Lovers Quarrel and Accidental Revenge, in French
A Short Letter from France

Armistice or Veterans Day & France's Wartime vegetable

In front of Smokey: just-harvested jerusalem artichokes. More about these meaningful root vegetables in today's story.

TODAY'S WORD: le topinambour

    : jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

ECOUTER/LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc pronounce the example sentence, with topinambour, below: Download MP3 or Download Wav file

Sa diffusion en Europe se développe rapidement grâce à sa culture facile, sa rusticité et sa forte multiplication végétative, même dans des sols pauvres. Il est appelé poire de terre dans le Traité des aliments de Louis Lémery en 1723.  Lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, sa consommation en tant que légume de rationnement, souvent mal cuit et cuisiné sans matière grasse, a laissé dans certains pays d'Europe de mauvais souvenirs. En effet, le topinambour, tout comme le rutabaga (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera), a vu sa consommation augmenter, car il n'était pas, comme la pomme de terre, réquisitionné au titre des indemnités de guerre versées à l'Allemagne. -From French Wikipedia

Its spread in Europe developed quickly, thanks to its easiness to grow, its hardiness and its ability to populate, even in poor soil. It is called the "pear of the earth" in the Louis Lémery's Treatise of Foods in 1723. During the Second World War, its consumption as a rationing vegetable, often badly cooked and cooked without fats, left bad memories in certain European countries. In effect, the Jerusalem artichoke, like the rutabaga, saw its consumption augmenting, as it was not, like the potato, requisitionned by title of war indemnities paid to Germany.

Nov2014Mas de Perdrix. A home in France that artists and writers love to rent.  Work on your creative project in this inspiring environment.


    by Kristin Espinasse

I was so disappointed to have missed the chance to honor veterans this year,  here in this French word journal. And then, by chance, I overheard a French woman say that Wednesday was férié! I checked my calendar and realized that le onze novembre had not yet passed--and it was indeed Remembrance Day!

Next, I went through my French vocabulary archives and, stumbling onto the word topinambour, reread the accompanying story.... But what does "jerusalem artichoke" have to do with Veterans Day, you may be wondering? I might have wondered the same, if I hadn't been sitting in our vineyard, last spring, listening to a planter tell of how this modest root vegetable helped save the French from wartime famine (read to the end of this story).

Then while admiring a pile of just-picked topinambours, it hit me the serendipity of it all. Those symbolic sunchokes were ready for harvesting on this sentimental day: Le Jour du Souvenir! And while I had picked those topinambours two days before, I will now mark my calendar to, dorénavant,  or from this day forward, on November 11th harvest this legume also known at le soleil vivace. Yes, this  "lively sun" - for the life these brave soldiers gave to everyone!

Share your thoughts on Veterans Day here in the comments box. I'm on my way outside now, to harvest more topinambours,  a little more mindfully than the last time.

Click here to leave a comment.

férié = holiday
le 11 novembre = l'Armistice, Armistic Day or le Jour du Souvenir


Smokey and me, about to harvest more sunchokes. Share your Jerusalem artichoke recipes in the comments.  Photo by Tessa Baker

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While driving home with my daughter, we passed Sanary-sur-Mer, and this breathtaking sunset or couché du soleil. For more daily life photos (mostly of my French permaculture garden!) join me here at Instagram

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety