What do you know about chestnuts? You might think of the opening lines of The Christmas Song (“chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”). The song is a sure sign that Christmas is coming, but how many of us have actually eaten a chestnut?
For thousands of years, chestnuts have been a nourishing food around the world. They can be eaten raw, dried, boiled, baked, and roasted, or even ground into flour. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate chestnuts. Roasted ones could be found for sale on the streets of Rome in the 1500’s and in America in the early 20th century; you can still find them offered by street vendors in countries such as China, the Philippines, Japan, and Turkey, and in Europe during the winter. (They are less familiar in the United States today because of chestnut blight, a fungus that killed off the chestnut trees in America during the early 20th century.)
But our subject today is the chestnut in France–18th century France, to be specific.