When I was little, January was the month I dreaded the most. Christmas and New Year were gone; it was dark and cold.
The only highlight was that great-grand-aunts and neighbours were bringing me homemade doughnuts (beignets). Added to those my grandmother would make, I would pretty much eat just these for about two months. Or at least that’s how it felt like. There were so many – with slight variations – but all delicious. I couldn’t possibly let them go to waste.
This ritual would start about mid January. I never questioned why, it just happened. It was a tradition, which would mark the start of carnival period with its parades and dressing up parties.
Who knew that carnival period started with the Epiphany (Kings day on 6/01) and lasted until Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, just before Ash Wednesday)? So many opportunities to celebrate!
This includes La Chandeleur (Candlemas) on 2/02. This ‘event’ is right in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox; it is named after the candles Christians would bring to church to remember the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
For me though, it always meant one thing: pancakes. (les crêpes)
Pancakes and doughnuts are amongst the most ancient festive cakes. During this time of the year, they embody the excess allowed before a period of fasting, pre-easter. They are also paving the way for the arrival of spring – the victory of light over darkness.
In essence, it’s party time again! Until this years’ Mardi Gras on 4/03, bake doughnuts and make pancakes as often as you like.
You’ll find a plethora of recipes online but these 2 are pretty good:
– Paulette’s doughnuts (Paulette is my grandfather’s new ‘girlfriend’ and an excellent cook)
– Cyril Lignac’s pancakes (Cyril Lignac is the French Jamie Oliver)