh, on the box covers, or are covered with pretty fabric so the boxes can be kept as keepsake.
The cocoa bean is native to Central America and Amazonia. It was imported in Europe by Hernan Cortes (1485-1537) and then introduced to the court of King Charles V of Spain (1500-1558.) Chocolate came to Bayonne, a French town in the Pyrenees (near Spain) around 1609. It was served as a beverage in 1615 at the wedding of French King Louis XIII and became a very popular drink at the court of Versailles. In 2009 the French postal service issued special stamps to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of chocolate in Bayonne. They printed a booklet of 10 stamps, shaped like chocolate bars, and incorporated microcapsules of chocolate fragrance in the stamps - lasting up to two years.
My love of chocolate goes way back too. When I was a child in Paris, my mother gave me a "bol" (bowl) of hot chocolate every morning for breakfast with some slices of buttered bread (baguette.) I do not have pictures from that time, but the painting below, from the Cubism period, illustrates my breakfast.
La Tasse de Chocolat, Maria Blanchard, Spanish 1881-1932
Charles Perrault in 1672 painted by Philippe Lallemand, French 1636-1717
These fairy tales traveled to Germany via Huguenot refugees, and two German brothers, the Brothers Grimm (1785-1863 and 1786-1859) re-wrote Perrault's fairy-tales. They added some of their own folklore stories like Snow White and Rapunzel, but Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and others were originally French (I am not sure if this is well known.) A famous French illustrator, Gustave Dore (1832-1883) published his illustrations of Perrault's fairy tales in 1862. Here are some of them below.
Here I go again on a tangent on fairy tale history. Let's get back to chocolate.
Have a piece from the boxes below, virtually ... I only like dark chocolate though. You may chose from the custom See's Candy box or from the Paul's Chocolate Gallery box. Paul is a master chocolatier in Nashville, Tennessee, and I am very happy that my son-in-law gave me a sample box of these delicious chocolates.
When we came back from Nashville, we stopped at the French bakery here, Douceur de France, and bought two small cakes - a slice of Buche de Noel with Grand Marnier, and a Chocolate Royal with a small Eiffel Tower on top of it.
Actually I need to go back to the bakery tomorrow to buy a "Galette des Rois" a sort of King's Cake. I wrote the history of the Galette des Rois in my post last year - click here to read it . We'll get a traditional galette such as the one below.
To end this post on chocolate, take a look at some unique Galette des Rois offered by Paris' great pastry chefs - some include creamy chocolate. Here are four of them:
In addition, here is a shelf from Paul's Chocolate Gallery shop in Nashville.