French People Getting Weird

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A French Party 600 Years in the Making

By Hugh Thomas

Every August, the people of Le Quesnoy, France, get together for a big old party. Among the night market, cannon fire, and marching bands (the town is known for its medieval fortifications and military history) is the centerpiece: a 12-foot wicker-based puppet of a man – complete with eye shadow, rouge, and a hennin – clutching a basket of bonbons.

He goes by Pierrot Bimberlot, affectionately named after Pierre Host, a giant and a jester in William IV of Hainault’s court. In April 1385, Pierre got into a bit of trouble when he – having been on the wine – passed out drunk in the woods while he was supposed to be confecting and distributing sweets to the common people in celebration of William’s marriage to Margaret of Burgundy.

When a band of children came across the jester asleep in the Bois du Gard park, they apprehended his treats, sang and danced around him in delight, and went home to boast about their find. On hearing this, Margaret sent soldiers to arrest Pierre, then dressed him in white, dolled him up with makeup, and paraded the giant up and down the streets of Le Quesnoy.

It was a punishment that, perhaps, suited the misdemeanor. In some parts of Europe it was considered bonne chance to distribute sweets at celebrations.  It’s probably how we got the English interpretation for the old word confetti, or “candy” in Italian: guests would shower newlyweds with sugared almonds to represent the sweet times and the bitter times that come with married life.

With weddings and civil ceremonies back on the menu now, many Europeans finally have something to drink to. Maybe some party will get wild enough that we’ll still be talking about it 636 years after the fact. 🍬

Bibliography:

Fêtes de Bimberlot - Le Quesnoy

Les Géants

A History of Food (Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, 1926)

Sweet Tooth: The bittersweet history of candy (Kate Hopkins, 2012)

Hi, just wanted to make sure you knew about this cinnamon roll. At All Day Baby in Los Angeles.

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