Ancient and Fascinating Animal Totems of the Langue D’Oc

The Langue D’Oc is an ancient, ancient land. Many  cultures have left their mark on it from the prehistory of humans to the present. It’s this fact that makes the Langue D’Oc so fascinating. It is full of quirky customs with ancient roots that are entirely unique. In a few  Occitan villages and towns of the Hereault (pronounced ear-oh) region of the Langue D’Oc,  you will find one of these completely unique customs; Animeaux Totémique (Animal Totems). The tradition of Animal Totems dates at least to the 16th century with a few undoubtedly being older. These include the Camel of Béziers, the Bull of Meze  and the Wolf of Loupian. The totems, which are made of cloth and canvas are paraded to the accompaniment of drums through the streets by men in customary dress  Last August, I attended carnival in Florensac, Hereault. When i arrived in the  early afternoon, moules (musselswere being prepared and given out for free in the village square. Moules have been an important part of the local culture for thousands of years. The Florensac totem, Lo Chivalet in Occitan, is a horse. The villagers responsible for Lo Chivalet, wearing matching shirts, scarves and sashes, were partying at the corner bar. When I returned in the early evening after exploring the area, they were all still there, partying whilst awaiting the festivities! A stage was in place for the evening’s entertainment, and long tables under the oak trees set with chairs quickly filled. Everyone eagerly anticipated and then cheered the entrance of Lo Chivalet and his Master!​ Who had a whip!​​​ ​​​​​​​​

​​The crowd was particularly appreciative  when Lo Chivalet reared up, spun around or was lifted overhead.  The Lo Chivalet association has local sponsors. I loved the juxtaposition of the John Cash poster on his side, the result of a tribute band sponsor. Animaux Totémique are traditionally carried by men, but in Florensac they also have a smaller Lo Chevelet carried by village women. I think this must be a more recent development. The women approached and butted heads with the men before also rearing several times. Judging by the LOUD encouragement of the audience, the women are a popular addition to the custom!

Lo Chivalet and his female counterpart departed to enthusiastic applause. It was time to eat and drink (drink more!) prior to the evening’s entertainment. The young men of Lo Chivalet were certainly enjoying themselves!As I was the lone outsider, they even serenaded me with a boisterous rendition of the Lo Chivalet song!​

 

​The evening’s entertainment began. Everyone settled down to watch a great show. I felt privileged and grateful to that the welcoming residents of Florensac allowed me to be a part of their carnival and ancient traditions. 

Twenty Hours in Barcelona

In August, I made the 2.5 hour train trip from Agde, France to Barcelona, Spain for dinner with my EatWith colleague Papa Serra. What an evening it was! My AirBnB rental was in one of the old areas where the narrow streets aren’t accessible by car. As the apartment was a fifth floor walk up (6th floor in the US!) and the room looked directly into the window across the way, I gained a good understanding of what it must’ve been like to live in a Lower East Side tenement! However, as it was clean, comfortable, safe, inexpensive and only two blocks from Joel, it suited me very well. The neighborhood was an interesting, ethnically mixed one with many small restaurants, bakeries and shops. 

I couldn’t help stopping for just a few tapas and a glass of  Cava (dry, sparkling Catalan wine) before checking in! Time for Papa Serra! After over two years of knowing each other on line, we were very happy to finally meet in person. Papa has a FABULOUS apartment on Trafalgar with a roof terrace of MONUMENTAL proportions and stunning views of Barcelona. I felt lucky just to BE there let alone attend a dinner party there! On this evening, he was sold out with 24 guests. Whilst Joel’s family originally comes from Barcelona, he has spent time living in Tazmania and New Zealand as well. His marvelous cuisine reflected these influences in each the five courses. He personally introduced each course and questions were welcome. 

The table setting chic but not fussy and invited guests to feel at home. Most of the 24 guests were from Germany  (he’d just been featured on a German travel show), but I sat next to two charming (and fun!) young ladies from Edinburgh. As with every EatWith event, eating a home cooked meal around a table together, especially with a host like Joel “Papa” Sera. You’d be making a mistake to visit Barcelona without eating with him. Read all about him here. I caught a train the next day. I’d only spent 20 hours in Barcelona, but, thanks to Papa Serra, my time there is a memory I will always treasure. 

Bon appétit!

France on my mind…a France craft!

It seems like forever since I was in France. With my only daughter’s nuptials taking place this last July, I was very busy in Ohio! With my departure on August 24 for five weeks in France fast approaching, là belle France has been very much on my mind…so much so that I embarked on a France craft!  Last Saturday, I bought this very unattractive canvas print for $2 at a thrift store.


I spray painted it French blue.


I then went to my Cricut Design Space and laid out my new picture. This is the fun part!


Using my beloved Cricut Explore Air, I cut out the design using Cricut vinyl. If you are new to this, it’s a good idea to cut it out first on card stock as a test run.


I then placed the vinyl on the canvas using Cricut transfer tape. This is the tricky part! Even though a 24″ Cricut mat was sufficient for the project, I still used the Cricut slice feature because doing layers can be tricky! 


And here is the finished print! Not fine art by any means, but cheap and fun. 

A bien tôt!

Shop Fresh. Shop Local. Shop at a Farmers Market!

When was the last time shopping at your local big box grocery store made you feel good? That’s what you’re missing if you’re not shopping at your local Farmer’s Market. Here are some GREAT reasons to shop local.

Discover Variety, Freshness and Flavor
You will find heirloom tomatoes and many more unique varieties of produce that aren’t farmed in mass on mega farms. The flavors will surprise you. Find out what a “real” tomato tastes like!
20140730-232845-84525127.jpg

Enjoy the season.
While we can now get produce of any sort at any time of year, mass-produced, hothouse-grown fruits and vegetables lack flavor and freshness. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had from eating what’s in season when it’s in season. It gives one something to look forward to and relish when you have it. Rather than settle for tasteless, bland produce that’s available year around, allow yourself the pleasure a treat…a treat that’s not always available.
Support Small Farms.
Family farms need your support. With the rapid growth of agribusiness and mega farms, family farms are struggling to compete. Without them, we will no longer have farmers who are personally involved with and truly care about what they produce and who cultivate varieties that, without them, will be lost. When you support a family farm, you make a difference, AND you know exactly where your food came from!
20140730-235633-86193618.jpg

I shop at the Uptown Westerville Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons. If you go, make sure and check out Bird’s Haven Farm for a large selection of fresh produce including heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs and outstanding cucumbers. You can find a Farmers Market near you with the USDA Farmers Market Directory. Visit a Farmers Market and discover how much better food tastes when it’s fresh, local and seasonal!.
Bon appetit!
Tess