I don’t know if Colette is still widely read in French schools or if the recent movies renewed interest in her novels in the English speaking world. She is one of those writers that people have heard about and think they should have read but when asked which books are never quite sure. Chances are that more Anglophones have seen Gigi the movie based on one of her books than actually cracked open the book itself. I say that not as a criticism as I have never turned a page of any of her 30-odd novels. I knew of her only from other books I had read about Paris during the first half of the 20th century. I’ve read pocket biographies that hailed her as a great writer and critiques that branded her immoral and degenerate. Those contrasting epithets have been voiced about her as a writer and a person since she first appeared on the literary scene in 1900.
Her first four novels were published under her husband’s nom-de-plume, Willy,and when they divorced she discovered that he held the sole rights to the considerable royalties. It was the last time she was to give any man that sort of control over her or her work. She was to marry two more times, have numerous affairs, one with her step-son, several women and a transgender artist. She was to appear on the stage, write novels, memories, newspaper articles, and essays. It was said that she only wrote about what she knew and many of her works are autobiographical and with a bold feminism that grew out of her own experiences. When she died in 1954 Colette was the first Frenchwoman ever given a State funeral. She had been refused burial by the Catholic church so the ceremonies were held in the Court of Honour of the Palais-Royal (just beneath the window of the apartment she had lived in for years).
So why this sudden interest in a dead French author and what does it have to do with a summer cocktail? Well according to my dear friend and master chef Yannis she had a favourite summer drink that he featured on his website Bearfoot in the Park.
I tried it when he first published the recipe for Colette’s Vin d’orange in April and served it as an aperitif last Sunday at our iftar dinner* – it takes four weeks but as Yannis says other than patience requires little effort. It was a success – we served it with Prosseco though sparkling water would be a good mix also. A left click on the picture of the doubled batch jars (above) that I put in the pantry today will take you to the recipe.
A few things to note:
Yes the measure amount for the brandy is correct – many chefs are now given things by weight as there is difference between cup sizes and other types of cooking measurements depending on the country you live in.
We found the amount of sugar a bit too sweet for our tastes and are cutting back on this next batch to see. It may well depend on the sweetness of the oranges.
And yes that second jar in the picture contains lemons. My friend Jim has a batch in the works and wondered how it would work with lemon and brewed lavender or lime and Thai basil. I didn’t have any brewed lavender but thought I’d give the lemon a try. I reduced the number of lemons. I’ll let you know how it turned out.
*The more observant – in more ways than one – may question alcohol at an Iftar but we remember Ramadan from our days in Egypt of the late 1980s.
The word for May 7th is:
Sole /sōl/: [1. noun 2. verb 3. noun 4. adjective]
1.1 The undersurface of a person’s foot.
1.2 The section forming the underside of a piece of footwear (typically excluding the heel.
1.3 The undersurface of a tool or implement such as a plane or the head of a golf club.
2. Put a new undersurface on to a shoe.
Middle English: from Old French, from Latin solea ‘sandal, sill’, from solum ‘bottom, pavement, sole’.
3. A marine flatfish of almost worldwide distribution, important as a food fish.
Middle English: from Old French, from Provençal sola, from Latin solea, named from its shape.
4. Belonging or restricted to one person or group of people.
Late Middle English (also in the senses ‘secluded’ and ‘unrivaled’): from Old French soule, from Latin sola, feminine of solus ‘alone’.
Ain’t English a wonder?