Turns out that in France, Napoleon started it all in 1806, when he issued an edict to celebrate mothers with large families, in hopes of upping the birth rate. But the fête des mères didn't really get going until after World War I.
Though the date is different, (last Sunday in May), it's celebrated here pretty much like in the states. Moms are appreciated with a festive meal (we hope THEY don't have to cook it, but it happens), and/or a cake. The primary school kids labor over homemade cards and presents for their beloved Maman.
For a little French practice, here are a few things the famous French have to say about mothers, with their translations:
Une maman formidable donne toujours une grand-mère exceptionnelle --Jean Gastaldi, French writer.
(A great mother always makes an exceptional grandmother.)
L'avenir d'un enfant est l'oeuvre de sa mère--Napoleon Bonaparte.
(The future of a child is the work of his mother.)
Le coeur d'une mère est un abîme au fond duquel se trouve toujours le pardon.--Honore de Balzac, 19th century French novelist and playwright.
(The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.)
Tendresse maternelle, toujours se renouvelle.--French proverb
(A mother's affection always renews itself.)
Ma maman est une maman comme toutes les mamans, mais voilà, c'est la mienne.--Mick Micheyl, French actress from the 1960's.
(My mom is a mom like all moms, but there it is, she's mine.)
For a perfect Mother's Day dessert, how about a beautiful heart-shaped French Coeur à la Creme? It's a rich concoction involving lots of heavy cream and cream cheese or sometimes ricotta, served with red fruit or a coulis. Our friend Sam Hoffer over at the My Carolina Kitchen blog tells the story of this dessert and gives us a great recipe. To make it in its traditional heart shape, you need a special special porcelain mold with holes in the bottom (I'm searching for one at the flea markets), but Sam gives you easy options if you don't have a mold. This dessert isn't common in our region, but I mean to try it when I find that mold!
And a very happy mother's day to all!
In the COMMENTS: I certainly learned something(s) from our commenters this week about ‘hand pies’. Martin, I had never heard of Jamaican patties, similar to empanadas I think, but often curried. And Anne (of Musics and Markets Tours) mentioned pastillas; they seem to be Spanish in origin, and made with phyllo dough. Several folks mentioned cornish pasties—forgive me for forgetting an English classic! Natalia has a recipe for a delicious turnover, and Christine (of Pen at the Ready) tells us how to make Chilean empanadas. Jackie, I think you are right, a ham and cheese croissant is about as close as it gets, for the French. Francine, thanks for being a sharp-eyed editor.
FAVORITE READS: Very pleased to announce today that our long-term loyal reader Herm Meyer has a book of poetry out! It's called Pic-poems and Stuff and it's unique because it includes "talking pictures", in other words poems built around and inspired by photos. Have yousat down and relaxed recently with a book of poetry? Me neither, and I'm looking forward to it. Felicitations, Herm!
I was also delighted to discover that our reader Jackie Mancuso is a book designer and author and has done a children's picture book about her “expat” dog Hudson adapting to life in France. It’s called Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog. What fun! A second book is called Hudson in Provence (A Paris-Chien Adventure) . These are going to my grandkids toute de suite!