Sunday, January 5, 2014

Starting the New Year with chocolates

Holiday decorations are being put away until next December.  Christmas 2013 is now a memory, and we can wave goodbye to Santa Claus.

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

If I had been doing well in school my mother would take me to a confiserie or candy shop. One close to our home was called A La Mere de Famille (mother of the family.)  It had so many wonderful treats!  The shop was founded in 1761 by Pierre Jean Bernard at 35 rue du faubourg de Montmartre in Paris.  It is still a family business, at the same address.  Below is a photograph of it I took a couple of years ago.

Chocolate has been widely favored in France for a very long time.  My grandfather who collected postcards also collected what were called chromo-vignettes publicitaires - here they are called old paper or trade cards.  Guerin-Boutron, a chocolate factory that had started business in Paris in 1775, included free little cards in their chocolate by the mid-1850s.  People collected them and still do.  My granddad had several cards and so do I.  There were different themes, history, flowers, trees, music, etc. - maybe up to 8,000 different cards.  Below are some views from the trees series.

and from another international series. (Don't forget to click twice to see better.)

I don't know much about this Guerin-Boutron chocolate factory other than they won some gold medal in several international exhibitions, such as in 1862 and 1889.  But I never ate their chocolate as they may have closed their business by then.  The brands I remember are Menier, Lanvin, Poulain, Suchard and Kohler.  I believe that by now they have merged with large corporations like Nestle and Cadbury.

In the mid 1950s the Menier chocolate gave fairy-tale cards in their chocolate.  One could obtain an album to gather the cards.  I still have mine.  It was called "Il etait une fois" (once upon a time) fairy tales by Charles Perrault.  My book is very old by now and I never obtained all the cards.

The Charles Perrault's fairy tales were told in the album, such as Cendrillon (Cinderella,) Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood,) La Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard,) La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty,) Le Chat Botte (Puss in Boots) and others.  Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was a French author who laid a new literary genre at the time - the fairy tale, which he derived from some old folk tales.  He was the first author to publish these fairy tales in France in 1697.

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.




38 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Such a sweet post - in every sense of the word.
Love the rabbit. And some of the best things in life are chocolate.
Happy New Year.

biebkriebels said...

I love chocolate, my daughter brought me some handmade bonbons for Christmas too. The chocolate stamps are very beautiful.

Jojo said...

Those chocolate trading cards and fairy tale cards are beautiful. I've always thought the candy tins are beautiful too. There is such a difference in the quality of chocolate that is purchased in a shop that focuses on chocolate.

Love the cakes you feature. ..now I'm hungry!

Jeanie said...

Well, I haven't had breakfast yet and now I'm very hungry! I loved seeing your gifts. And the chocolate! I have a small collection of chocolate cards and chromas as well. They are such treasures!

Happy New Year!

GaynorB said...

A virtual feast!

The 2014 diet starts tomorrow so I'm glad I read your post today ;o).

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post! I read it while finishing off the last of some chocolate bread pudding. But what I really want is one of those bunnies....

rosaria williams said...

It is always such a treat to read your posts!

David said...

Vagabonde... Chocolate, bunnies, post cards and books. My wife and I enjoy chocolate, perhaps a bit too much! We try to minimize it's presence in the house except around Christmas, Valentines Day and Halloween. It's just too tempting and it's hard to say no afte a taste if more is availible! We have over 1,000 books in the house, not counting a couple hundred cookbooks. I've been collecting postcards for many years and the majority date from about 1912 or earlier. As for bunnies, in recent years we've only known one person who had one for a pet. But it was very well trained and friendly... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

katy gilmore said...

What a deliciously fun post! Thank you! In Paris in 2009 we visited A La Mere de Familie --- I loved that a shop would have that name, brought much chocolate home for presents, and still have a little box with the name.
Happiest New Year to you Vagabonde!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Chocolate!!! OH YES!!! It is the Best! I LOVED this post---all the History you always share with us regarding anything and everything you write about!
LOVE that tiny sweet Bunny....So very Huggable!
Sometime I must tell you my CHOCOLATE MENIER Story....I discovered it in 1969---and it was Love & Loyalty from then on....lol!
HAPPY NEW YEAR, my dear.....!

Jocelyn said...

I'm crazy for See's chocolates and am now thinking I need to head to Nashville--and back to Paris, too.

As always, I appreciate and enjoy the education I get here (and your love of vintage looking things!).

Frances said...

Vagabonde, this post is so sweet, in so many ways. How beautifully you've shown us tradition, history, and contemporary ways in which Christmas is celebrated.

Chocolate! I also prefer the dark chocolate, but am not adverse to settling for the milk chocolate if the situation requires.

As I read this post, I knew that I did have some dark chocolate in the kitchen, and that it would soon accompany my own after supper tea and cake. That also made me wish that I could see those chocolate trade cards. I love vintage graphic designs and these must be lovely.

Well, now I will put the kettle on to make that tea, slice the cake, and find that dark chocolate.

Love to you and yours. xo

Thérèse said...

Quel plaisir de continuer les fetes ici en deroulant ce billet...
Quelles belles galettes des rois pour l'epiphanie qui se fetait aussi bien hier qu'aujourd'hui le 6 sur les calendrier de 2014! A y perdre son latin.
Les galettes se trouvent maintenant dans les boulangeries de novembre a fevrier! Bref les traditions se perdent tout en se gardant.
Je vous souhaite plein de petites joies a accumuler et a savourer comme un bon chocolat noir a chaque occasion. L'annee 2014 s'en trouvera ainsi fort reussie.

valerietilsten59.blogspot.com said...

Good morning to you Vagabonde,
I read over twice your super post . It is so full of lovely post cards. The story you have told about chocolate. Amazing.
I love chocolate. I am not one who says .."dont eat it because it will make you fat"- indeed on the contrary..a little bit of what you fancy does you good.!
chocolate is good for us.
A great post. Enjoyed it very much. am off shopping today.. chocolate will be in the basket.
your post also reminded me of the book "chocolate" at the moment cant recall the author. a great book.
Happy Monday.
val x

Thérèse said...

Vagabonde, un petit clin d'oeil ici.
La porte semblait déjà un peu plus abimée en 2009. Il faudrait y retourner un jour ensemble peut-être?
:-)

Friko said...

It’s not fair!
So many chocolates and all of them virtual!

I want soe. Reading fairy tales or listening to music while enjoying a chocolate or two, that’s my idea of bliss.

DJan said...

I love dark chocolate, too. This informative post (as all of yours tend to be) made me wish I could taste some of those, especially that tempting Eiffel Tower goodie! :-)

Miss_Yves said...

Billet savoureux!
J'ai reconnu le style de Claude, et vu la parenté avec la photo du jour exposée par Thérèse sur son "addendum"
AH ! Le chocolat Menier! Toute une époque.
Meilleurs voeux de bonheur et surtout de santé, pour vous et vos proches

DJan said...

Ooops, where did my comment go? I just wanted to say how much I wish I could taste that Eiffel Tower dark chocolate goodie. Informative post, as all of yours are, VB. Thank you. :-)

Mary said...

Goodness me, I think I gained 10 lbs. just looking as these amazing sweets!

I loved everything you shared here dear - the French certainly know how to do chocolates and luscious pastries, tartes etc., but everyone must only take one bite to stay so slim, haha!

Thinking of you this morning - more later.
Mary X

Jono said...

Now I have to satisfy my curiosity about the Lionhead bunnies and see if my local confectioner is open for business. So much for the rest of my day.

sablonneuse said...

Yummy,what a delicious post. Despite Christmas I don't think I'll ever be fed up with chocolate.

Elaine said...

Oh, my, I think I'll have to make a trip to the kitchen for some chocolate after reading this post! The little chocolate cards are just beautiful. I had never seen those before.

By the way, our temps here in Fairbanks are very close to what you're getting in Atlanta, but the difference is we're feeling like we're having good weather. Much better than the -40s we had around Christmas. I hope you're soon back to warmer weather and the forecast looks like you will be.

Arti said...

As soon as I saw the photos in your post, I immediately did two things. Went to find some chocolates to eat, and, dig out the two old books my son bought when he was visiting Europe a few years back, Schopenhauer's Will & Representation in German, antique books (hopefully) I have no idea when they were published, but they look really old. The power of suggestions. But your post does more than suggestion, it's rich in personal memories and info. Thanks for doing all the work so we can enjoy this feast for the eyes and the mind, Vagabonde.

Kay said...

Just looking at this post made me go and get myself some chocolate. I even have a t-shirt that my husband got me that says, "Chocolate made me do it!" I love Sees chocolates too.

Those bunnies are so adorable I had one for 6 years that I had to leave behind when I moved to Chicago.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Anything that begins as a disgusting looking bean and ends up as a delight to the taste buds can't be all bad. I have never seen so many nice things related to chocolate.

I really like the postal cards or those that remind me of post cards. I think about anything could be used for them.

Mae Travels said...

What fun -- chocolate ephemera!

I've recently encountered several collections of promotional cards and other small printed items, which liven up the history of foods like chocolate. Thanks for including such a nice selection.

Enjoy lots of chocolate in 2014.

Magic Love Crow said...

This post was too delicious! I love it!!! So happy you got so many beautiful treasures for Christmas ;o) The bunny is so precious ;o) Here's to a very happy 2014 ;o) Big Hugs ;o)

shoreacres said...

Such a treat for the eyes, and how appropriate, as I'm awaiting a delivery of chocolates. They were supposed to be here yesterday, but they're still out roaming about - in my city, but subject to a small delivery glitch. I was being patient until I found your post!

I have to ask - are See's candies as good as they used to be? I often bought them at Christmas time, and was going to renew the tradition this year until I read several online reviews which were quite negative. Even allowing for the fact that the grumpy ones tend to show up on review pages, I wasn't sure and decided not to order. They used to be available in Houston shops, but I haven't seen them in some time, and couldn't test them out personally.

The cards are delightful. I've always enjoyed the advertising work done by Alphonse Mucha, and he often did illustrations for chocolate companies.

I smiled to see the illustration you chose for "toast and chocolate", too. I went through a period in childhood when I insisted on drinking my milk from a bowl - as Heidi did when she lived on the mountain with her grandfather. My mother indulged me, and I was able to drink from my bowl until the impulse passed.

I do love the rabbit. I went to a rabbit show a couple of years ago and was astonished at the number of breeds. Yours is quite beautiful. A friend had one as a pet for many years, and loved it beyond words.

Vagabonde said...

Thank you for your comment Shoreacres and since you asked about See’s Candy this is what I found – I like just about 3 or 4 pieces the best so these are the ones I get. Since this is a custom packed box the candy is very fresh and it comes directly from their online web site, instead of a pre-packaged box in a shop, and it is delivered very quickly. Now as for drinking my chocolate and later on my café au lait in a bol, this was the only option I had. Everyone I knew had their breakfast coffee in a bol in France. I purchased some bols in Paris and this is the way I still drink my coffee in the morning. Thanks for coming to my blog.

claude said...

Coucou Vagabonde
Je viens de terminer de lire ton post précédent, aussi intéressant que les autres précédents et le présent.
Le petit lapin est vraiment adorable.
Merci pour me citer au sujet du petit torchon.
Suis pas très chocolat, moi, à part les Pyrénéens de Lindt mais seulement au chocolat au lait.
Pour le galette des Rois, on en a mangé une dimanche en dessert à la maison de retraite de Maman, pas terrible. A la limite, celles que je fais moi-même sont meilleures. Je n'aime pas trop quand la pâre est trop marron, je les préfère juste bien dorées.
J'aime bien les pubs et les vielles affiches et c'est bien de parler de Charles Perrault.
Bises

Ruth said...

For me there is nothing much better than Paris, chocolate and vintage illustrations, so this post feeds me.

I discovered Debauve & Gallais, chocolatier, in 1997 and have returned there for one piece of chocolate each trip after that.

Thank you for the sweet French song for this grandmother at my blog. :)

⊰✿⊱France ⊰✿⊱ said...

COUCOU et bien que de chocolats MIAM je vais venir il ne m'en reste plus trop ici
et je vois ce petit lapin nain il est adorable et ces enfants aussi
j'en avais un il y a très longtemps mais j'ai du le donner je n'avais pas le temps de m'en occuper
Je te souhaite une belle année avec beaucoup de joie et du bonheur à gogo bisou

Al said...

Your chocolate photos made me hungry. And that rabbit is too cute!

Nadezda said...

Watching your delicious chocolates and cakes I remember the painting 'La Belle Chocolatière' by Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard. It's a fun th start New year with chocolate, so your life might be sweet, Vagabonde!
Interesting books and fairy tales: I know all of them from childhood and love the ballet 'Sleeping Beauty' by Tchaikovsky.
Have a nice weekend!

sweffling said...

A lovely combination of subjects! The rabbit is gorgeous, and as for the chocolate and the wonderful illustrations around this sweet, I am full of taste, colour and texture. What a rich, sumptuous post. Thank you!

Kenza said...

Bonne et heureuse année chère Vagabonde!
Merci de tenir un si joli blog, merci de partager tant de jolis reportages et tant de belles photos, merci enfin pour toutes ces douceurs que tu nous offres aujourd'hui; devant le chocolat, je ne résiste pas...
Bisous, gros bisous

Ann said...

so enjoyed your post!!
as always...a delightful visit...i can smell the chocolates!!
such a sweet rabbit..it will be very loved and spoiled i think!!!