(Pour a glass of wine, this is a long post. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.)
Do I look French to you??
In the spirit of camaraderie and fun, I join fellow blogger and friend Anita Rivera of "Castles, Crowns and Cottages", in her virtual tour of all things French.
My quandary is, that I have never been to France nor do I speak much French; ( but I do have a pretty good French accent!). I don't do any French cooking, although I have to confess a fondness for escargot (snails) and Pate de foi gras ( goose Liver) .
"WHAT DID YOU SAY??!"
(If you ever tell Hamish or Fionna Goosefeathers about the Pate de foi gras, I will deny it to the grave!!) Other than that, what can I post about with a French Flair?
Hmmmmmmm... think think think.
Well, would it be stretching it to say that I have a wee bit of French blood in me via an ancestor from way, way back??
I LOVE History, and when my genealogist Brother-in-law researched my fathers ancestry, he came upon fascinating discoveries. A long line of royalty with more kings, queens, duchesses, dukes and marquises than we could imagine. Some, with really funny names like "Pepin the Short", and "Pepin the Fat"and Sir Henry "Hotspur" Percy... but I want to concentrate on one FRENCH ancestor, in particular: "William the Conqueror".
(Bear with me, this is a short history lesson, to get to the REAL topic.)
I had not been familiar with William until learning I was a descendent, but the fabulous thing about having famous and infamous ancestors is that YOU CAN LOOK THEM UP ONLINE.
In a nutshell. William,( also known as William the Bastard) was son of Duke Robert of Normandy and a fair French maiden named Herleve, the daughter of a tanner . The Normans in France, were descendents Of Viking Raiders. Despite his illegitimacy, William inherited his fathers title, after much ado. When the King of England, across the Channel, died, William had reason to believe that he had claim to the crown due to earlier promises from said King. As was usually the case, William had competition for the throne and a war ensued as William invaded England with an enormous force of Norman troops; This became known as The Battle of Hastings. I will skip all the juicy and gruesome details and move along to tell you that William won the battle, hence the war, hence the crown . William of Normandy became William the Conqueror, Ruler of England and this event marked the death of Ango- Saxon England. England was forever changed. Needless to say,William was not a popular figure with the Saxons, and had a REAL hard time getting his new subjects to like him, as he tended to be a bit of a tyrant, what with all that pillaging and raping of the villages in a brutal and ruthless effort to get his new subjects to... well, SUBJECT. Not to mention the fact that he spoke French, not English. I only tell you all this because a magnificent tapestry was created telling the entire background story of Williams invasion of England in 1066.
It is called " The Bayeux Tapestry", and I find it most fascinating.
This embroidered strip of linen is 20" tall and 230 feet long!
Needled in vivid wool, the tapestry portrays running scenes of the events leading up to and including, the battle, which became known as the Norman Conquest.
Sitched in marvelous detail is an incredible early medieval pictorial depicting the weaponry, the clothing, buildings, ships and even the hairstyles of the period. The Saxons can be recognized by their mustaches and the NORMANS by the unusual "bald in back, Beatle Haircut in front" do. Text is in Latin explaining each event, from the time William was promised the Throne, to the building of the ships to cross the channel and on to the grisly death of his enemies, portrayed in gruesome detail, as heads roll and body parts disperse throughout.
It is believed that the patron of this artwork was a Norman, probably Williams wealthy brother, but the embroidery itself, is considered English.
It is said the tapestry was stitched by either Queen Matilde ( Williams wife) and her ladies or, more likely, expert, needleworking Saxon nuns in 1082 This incredible work of history and artistry is nearly 100o years old and nothing else like it exists anywhere in the world. It had survived fires and wars for nearly 500 years, presumably because it was rolled up and stored.Then it disappeared, only to reappear during the French Revolution, when it was used as a wagon cover! It survived many more miss-adventures, before, thankfully, being displayed, safe and sound, in
a Museum in Bayeux, Normandy. The Museum was built specifically for this single object and it travels the walls in a fluid stretch throughout the building.
I own a few books on this embroidery but have never see it in person. What a thrill that would be!
I do, however, own a French Tapestry of my own, with it's own interesting history.
Mine is a reproduction, woven in France about 50 yrs ago.
According to Wikipedia, " The Lady and the Unicorn ( La Dame à la licorne) is the title given to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders of wool and silk, from designs , drawn in Paris in the late fifteenth century. The suite, on display in the Musee du Moyen- Age. is often considered one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe." The set of tapestries were rediscovered in 1841 in the Boussac Castle.
(Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Each Tapestry represents one of the five senses and portrays a noble lady with a unicorn on her left and a lion on her right. Mine represents hearing.The lady is playing an organ as unusual stylized rabbits and dogs sit at her feet, upon a Turkish rug. I just happened upon my tapestry whilst antiquing, and although it goes with absolutely nothing in our Early American house, we bought it on the spot and hung it along our stair landing. It is truly beautiful!
Do WE look French to you?
We are the 3 French Hens, Giselle, Antoinette and Veronica...s'il vous plaît.
We are experts in all things French and would like to take you on a tour of our most humble Le Jardin Potagerie (French Kitchen Garden) ( Also know as a Potager, to you more common folk.)
We French ladies spend each and every morning, cultivating our herbs, roses, and vegetables in our charming little garden. The Mistress of the Manor created this Potager using all manner of salvage, just as a French country wife may have done a century ago.
Chives, Lemon-balm and Rosemary are planted in this bed, and you can see the little indentation where we take our dust bath... before we take our "wet" bath in our special bathing facilities.
The Mistress used old brick, timbers, stone, tin buckets and pails, old wagon wheels and farm implements to make this special Jardin... for WE THREE HENS. She planted everything, but WE do the cultivating. Of course, we are happy to share the bounty from "our" garden, with one and all.
Our Rooster Man, the Marquee De Cock a Doodle Doo, appreciates all the fine meals we prepare using the garden fresh herbs; meals like Earth Worm Souffle with fresh parsley, Quiche Lorraine a la ladybug with fresh toasted cayenne , Unfertilized egg omelets with sage and a piquant Corsican mint sauce. We provide our own eggs, of course.
We French hens believe that even a vegetable garden should be a thing of beauty, something magnifique, and that is precisely what a potager is. A visually pleasing combination of plants; including herbs, veges, fruits and flowers. Plants are chosen for their color, form and loveliness as well as their tastiness. We French hens know all about color and form as you can see by our lovely figures and vibrant feathers.
In our French Kitchen garden,
Wisteria, roses and Baptisia grow happily along with
Lavender and Thyme
The Mistress uses old rusty tubs and pails, (shabby but chic),
to plant Oregano, Parsley, Cilantro, and Mints....
Strawberries, pansies and watercress for salad... and creeping Jenny for it's lovely draping habit.
We French Hens leave the Strawberries for the Mistress... we prefer the slugs...er, I mean the ESCARGOT.
We have many walkways to keep our lovely pink toes tidy, and to lead us from one raised bed to the next. This area encompasses about 300 sq. ft. Which may not seem like much to you, but to a petit chicken madmoiselle, it is a vast wonderland of worms and wooly thyme!
Our Potager is right off the side porch. This is very convenient for the Mistress, as she keeps her gardening tools close at hand in her Shabby Chic cupboard. The shabby Chic cupboard is the ONLY French thing about Our Mistress, Mon Dieu! poor dear.
The Lord of the Manor uses many of our herbs in his cooking.... even though he is of Irish descent.... not FRENCH, like us.
It is really quite amazing how much you can squeeze into a space this size. Our 3oo square foot potagerie also contains 9 roses, 11 lavender plants, dozens of Foxgloves and Geraniums, bee-balm, daisies, cucumbers, runner beans, tomatoes, daylilies, pinks, mints and strawberry plants all along the border. OH, and 5 different kinds of Sage!
It's not that we NEED that much sage, it's just that the Mistress thinks it is pretty.
By the way, did we mention that we are FRENCH?
The precedent for the Potagerie is from the Gardens of the French Renaissance. Many Potager Gardens are quite elegant, created in a Knot garden style.
But ours is in the carefree style of a Cottage garden, after all, we French Hens like the Country life best, don't you, Mon Ami?
Say, does SHE look French to you??
We think so, and allow her to silently stand as a garden sentinel amongst the basil.
We think so, and allow her to silently stand as a garden sentinel amongst the basil.
The Barn Swallows always lay their eggs neath the porch eaves, just to be close to OUR garden.
We mademoiselles always witness the first flights of the baby barn swallows from the cozy comfort of our lavender patch, "Provence Lavendula", of course.
Occasionally, a Peabody boy struts through, stealing cherry tomatoes and disturbing the peace. Oh well, "Ce la vie!
the Chickens will take over from there. They will reward you with their beauty and winning personalities.
And occasionally, leave a nice little clutch of eggs, just for you...
so that you TOO, can make an omelet with sage and Corsican mint sauce.
And now we bid you au revoir and bon appetite!
For more things FRENCH, please follow this link, and visit the vast array of French delights. Tell them the Three French Hens sent you!