When I was down south in Pau, I spent a lovely afternoon with my belle-mère and her great friend Rose-France at the latter’s picturesque century-old home overlooking a break-taking view of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Rose-France is an expert praline “confectionneuse“. She prepares dozens of little sacks filled with these sugar-coated almonds for the Christmas season to sale at various charity events. Having had the immense pleasure of tasting her recipe this past Christmas, I was delighted to be invited to watch her artisanal, praline-making methods. Plus, I snagged the recipe.
These little delights are so exceptionally good, they are almost dangerous. Perfect as an alternative to the more typical wine or flowers we offer as dinner guests, pralines are a wonderful complement to a gin martini aperitif. But, be careful. I’m giving you fair warning: they are almost too good.
During my afternoon chez Rose-France, in between batches of pralines, she took me back through her wartime childhood explaining how her parents taught her to be conscientious about waste. And she doesn’t waste anything. You’ll see in the video that she meticulously scraps off every last crumb of caramelized sugar from her spoon so as not to forsake even the smallest bit of ingredients.
My mother-in-law, also raised during wartime, was educated the same way. She saves everything and reuses everything. Of course, giving my own predilection for green ways of living, I pay close attention to these French lady’s savoir-vivre.
When I asked Rose-France if she thought my generation, the generation of her own 6 adult children, also have that anti-waste quality, she frankly answered no.
“The education my children give their children is so different from how I was raised. My grandchildren will take a full blank piece of paper, scribble a few lines across it and then ask for another clean sheet. When I was a child, we had notebooks made of bound pieces of newsprint. Once I had used every inch of both sides of every page, my father would inspect it to make sure there wasn’t any usable space left before he’d buy me a new one. People don’t react like that anymore.”
“Do you think future generations can or will learn this virtue even if we aren’t burdened by wartime lifestyle and rations?” I ask.
“They’ll certainly have to sooner or later.”
Praline recipe: (it’s really so simple)
- 250g whole almonds
- 250g sugar
- 2 tbsps vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup water
- old aluminum pot
- wood spoon
- cookie tray
How to: See video.