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The calisson, Provençal sweet... and Black Death!

Calissons | jean-louis Zimmermann / CC-BY
Epidemic Speciality

What’s this?

This is one of the most famous French speciality: calissons, oblong candies from Aix-en-Provence, with a shiny white coating made of unleavened bread and icing sugar, a candied fruits paste (orange, apricot or melon), crushed almonds, flavoured with orange flower water...

Aah, the nice blend, full of Provence's sunny savours!

The little history

They used to call it canisson. But we also found the Provencal name calissoun, which comes from canissoun, which is the pastrycook’s rack (from canis, "reed rack").

These candies are mentioned since the 13th century! In Provence, they were part of the famous "13 Christmas desserts". Mrs. de Sévigné often received calissons from her daughter, Mrs. de Grignan.

And during the 1630 plague epidemic, archbishops of Aix gave calissons in a blessed chalice, more efficient than the traditional host! After all, the two ones are made with unleavened bread, so... why not?

Believers received their calissons, called by priests who shouted the famous Venes touti au calissoun, "Come to the chalice"...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!