14 septembre 2018

New season apéritif : Pastis

After our summer break, the Cercle got back into action with the launch of the 2018-19 programme.
Présidente Allison Neill-Rabaux began by welcoming old and new members and then whetted our appetites by providing a synopsis of forthcoming events for the new season, (the programme can be viewed on its own tab above). Allison also highlighted the special event scheduled to take place in October - an evocation of the friendship between our member, Jim Holland with Nobel laureate poet Seamus Heaney through readings of selected poems in English and in French. She reported that all places at the event had been taken but that a waiting list was in operation.
Allison, having reminded everyone that the evening also presented an opportunity to renew or take out membership, then introduced our speaker for the evening, Jonathan LYONS and his talk on L'histoire du Pastis.

Jonathan getting ready to share some pastis at Cercle talk.
Jonathan explained that his talk would be in French, while slides accompanying the presentation would be annotated in English.  He noted that the talk would be short as he wanted to leave enough time for a little dégustation of the famous apéritif.
His talk started with the origins of the drink in absinthe. A distilled concoction of herbs and spices that included wormwood. This proved so injurious to health that governments and temperance movements began to act against it. Absinthe's possibly mind-altering effects (on occasions leading to madness and death) still found favour however among the bourgeoisie and in the artistic world, earning for itself the name of la fée verte - the green fairy.  Jonathan showed us a series of images of how the product featured in several well-known works of art, L'absinthe 1876 by Degas and in L'assommoir by Émile Zola.
A less dangerous alternative had to be sought and so Jonathan introduced us to key players Henri-Louis Pernod and Paul Ricard. Pernod's solution in his factory on the Swiss border was to concentrate on aniseed flavouring.  He then detailed the marketing rivalry between the two leading brands which eventually culminated in the two joining together.  To illustrate his point, Jonathan had assembled for our inspection a range of publicity products some of which may be seen in the picture above.

But he was keen to press on to that dégustation and for our tasting he had procured another distinctive variety of pastis from the Henri Bardouin company.  To help it go down, Allison had brought some olives and other appetisers in the form of little goats cheese biscuits from Le Berry.  These were sablés au crottin de Chavignol fermier and they certainly did go well!
It was clear that Pastis had its admirers while for others the distinctive aroma was not to their liking. For this reviewer though the scent and taste of Pastis tends to conjure up warm days in the South of France with maybe a soundtrack of boules and cicadas.

What's your view?
Fan or not of Pastis we would love to read what you think so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you can set aside a quarter of an hour you may be interested in clicking on this link which takes you to a YouTube video on Les secrets d'un Pastis fait man.  You will have to enter your birth year to see it as that is part of the protection of minors requirements in France and as always attention à l'abus d'alcool. The video is from Pastis Henri Bardouin, makers of the product that featured in our apéritif for this season's programme.

See you next time? À bientôt !