There’s a hint of Christmas in the air… And in Provence, a tradition lives on whereby a Christmas meal includes thirteen desserts offering Christmas a multitude of colours and mouth-watering flavours for a tasty trip with a touch of religion to it.
Back in the 17th century, a culinary offering meant a multitude of sweet dishes as a sign of plenty. It wasn’t until the 20th century however that the thirteen desserts were linked to The Last Supper, representing Jesus and the 12 apostles.
The exact items can vary, but some are always the same: first, the famous pompe à huile, a Provencal olive oil-based brioche that should be broken up just as Christ did with the bread.
Then there are the four beggars representing the four mendicant monastic orders, walnuts and hazelnuts for the Augustines, almonds for the Carmelites, dried figs for the Franciscans and raisons for the Dominicans. The black nougat and white nougat represent good and evil.
Then there are the dates and other fruit from the Orient to represent the origins of the Three Kings. There are also a selection of seasonal fruit like grapes, apples, pears, oranges, tangerines and quince paste to complete the picture.
According to tradition, guests should taste each dessert to ensure good fortune for the coming year. It’s not often that being a little greedy rhymes with good fortune…