Tomorrow is la fête de la Chandeleur in France, and while the date coincides with Groundhog Day, I can get a lot more into this celebration than one that required close observation of the shadows of rodents. While it was originally associated with the feast of Candlemas, or the date of Christ’s presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth, today it’s all about food, specifically, the crêpe. The crêpes can only be eaten after 8 pm and the cook is supposed to try to flip the crêpes in the air to cook the other side while simultaneously holding a coin in the other hand. If successful, the family will have a prosperous year.
Now, none of this makes a great deal of sense to me. My French friends have told me that it sometimes resulted in crêpes being flung on the tops of armoires from whence they were retrieved with difficulty. I am, however, firmly in favor of a holiday that encourages the consumption of crêpes. How I miss the crêpe stands that are ubiquitous on the streets of Paris ! Spread with Nutella or filled with healthier combinations of ham and cheese and munched hot off the griddle, they are the equivalent of a drive-through fast food joint in terms of price and speed of service. But the taste? Mmmm.
I recently had a much more upscale crêpe at Balthazar restaurant in Soho, shown in the picture. It was filled with mascarpone cheese and bits of orange and adorned with an ample quantity of hazelnuts and orange sauce. So often, restaurant desserts disappoint, but this one exceeded my expectations. Check it out at http://balthazarny.com/.
Today’s expression, plat comme une crêpe, (plah come oon crehp) means “flat as a crêpe,” or, as we would say, “flat as a pancake.” It’s used in all the same ways as our expression to refer to objects lacking in vertical dimension, from geographical topography to the human form. As French nouns have gender, and adjectives must be modified to match those genders, if applied to something (or someone) feminine, the expression would then be plate comme une crêpe, (plaht come oon crehp). Since this term was often applied to me by my oh-so-considerate brothers, I know it well.