Behind the Scenes in Provence

Provence Confidential has been blogging about restaurant launches, cooking classes, food festivals, Provençal wines and spirits as well as tradition and folklore since 2008.

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Fête de la Gastronomie

Fête de la Gastronomie

Late in 2010 I wrote about how the United Nations had declared the French meal one of the world’s most cultural treasurers. The Gastronomic Meal of France has since been on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. On the UNESCO website it reads “The gastronomic meal of the French plays an active social role within its community and is transmitted from generation to generation as part of its identity.”

Fête de L'Oursin

Fête de L'Oursin

During the 1st three Sundays of February  the village of Carry-le-Rouet, just west of Marseilles on the Côte Bleue, will be celebrating l'oursin or sea urchin in English. These are nasty critters to step on when swimming but they are a Mediterranean delicacy served fresh from the sea.

Craterellus cornucopioides

Craterellus cornucopioides

Also called the Black Trumpet, these mushrooms are known in France as Trompette des Morts which literally means the Trumpet of the Dead.  It’s not a very appetizing name but it is the most delectable mushroom. This season the markets of Provence offer a wide selection of mushrooms. We have had regular rainfall this autumn which makes for a good mushroom harvest.

Coquilles St. Jacques

Coquilles St. Jacques

Les Coquilles St. Jacques or scallops are not harvested anywhere near Provence but they are on every menu come the end of the year holidays. These delicately flavored shellfish are fished along the coasts of the Atlantic and the English Channel from October through April.

Calisson Kisses

Calisson Kisses

Aix en Provence in known throughout France for its delicious almond shaped confections. Think of them as the Hershey’s Kisses of Provence. First created by a local confectioner in honour of the King René second marriage in 1473, calisson factories sprouted during the 19th C. Calisson’s are not well known abroad but a very busy sales and marketing staff at La Confiserie Roy René is working on diversifying the flavours in order to have a wider appeal. In fact they have just developed a date filled calisson for the Dubai market place. www.calisson.com

Basics of Bouillabaisse

Basics of Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is the world famous fish stew which originated in Marseilles. The name comes from the words bouillir which means to boil and baisser which means to reduce. Originally this meal was prepared by fishermen using their unsold fish. Bouillabaisse is served as two courses.

13 desserts

13 desserts

On December 24th just after the celebration of midnight mass 13 desserts which symbolise Christ and the 12 apostles are served.  In Provence there is no traditional cake or pie at this time of year.  Instead they prepare a gathering of what used to be exotic fruit and nuts that came to the seaport city of Marseilles from other Mediterranean ports.

Superfine

Superfine

Carding or cardage in French is the process of brushing fibers to prepare them as textiles. It’s no surprise therefore that many towns in Provence, which has been sheep ridden since the Romans, have a street called rue des cardeurs or place des cardeurs.

Red Coral

Red Coral

Red coral or precious coral is still harvested throughout the Mediterranean Sea at depth of 30 metres or below.  Jewellery of all shapes and sizes has been made using coral since antiquity.

Operation Anvil

Operation Anvil

Just in time to commemorate the allied invasion of Provence, the U.S.S. Annapolis has arrived in the Port of Toulon. Operation Dragoon originally called Anvil (the southern counterpart to Operation Overlord) www.operationdragoon.com took place on August 15, 1944 with allied landings on beaches all along the coast between Toulon and Cannes.