This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Champagne writer. It is an opportunity to get to know your culinary tastes better.
His fables have gone through the centuries without taking a wrinkle. Every schoolchild knows at least one by heart. Born on July 8, 1621, in Château-Thierry, in the province of Champagne, Jean grew up in an opulency house. After a dreamy childhood, he discovered in Paris the joys of literary life, that of Molière, Corneille, Boileau… He lived thanks to patrons, including the too-rich superintendent of finances Nicolas Fouquet at the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Not very faithful in love but exemplary in friendship, legend depicts him as a distracted and lazy man. His many writings proved otherwise, but in 1695 he died ruined.
© Provided by Femme ActuelleThe writer is depicted with the first verses of the Fox and Grapes in his hand. Marble by Pierre Julien, presented at the Salon of 1785.
His little manias
Even if there is always someone in his fables who will eat another, it is not the food as such that interests him but the message he conveys thanks to it. This metaphorical use allows him to illustrate an idea. Food is at the service of morality against laziness in The Cicada and the Ant or vanity in The Raven and the Fox. “I use animals to instruct men,” he explains in the first verses dedicated to the Dauphin – the 7-year-old son of Louis XIV – who opened his first six books of fables in 1668.
His cute sin
Not much is known about his culinary tastes, except for his love for champagne wine, which he touts in a letter. But not the one we know with its thin bubbles! It is then a white wine called still, the monk oenologist Dom Pérignon having not yet imported from Limoux the method of taking foam called the Champagne method. La Fontaine defines himself as a man from Champagne – where he comes from and where he returns – and claims his provincial side, close to the terroir and nature.
His favorite place
He owns in Château-Thierry a house, land, farms, and a charge of Master of waters and forests bequeathed by his father. While riding, he meets the guests of his dear countryside who will populate his fables. But at 55, he has to sell his house. In this museum, we have reconstructed his writing cabinet, the dining room, the kitchen … But of his time, only an imposing key remains, the one that opened the large entrance gate disappeared.© Provided by Femme ActuelleThe Jean de La Fontaine Museum, Château-Thierry.
A sparkling book on Jean de La Fontaine
Dominique Brisson is the author, with Géraldine Doulbeau, of Vive La Fontaine!, ed. Cours Toujours, 12€.
What eater is he?
He is a libertine, more focused on the pleasures of the flesh than those of good food. We can imagine what he can eat at the table of his protectors. Great stews, dishes in sauce, trendy fruits and vegetables such as artichokes or peas (the cute sin of Louis XIV). He had to drink coffee or chocolate and tasted the whipped cream off the cook Vatel, created for the sumptuous festival of Vaux-le-Vicomte of 1661, in which he participated.
Yet food is at the heart of his stories?
Obviously, in his fables, there is often mention of food. But it’s always metaphorical, in the service of something else. It is a pretext that is never there to express a human appetite for good food.
For the quadricentenary of his birth, you are publishing a new book about him…
After a book for adults written by Martine Pichard, we release an illustrated book to tell her life and work to children.
On the fabulist’s menu
Vegetable salad with verjus
Oysters of the Norman tide
Roasted ham lacquered with honey
Pheasants, ortolans, quails
Zucchini stew and grilled potato cake
Farandole of sweet dishes with whipped cream
Apple pie with Poppies from Nemours
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