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Hearts and Pancakes in the Morvan

As I type we are gearing up for La Chandeleur. Expat Focus faithfuls may remember my February 2015 piece, February Frolics? and recall that February 2 is La Chandeleur, Candlemas, when pancakes are obligatory. This year Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, falls on February 9, just one week after Candlemas. In our household, however, any day can be Pancake Day. The recipe is similar to Yorkshire Pudding, whose invention I described in my 2013 Christmas story, Angels Unawares.What better way of making a little flour, some milk and an egg feed a family?

There is something very jolly and convivial about pancakes.

Digression: French IT-speak for “user-friendly” is convivial. I like it, I really do.

In 1969-70 I spent a sort of gap year teaching at a residential adult education centre in rural Essex. Most of our students were groups of apprentices, and on our last evening the lads and I would commandeer the kitchen and whip up pancakes for us all. If lemons were in short supply, there was always plenty of jam. The cook disapproved of our nocturnal pancake sessions, although we always cleared up afterwards; but the fact that she ordered extra eggs showed that her heart was in the right place.

According to the official website of France, Candlemas commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus 40 days after His birth. Like Christmas, this is a pagan festival which was hijacked by the Christian church. Click on my 2015 February piece to see where the pancakes come in.

Our local supermarket is handing out leaflets promoting frying pans, electric pancake makers (who needs those?) and crêpe ingredients, not to mention recipe sheets.

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It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air.

If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

I have used Delia Smith’s pancake recipe from Frugal Food since it was first published in 1976. This title was reissued in 2008 with all proceeds donated to charity www.cafod.org.uk. A splendid lady whose recipes work.

Here is the pancake recipe, taken from her website.

Le Saint-Valentin, February 14, is a day for lovers old and young, and hearts a-flutter. In Cervon we now have a village defibrillator to deal with fluttering hearts, thanks to our local entertainments committee. Their various events made such a handsome profit that they decided to do something for the commune. Many people would have endowed a bench, thrown a party or maybe planted some trees, but in May 2015 we all assembled to admire the new village defibrillator.

You can learn all about defibrillators on the St John Ambulance website here.

Here, courtesy of Le Journal du Cantre, is the grand presentation, with Fabien Sansoit, full-time schoolmaster and part-time mayor of Cervon, holding the defibrillator.

We were treated to a demonstration by our local GP, Doctor Billard, who also pointed us in the direction of training courses through the Red Cross. Impressively, once activated the defibrillator issues instructions in a clear, reassuring voice like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Don’t Panic! Better than leafing through an instruction booklet…

I emailed Fabien asking for a progress report with a view to linking the story with St Valentine’s Day. Well, the good news is that nobody has needed the defibrillator yet. Remind me to stage my heart attack outside the Mairie.

Rosemary Border Rabson

In 2005 Rosemary Border Rabson and husband John Rabson emigrated to the Morvan in rural Burgundy, where few other Brits have ventured. Their chief preoccupation is Charity Cottage, a holiday home-from-home in their garden at Maré le Bas which they run in aid of Combat Stress (money donations) and Help for Heroes (free accommodation). Since 2012, when Charity Cottage won the Daily Telegraph’s Best British Charity award, the total amount raised for Combat Stress, comprising UK royalties and donations from visitors to Charity Cottage, is nudging £10,000.

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