By Michelle Hum
As millions of elementary school children in America eagerly wait for the groundhog to come out to find his shadow, the French celebrate Chandeleur, also known as Le Jour des Crêpes. What do waiting for a furry woodland creature and eating delicious sugar filled pancakes have in common? They both are derivations of the Christian holiday Candlemas.
Candlemas celebrates the presentation of Jesus at Temple. After giving birth to Jesus, Mary had to perform a ritual purification. From there, I’m not sure how weather predicting groundhogs or crêpes got involved, but somewhere along the line, these associations appeared. Even my host dad, a practicing Catholic, couldn’t tell me.
During my stay in Montpellier, France, I had the opportunity to celebrate Chandeleur with my host family. That morning, my host mom made a batch of crêpe batter and let it repose in the fridge during the day. After my host dad got home from work, the fun began. Tradition dictates that while flipping a crêpe during Chandeleur, you must hold a piece of money in one hand and flip the crêpe in the pan with the other. If you succeed, you will have good luck for the rest of the year. If not, better luck next year. I think we probably should have buttered the pan a bit better because none of us were able to flip our crêpes. Despite being cursed, the meal was still delicious.
The first round was crêpes aux champignons and for dessert, we had a variety of fillings ranging from simple butter and sugar to my new found favorite spread, Crème de Châtaigne (Chestnut Jam). The recipe my host mom uses comes from the cookbook “Je Sais Cuisiner” by Ginette Mathiot. There is also an English version of the book titled “I Know How to Cook”. It is pretty easy and featured below. For those who need a little more guidance, you can check out French chef Pierre Dominique Cécillon do a demonstration (in French). If you’re an Anglophone, Julia Child features these little delights on her TV show, The French Chef. Perhaps this year while waiting for the groundhog to come out and bring news of winter or spring, you can do it, crêpe in hand.
Je Sais Cuisiner, by Ginette Mathiot. Recipe for crêpes.
500 g flour (4 cups and two extra tablespoons)
1 liter milk (4 c)
2 tablespoon of oil
2 pinches of salt (for dessert crepes also add 2t sugar)
Optional: vanilla, fleur d’oranger, rum, etc.
– Sieve flour into a mixing bowl.
– Create a little hole in the flour for the eggs.
– Add oil, salt, and a bit of milk.
– Whisk together.
– Gradually add in the milk, stirring to combine.
– Add the flavoring.
– Let it sit for at least an hour.
– Before cooking, add a little bit of milk to the batter and whisk it gently.
– Heat a crêpe pan over medium heat.
– Oil or butter a crepe pan/frying pan.
– Pour or scoop a little bit of the batter onto the pan.
– Swirl until batter forms a thin coat.
– Grab your piece of money, jiggle, flip, and hope for the best.
Michelle Hum is a self-proclaimed Francophile and foodie. Michelle has been fortunate enough to visit countries on three continents and live in France during a semester abroad. In order to stay connected with many of the cultures she experienced, food has become very important to Michelle. A student at the University of Minnesota pursuing double majors in Psychology and Advertising and a minor in French, Michelle advises the digital aspects for A Woman’s Paris. Outside of school, you can find her perfecting her signature white chocolate fruit tarts and other treats.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, For the love of yaourt (yogurt), by Michelle Hum who writes about her love of French yaourt; this tangy, creamy, dairy product that can stand by itself — although a dab of honey or handful of fresh fruit never hurts. Recipe included for Gateau au Yaourt au et au Citron (Lemon Yogurt Cake) by Ina Garten.
Wherever you go, you always meet a Breton, by French woman from Breton, Bénédicte Mahé, who is in her mastère-spécialisé final trimester doing an internship in Paris. Bénédicte asks us to take out our notebooks and pens and get ready for a lesson on Brittany. Recipe included for Far Breton (with prunes), a crêpe for your sweet tooth!
Alsace Asparagus, Best in April, by Michelle Hum who shares the first time she tried the very best white asparagus from Alsace while a student living in Montpellier, France. An unforgettable dish of asparagus dressed with a simple olive oil, balsamic, mustard vinaigrette. Recipe included for white asparagus by Alsatian Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten from Food & Wine magazine.
French Women Chefs: Les Mères Lyonnaise, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who tells the story of theformer house cooks for affluent families in Lyon who set up their own businesses after the French revolution in the 19th century. And later, when their reputation reached beyond the edge of Lyon, the most famous of them even welcomed General de Gaulle as VIP at their table.
Text copyright ©2012 Michelle Hum. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.