Mardi Gras started early for us this year. As it falls during the school holidays next week, my daughter had her Carnaval at school yesterday with the History of France theme. Students’ creativity was put to the test as The Prize was to receive first place in the canteen queue all next term. I didn’t think that sounded motivating but the kids were all desperate to win – even the teachers dressed up, wanting that prized place in the queue at lunch times. The posts of Joan of Arc, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were snatched up but Julie took her role of peasant just as seriously. Should I feel grim or flattered that she asked to borrow my sweater and shawl to complete the look?
We love pancakes in our house. We also love crêpes. As Mardi Gras approaches, what will it be chez nous?
When I make the thick, fluffy American/British style pancakes on occasion for a weekend breakfast, Antoine is surprisingly never that hungry. The kids adore the full monty (well trained, if I say so) with the smoked bacon and lashings of maple syrup squirted with an orange wedge, and as they devour their extra helpings from the lion’s share, Antoine takes his time spreading the thinnest scraping of maple syrup on his solitary cake-de-pan. Camouflaging it Corsican style with my Chestnut Flour Pancakes (even with the Corsican Chestnut liqueur) worked for a while, but he still wanted his classic, sweet, thin crêpes.
As Antoine is in the Far East with work, we’re spending Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday just as the girls’ club. But what are we having: pancakes or crêpes? My girls were scared to even say it out loud and a unanimous CRÊPES were whispered, as if not to offend me. What do you expect? They’re just as French as British, I suppose. So crêpes it is – sorry you’re missing it, Antoine.
Now that we’ve got past the pancake vs crêpe issue, we have another crucial decision: what shall we put on them?
Antoine normally loves plain and simple sugar with a squeeze of lemon. The simple is often the best? Other classics are confiture (jam/jelly), sweet chestnut and vanilla spread (crème de marron), and of course the kids’ preference is dolloping on Nutella.
Julie is back to eating it again since a concerned French friend showed her an alarming video which proved just how much oil it contained and so she went into a nutella depression. Nutella is everywhere – try and avoid it. I woke up to its name ringing in my ears this morning, as my radio alarm belted out an advert for the stuff. It worked as motivation to switch the thing off and spring out of bed, though. I could go for the latest trend, speculoos spread (speculoos are the Belgian cinnamon melt-in-your-mouth biscuits/cookies). It’s a slightly more expensive choice at the market crêpe stalls, so I could say I’m going ‘upmarket’. My pick? Just real chocolate sauce or smothered in caramel au beurre salé (salted caramel.)
Now that the crêpe is covered, there’s yet another decision to make: do you fold it or roll it?
I had no idea it was an issue but I’m being careful on this one. Antoine claims his mother always rolled it for him and he never had the pleasure of doing that part himself. Besides, sometimes he felt like folding it. Scarred for life, eh? Boy, I didn’t realise we had a French crêpe ceremony to top it all. Vive l’indépendance! So, let’s just serve it open and leave the rest to the others.
So what will it be chez vous, and if it’s crêpes, are you a roller or a folder?