Retro Christmas (3) : Les 13 desserts

That’s a tradition of Provence to conclude the meal with a symbolic number of desserts, often 13. The Thirteen Desserts.

I don’t have one photo with all of them.

This one. But what can you see ?
Well, you will believe me, I displayed and ate the 13 types.

And that doesn’t matter. That’s the game of superstitions. 13 like the Christ and Apostles some say, and for Christmas that makes sense. Or not. But in some families, they had only 12 or 7. Others would eat 7 dishes. And you needed 3 table clothes and 2 candles. Not everybody agrees, but everybody disagrees.
Then let the leftovers should be left on the table overnight, so the angels can come to eat their share during the night. Isn’t that a cute excuse for not cleaning ?

Very recently some kind of “official” lists of desserts have been published. They are all false. Each family has its truth.

Most have :

-La pompe à l’huile (a sort of sweet fougasse)
-Les 4 mendiants, reference to 4 orders of monks and the color of their clothes (almonds, figs, raisins, walnuts or hazelnuts or…)
-Le nougat blanc, le nougat noir (white and black nougat)
-Dates, a fruit symbol of the origine of Christ
-Pears, apples. Oranges, fresh melon, fresh grapes could be available in certain places in the South. They had techniques to preserve the last fresh melon and white grapes.
-Fruit sweets : candied fruits, jam, pâte de fruit, calisson…
-spiced hot wine

That was for 19th Century and all that was luxury for them. Now that looks like the bottom of our pantry. We should count as one of our blessings to have such an availability of sweets.
More sophisticated desserts are very recent and the dainty sweets of Christmas markets were for the princes.

So my list :

-Fresh fruits : 1.pear 2.apple 3.raspberries 4. mandarin oranges
-Dry fruits : 5. prune 6.raisin 7.apples (that I dried)
-Nuts : 8. walnuts 9.chestnuts
-Baked : 10. biscotti 11.mince pies 12. pompe à l’huile

13th : iced nougat

Nougat glacé. That’s my 21th century white nougat.

If you put an almond in a fig, you get a “poor man’s nougat”. So let’s say with the walnut that makes my black nougat.

Christmas biscotti and “convenient” mince pies made with all leftovers (dough, marinated fruits, egg yolk) and baked in a corner of oven. Of course, these 2 don’t exist in traditional Provence.

La pompe à l’huile closes the parade.

It should be broken, not cut otherwise you bring bad luck for the year.
The name means “oil pump” because it is a bread enriched with olive oil. It is flavored with orange blossom water. Today mine is made of the buckwheat dough with these 2 additions and cane sugar.

And it “pumps” the “sauce” of desserts (or hot wine).
One serving is not too decadent :

7 thoughts on “Retro Christmas (3) : Les 13 desserts

  1. This is so interesting…I always thought it meant 13 baked desserts when I heard of this tradition! The inclusion of fruit and dried fruit is much more reasonable…and still a lot of fun! I see it’s already the 26th in your locale, so hope you had a fabulous and delicious Christmas!

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