As Shrove Tuesday falls upon the 5th March, you may feel tempted to create pancakes in the kitchen in Chateau de Bois Giraud; indeed all the ingredients may be locally sourced. Mardi Gras is, of course, “Fat Tuesday” before “Mercredi des Cendres” – Ash Wednesday – while the word “carnival” has its origins in the Latin term “carnelevare” which means meaning ‘to take out the meat’.  This was just one excluded foodstuff during Lent and making even more of an impact was the exclusion of dairy products plus sugar and foods containing fats. These were often used to make crêpes and Bottereaux beignets (a speciality of the Nantes region) or bugnes (from Lyons), thereby clearing the larder of forbidden foods.

Mardi Gras celebrations are believed to have commenced in the USA in 1699, and across France, you will encounter such extravagances as Carnaval de Nice with its Battle of Flowers, and the Limoux Carnaval (which actually commences in January). There is, of course, the Carnaval de Paris which was revived after a long hiatus in 1997 and you might feel the understandable urge to stage your own mini-event in the Chateau grounds. This might provoke laughter from younger family members, depending on your choice of costume, but you have earned the right to enjoy yourself.

And if this writer may be permitted to indulge in a personal memory, “Pancake Day” in a certain English provincial region (think Benny Hill, the QE2 and the Ford Transit) during the 1970s was often rather different. The dish of the day sometimes resembled a bath mat covered in Tate & Lyle syrup, but it was still a treat, especially when compared to the regular delights of Bird’s Dream Topping or Fish Fingers. Many readers of my generation (Abbey Road, The Moon Landing) will understand why Britons of a certain age so often rhapsodise about French foods. It is because we were brought up in an era when a Jacob’s Club Biscuit was an almost unimaginable treat…