A Christmas in Provence n°3

They represent the 12 apostles gathered around Jesus during the Last Supper.

These numerous desserts are enjoyed after the Midnight Mass. They are both an expression of the sharing spirit of Christmas and signs of wealth and abundance displayed for all to see. Everyone must taste everything. They remain on the table until there is none left. This can last for several days.

This Provençal profusion of delicacies is mentioned as early as the 17th century, but the number 13 was only fixed in the early 19th century.

There are the essentials and the variations added by each family. Thus, the number 13 is often only the bare minimum!

The list of desserts varies greatly according to tastes, and there is no exhaustive list of the thirteen desserts without variations. However, a foundation remains, composed of:

La pompe à huile: halfway between bread and brioche, it is made with olive oil, orange blossom water, brown sugar, and flour. This dessert symbolizes the breaking of bread. Traditionally, it is the gift of the Pistachier, a typical character of the Provençal nativity scene.

Les mendiants are 4 different types of dried fruits: almonds, figs, hazelnuts or walnuts, and raisins.

Nougat: there are three different types, a white one to represent good, a black one to represent evil, and a red one. White nougat is often filled with hazelnuts, black with honey and almonds, and red with rose and pistachios.

Dates symbolize the gifts offered by the Magi from the East.

We are now at nine desserts that make up the foundation. Next come the variations that depend on tastes and regions. In Provence, we generally continue with:

Les calissons, a typical dessert of Provence, composed among other ingredients, of candied orange peel, almonds, and covered with icing. Alternatively, we prefer quince paste, fruit pastes, or even chocolates.

Seasonal fruits: oranges or clementines, apples or pears.

An exotic fruit of choice such as kiwi or mango.

And finally, the thirteenth dessert is a watermelon, which keeps relatively well for several days.

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