The Thirteen Christmas Desserts of Provence
This is a lovely tradition that I first learnt about when sharing Christmas with family, who’ve lived in deepest Provence for a good few years. We enjoyed these on Christmas Eve, le Réveillon , and although you might think that thirteen desserts would be overwhelming, both to prepare and to eat, the idea is you just take a mouthful of each. They’re also mostly natural and simple goodies, such as fruit and nuts, which are intended to represent Jesus and the twelve Apostles.
Fruit and Nuts for the Four Religious Orders
To begin with, you should try to represent the four religious orders, by offering the following: almonds for the Carmelites, figs for the Fransiscans, raisins for the Dominicans and walnuts for the Augustines.
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Next you add four plates of fresh fruit, such as apples, pears, oranges and mandarins. These of course are seasonal and widely available at this time of year, and provide a lovely, cleansing end to the meal.
A Choice of Goodies
It’s at this point I think one can take a little licence, and choose the items that either take your fancy or you have to hand, but your choice could include: black nougat and white nougat, to represent good and evil – black nougat was a new term to me, but it’s a hard Provençal nougat made with honey and almonds, as opposed to white nougat, which is softer and made with sugar, eggs, pistachios, honey and almonds.
Other options include: quince jam (pâte de coing), dates, marzipan, candied fruits, waffles, gingerbread and dried apricots or prunes. As you can see, most of these treats are really based on natural produce, so you can actually feel virtuous about eating them!
For those with a less sweet tooth, there’s the option of a savoury bread, for example filled with sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, olive oil and garlic. Some people choose to end a meal on a slightly savoury note, so these would be ideal for them.