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Marisa Livet | all galleries >> All My Galleries >> The itinerant story teller's desk > An ancient story of a vegetable soup and of Catherine, who didn't know chocolate...
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27-NOV-2007 Marisa

An ancient story of a vegetable soup and of Catherine, who didn't know chocolate...

Geneve - Switzerland

We are in Lyon, France. It's 1540 or maybe 1541...
We have not any calendar to check exactly.
But we follow the step of a man with strong hands, who walks, without noticing us, hidden by the mysterious screen of centuries, which separate our life from his.
Claude Cheynel is tired; he looks forward to a bowl of warm soup waiting for him on the wooden table of his kitchen.
He's a skilled artisan, probably the best in his field, whom one can found in the blessed town of Lyon.
His guild recognizes him as the most talented tinker.

While he walks back home in that remote evening ( we can see him, but he cannot see us)he's far from imagining that one of his children, little Catherine will be one day an heroine in another country and she will be still remembered and celebrated joyfully every year, after nearly five centuries.

Now we leave Claude to his deserved soup and we concentrate our attention on his daughter Catherine.
Years have passed....
Catherine has just met in Lyon Pierre Royaume, tinker like her father. Girls sometimes look for their father reflection on the men they are going to choose...

I's 1563, the whole Europe is shacked by the strong winds of religious wars,Lutheran reform has started contrasting the monopoly of Roman Catholicism.

But HISTORY, all written in capital letters, is not what interests us now, it's just the background of Catherine's life.
We can see all from a different perspective, Catherine lives inside that history, realizing only some aspects of it.

So let's try to look around by her eyes.

Catherine and Pierre embrace Protestantism, the so called "Reform". And in 1572, the year of the bloodiest massacre of Christians by Christians -the Saint Bartholomew's Day slaughter- they left France and moved to Geneva.

We won't evoke here the echoes of the French massacre of Huguenots,we'll plug our years and we'll close also that troubling chapter into the drawer of history and we'll put a label on it, with these words on:
"To not judge out of context, but to remember always".

History is painted on the canvas of big events, but it's written by little common people.

So let's follow Catherine and let's try to have a lighter heart.

Catherine and Pierre find shelter in Geneva, which followed Protestant faith.
Pierre's talent as tinker allows him to climb the steps of a good career.
He does't make pots and pans of tin like his father in law anymore;he mints money for the government of Geneva Republic.

Like it still happens nowadays, his position gives him extra benefits, so Pierre and Catherine have their cosy home in the walls of the town,exactly over the central "Money gate".
Life seems to run like a long quiet river for our happy couple.

Now follow me please, because we are peeping into their life a little closer.

It's a winter night, the night between the 11th and the 12th of December 1602.

Pierre probably sleeps, after a common day of work.
Catherine is still up; she has just finished preparing a very big pot of vegetable soup,
which smell deliciously and must simply stews quietly on a low flame,to be ready for the following morning.

Pierre love to have a bowl of hot and corroborating soup for breakfast in winter and so do the children....

Geneva sleeps, all the lights are off, and the northern wind, which makes the lake rough,
is the only voice of the night....
The only one?
Catherine hears other sounds, other noises, much less familiar....

The Savoyards, who have remained in the ancient faith and dream of the reconquest of Geneva,
are trying a sudden military exploit and attack Geneva the Protestant by surprise

More than 2000 soldiers are climbing up the walls with ladders.
It's what we call nowadays "L'Escalade" -the Climb-.
Madame Royaume, our Catherine, is in the best position to see what's happening;
she peers into the darkness from her kitchen window, hidden behind a shutter.

She takes her decision immediately,
no reason to run away like a scared child,
no time to call her sleeping husband.

She opens wide her window and throw the heavy pan full of her precious hot vegetable soup
down on the head of the astonished Savoyard soldiers!
If you are a soldier on a ladder and you receive a pan and a lot of boiling soup exactly on your face, I guess you cannot help shouting loud!
I's exactly what happens, the soldiers shout,
Madame Royaume shouts even louder,
the good people of Geneva wake up and they all run to defend their walls.
The Savoyards, once their surprise strategy became useless,
are obliged to leave and to postpone the conquest of Geneva to a more favourable time.

This is the entire preface to illustrate this photo,
which is a symbol of a nice tradition.
I find it funny that a pot of vegetable soup has become a symbol of the will of resistance
and patriotism of Geneva common people.
Every year in the very same night in Geneva there is a very evocative parade with people wearing like the characters of the historical episode
( some are even playing the role of losers, the Savoyards),
the lights of the town are shortly switched off and the people parade at the light of torches.
The following morning a warm and deliciously smelling bowl of vegetable soup
is offered to all the passers by all over the centre of the town,
where there are big pots on braziers...
The soup is cooked on real wooden flames, as Catherine Royaume was supposed to do.
And at last we come to the photo...
A symbol of the "Escalade" celebration is Catherine soup pot,
made of chocolate and filled with all kinds of chocolate candies,
shaped a little like vegetables.
These chocolate pots in all dimensions are already on sale now
and they will be on sale until the day of the celebration.
You can see all the symbols are there...
the ladders, the flag of Geneva, the vegetables...

Of course we are Swiss and we love chocolate,
so we have to find all pretexts to make new chocolate shapes and to eat all at the end.

My last smile is for Catherine, "Dame Royaume", as she's known.
She could not imagine that her tin pot would have become of chocolate...
she had not any idea that chocolate existed.

Canon EOS 350D
1/20s f/4.5 at 28.0mm iso100 full exif

other sizes: small medium original auto
Guest 02-Dec-2007 03:19
Marisa; Thank you for the dedication. It's appreciated. Thank you even more for the wonderful story, and the brief glimpse into part of your history. Lee
M Williamson Lebon01-Dec-2007 15:22
Magnificent!! V