20 June, 2011

On n'est pas à Lourdes ici.

I can't make miracles, even though I can now say I have been to Lourdes, the second most visited place in France after Paris.  Years ago, in Reims, famous for its own cathedral, I was treated to an extraordinarily bad hotel experience.  Following my outraged complaints, the manager lifted his shoulders in a Gallic shrug and declaimed what is now the title of this post. In other words: "we can't make miracles here."
It has been absurdly busy here in the countryside.  Cherry season, regrettably brief, is already heading out the door.  There is dark cherry sorbet in the freezer by which we will remember it.  There is also a new store of raspberry/blackcurrant jam in my pantry; the kids started cheering when they saw me making it, as we always go through that the fastest. 
The strawberries in my garden are long done and gone; I may have speeded up their departure by not watering them even once. Oops.  The garden is roaring ahead anyway, and pruning is an on-going process, especially among the roses.

A procession past the pick your own, giant prayer candle shack.
In between the cooking and the canning, there has been a passel of end-of-school-year activities. Recital concerts, horse events, school outings and such.
Getting holy, healing water from the source. In bulk.
Oh, and the pool's open for the season. Boy, is it open.
Taking a moment to savor the holy water.  Many queue to wash their feet.
There were twenty-five kids in my pool.  At once.  Diving, giggling and splashing well into Saturday evening. Others questioned my sanity, but it was an unqualified blast.  I even introduced these ten to twelve year olds to rice krispie squares.  Yup.  (Ever try to get a kid to taste something they've never had before?)   
The rice krispie squares were the only non-organic food on offer...and they devoured every single last one of them. Actually, they ate everything on offer. And guzzled grenadine like there was no tomorrow.
Selecting the holy design for the pressed eurocent.
 Then there were birthday parties, potlucks and barbecues to attend.
I gave the last reading at the library for the school before the summer, too.  We had a goûter to celebrate the year's worth of reading.  Feeling a bit old-school circa 1950s, I made pineapple upside-down cakes.  They went over very well--with the adults anyway.  Marbled chocolate cupcakes saved the day for the kids.
Sadly, I most definitely missed last week's red lunar eclipse, the 101 minutes of which I should have had a good view, given our clear skies. The moon was behind a mountain though, and lacking a babysitter, I was loathe to traipse off into the night looking for it.

All this to say it's getting tougher to find the time and mental space for writing in this pell-mell season.  I may have to skip another week, too.  Forgive me?   
At least I took photos of some of the dizzying assortment of religious tchotchkes (or bondieuseries) for sale in Lourdes.
When we reached the grotto where Mary is said to have appeared eighteen times before little Bernadette, I was very surprised to see a photo of Nicolas Sarkozy among the more personal images (left, upside down). Someone is praying for the poor guy. 
Just beyond the grotto, there were prayer candles beyond any counting of it, touching in their simplicity.  All those troubles, hopes and dreams...rendered more poignant by the innumerable wheelchairs and stretchers on hand. 

There were entire vats filled with the melted and rehardened wax of candles. 
After all the crowds, queues, fervor and emotion, thank goodness there was the corner cafe cum fast food joint, for a pick-me-up and convivial chat.


  1. Glad to know that tacky souvenirs aren't exclusive to Florida.

  2. In my experience too French kids are highly suspicious of British cakes and most won't taste them, or they'll nibble a tiny bit and say they don't like it.

    I've made lemon cakes, orange cakes, boiled fruit cakes, banana cakes, and while my kids and other Brit kids wolf them down, the French kids look at them dubiously and prefer not to take the risk. Wimps.

  3. Why are French kids so leery of new foods? Or sweets? I'm thinking of the blue birthday cake that was met with wariness. I mean, the French patisseries have some pretty color fruit tarts and things so I'd figure kids would like sweets of all kinds?

    I think lazy summer doldrums have definitely hit everyone. Nothing wrong with that. It's far more fun to enjoy life outside the blog. :)

  4. I like your "pêle-mêle" season term. You will be forgiven if you do not post often. Summer is meant to be spent outdoors, having fun, enjoying friends and good food.
    (Lourdes is big business. I have a friend who is going to Brazil to visit "St John of God".
    I am sure she will have some interesting stories to tell).

  5. Hi Rose,
    It wasn't so much the tacky souvenirs themselves as their sheer mass and range, and what that said about Lourdes and Mary-worship. And then there were the crowds of people, filling up on water and said tchotckes. I've never experienced anything like it. Most people there were taking it very seriously. There seemed to be this simple, pure side...and the rest. Like these nuns sitting at the cafe; if I see nuns, there are always striding purposefully somewhere. These were just hanging out. All in all, between the hospital beds on wheels, the tremblingly devout and the paraphenalia, it was a little surreal. But then I guess Florida can be surreal, too.

    Hello Sarah and WC,
    I don't know, the kids had their fete de l'ecole just this past weekend, and I again made rice krispie squares. Loads and loads of them, so many I didn't even feel like tasting them afterward. They were THE "exotic" hit for young and old! I fielded questions and enthusiastic comments from surprised parents and kids the whole afternoon and evening, including requests from the tots for me to pass the recipe along to their mothers...

    I think Brit kids are simply used to trying those kinds of cakes we Anglosaxon mothers bake. French mothers stick to very, very simple cakes. The patisserie supplies the rest--and those don't contain lemon, banana or pineapple. Certainly not in the average village patisserie!

    Kids who come play at our house do like the banana muffins I make for les quatre heures...and as for the pineaapple cake, I was exaggerating slightly: there was a handful of kids who requested the pineapple cake--and loved it. I was just a bit annoyed by the behavior those who made a big deal about turning it down. I found myself hoping that my own children don't behave like this when I'm not around...

    Hello Nadege,
    I'm having a great if hectic time outdoors--and the next ten days promise to be even busier! I hope you are enjoying good times as well...

  6. I know how you feel. I brought Sriracha mac and cheese once to work. The other teacher loved it and half the students dug in right away. But one student said I should have brought Asian food. (Most of the kids are Chinese.) And another kept hovering around the other teacher asking if it was good. She finally snapped and told him if he doesn't want any, there's plenty more for her. As it was, despite all the complaining, the container was empty by the end of the day. No one said thank you though. I sometimes wonder if it's just this generation. The same mac and cheese and other foods was met with appreciation and plenty of pleases and thank yous by my nephew's friends, who are in their 20s.

  7. This discussion is really interesting!

    i think kids grown up in a particular region can be quite fussy. I catered for a family of Turkish background once, and made a not-so-sweet cake, which suited Asian palate more. As the result, people didn't seem to enjoy it much. The next time around I increased the sugar and it was a hit among the same group of people. I myself cound't stand the sweetness though.

  8. Hi WC,
    What a disappointment that not one of those children could be bothered to thank you. Not all of their obliviousness is their fault, I don't think. Too many parents these days require too little politeness from their kids. It doesn't happen by itself! In my case, many thanked me, and I even heard from parents afterward because kids went home and talked about their snack filled afternoon...Which was nice, considering the work I had put into it.

    Hello Anh,
    Nice of you to join the discussion... I think that in every culture there are expectations about how a food or dish "should" taste. And kids are often the most rigid about these expectations! I find it annoying that children's culinary conservatism is reinforced in French restaurants. Kiddie menus are the same two over-processed "choices" everywhere. With a side of fries and a packaged, candy covered ice cream for dessert. Sheesh. Children cannot learn about different tastes this way! I try to get a half portions of regular, adult choices for my kids whenever possible. So far so good.

    I think in every culture there are general expectations about what certain dishes or foods "should" taste like

  9. I love your pictures - I feel like I'm there. tacky souvenirs and all...


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