Barn Chic Antiques

Barn Chic Antiques

Sunday, August 25, 2013

France, Part III: French wheat and cheese

After spending three days in Paris (you can read all about our sightseeing and shopping), it was time to move on to Annecy, an adorable town in the southeastern part of France. At the base of the French Alps and at the tip of Lake Annecy, its scenery is magnificent and its history is rich. It is the most beautiful place I have visited, and I am so glad we had a reason to go, as we would have otherwise never known about this gem.

Today's post will focus on the real purpose of our trip, the wedding of Andrew's cousin Jon to his beautiful French bride Alexandra. Alexandra is from the Haute-Savoie region, so it was a real privilege to be able to visit her home and experience more of the French culture through the eyes of residents than one typically gets as a tourist. 

In France, wedding vows are only legally binding through a civil ceremony, which takes place at the town hall and is conducted by the mayor or other city representative. After this ceremony, many couples have a religious wedding or alternate form of a blessing, but the civil service is what makes matrimony official. 

I really enjoyed the civil ceremony, though I have absolutely no idea what was actually said since the entire thing was conducted in French. But the language is beautiful and I loved listening to it. 

The forecast on the day of Jon and Alexandra's civil ceremony predicted lots of rain and mid 60's. Luckily, it was dry all day, but we emerged from city hall after the ceremony to find it raining. The bride and groom made the best of it, posing for pictures in front of the old car before hopping in to ride up the mountain to Alexandra's parents home for a reception.  

Notice the tin cans tied to the back - this ancient tradition of making noise wards away the evil spirits. Speaking of noise, the processional from the civil ceremony at the town hall to the bride's parents' home was very celebratory - the horns honked all the way there! 
 The decor at the reception was simple yet festive. I often think that understated decor says way more than does elaborate and over the top accessories; with the former, the focus is more easily kept right where it should be - on the camaraderie and fellowship of the guests. 

Love the fresh cut flowers in a blue tinted mason jar with a bale lid!

The red checkered tablecloths were a perfect match for the meal, which featured a regional specialty complete with an on-site chef and guests who contributed the final touches to the dish.
Each plate featured a few sheaves (I just discovered that this word is the plural form of sheaf - guess it is like leaf!) of wheat, which symbolizes prosperity, bounty, and fertility. 
Famed designer Coco Chanel considers wheat her lucky charm and features the commodity in several furnishings of her Parisian apartment, as well as her fashion accessories. 

Here is sweet Alexandra telling us about the symbolism of the wheat and she encouraged us to take the wheat back to our home and perhaps put it in our kitchen. 
Notice the view of the mountains behind her.  

This view is nothing short of spectacular. Words can't even describe the beauty. 

This is the view from her parent's yard. That's a hammock there on the right. What more does one need?!

But it gets better...the rain cleared, and the most magical of rainbows appeared!

If that is not the best photo op after a wedding, I don't know what is!

The wedding guests were pretty much either French or New Yorkers. Andrew's mom is from New York and all the cousins still live there, so the majority of attendees from the states all flew in from New York City. After the rain stopped, several of the New Yorkers gathered behind the house to check out the livestock.  

 And yet it was me, small town Midwestern girl who grew up on a farm, getting lots of pictures of the cows. But they are French cows! That makes them infinitely cooler.

I made Andrew pose with the cows. 

That one behind him wanted a sip of his beer.
This might be my favorite picture of the trip.

I referenced the 'regional specialty' dish earlier, and its local name is Tartiflette, pronounced tart-a-flet. The ingredients are potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions, and bacon. Once I saw those ingredients, I immediately thought of au gratin potatoes. It is very similar. 

The dish was made in 'the giant pan' (la paele geante).

Notice the Swiss flag in the milk can - we were only about 30 minutes from the border.

The first and seemingly most abundant ingredient? Bacon.

Until the potatoes were added - that is a lot of potatoes! 

Audience participation for the throwing of the rounds of reblochon cheese. 

Some information about this French cheese native to the Haute Savoie region courtesy of credible source, Wikipedia: 

Reblochon derives from the word 'reblocher' which when literally translated means 'to pinch a cow's udder again'. This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese. Raw-milk Reblochon has not been available in the United States since 2004 due to the enforcement of laws concerning the pasteurization of soft and semi-soft cheese.[2] Delice du Jura, a pasteurized soft ripened cheese is a close relative and a good substitute in the United States.[3]  -

Here is the dish simmering with the cheese. 

And here is the cheese for sale at the Annecy farmer's market that we visited the next day.
Hardly looks like the cheese we are used to seeing.

We didn't bring any cheese home with us (though I know many do), but we did manage to get the sheaves of wheat back unbroken. 

They are now in my kitchen, just like Alexandra suggested. Best wedding favor yet!

Have a chic week (and a great start to the school year for all you students, teachers, and parents!), 


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