These come in bewildering variations of colours, flavours and textures, with all sorts of extras on the side. Such as whipping and lacy overlays that hide the temptations hidden underneath.
My first direct contact with the top end of the range was when I stayed at the Hotel Merridien in Paris in the mid seventies. When we checked in at reception as a tired and slightly dishevelled aircrew, I saw this vision sitting demurely in the lounge reception area.
She was posed with a French magazine, a long cigarette holder and a glass of orange juice which she lifted to, but did not touch, her lips.
I have no idea of the name of the fashionable clothes she wore, but the effect was striking, even to us, who were behind these modern times by at least twenty years. Such was the advantage of living in Africa at the time!
This woman looked as through she had stepped out of the front cover of Vogue magazine.
Later that evening, as we walked the Champs Elysées past the Arc de Triomphe and later to Montmartre, we saw yet more in this range of delights on offer.
The dressings were varied and involved copious layers of fruit and cream, sometimes with layers of nuts and raisins. Alcohol of course adds that certain “je ne sais quoi”, which makes any type of tart look more attractive… or even downright beautiful!
However, one overriding observation that I had was that they were all small. Almost diminutive, when compared with German Tarts, for example, which are always large, sometimes overbearing, and require a huge appetite to satisfy. Black Forrest cake with cherries and cream has no equivalent in France. The French are overwhelmed when confronted by such a full frontal culinary attack.
That was until this week.
Because this week I have come across the biggest tart in France.
In fact, it is the biggest tart in the world!
The development of this tart has been kept as a sort of secret weapon, but today is the day reckoning.
Today the full majesty of this creation will be revealed!
It is being prepared, as I tap away, by the inhabitants of a small community in the Burgundy area of France in the village of Chamblanc.
This village is famous for the ‘Order of Cluny‘ there, which was started by the late Blessed Anne-Marie Javouhey who was beatified for her work with slaves and underprivileged people in Gambia, Senegal and French Guiana as well as her involvement saving Roman Catholic priests during the dark days of the French Revolution. Marlene and I have done a translation for an English audiotape for tourists to the convent, so as a result we have an “In” to these secret ‘goings-on’.
It started with the arrival of huge sheets of metal, which they welded into an eighty square metre ‘pan’. Tractors brought 50 stères (one metre cubes) of wood, which they placed in a temporary pit. Two tons of greengages were de-stoned and laid over 650 kilograms of pastry, with handfuls of powdered almond for that ‘special’ taste.
The pan weighs eight tons, the ‘pot cover’ weighs 3.5 tons, and the whole tart will be placed over the fire with a 50-ton crane.
The people of the village have been preparing the fruit, de-stoning the greengages since dawn.
When it is finished, the tart will be sold and the proceeds donated to the cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy charity at ‘l’Hôpital Cochin’ in Paris.
The cooking will result in an eighty square metre carbon footprint.
However, all in all, it will be a tart to remember, with a much more worthwhile end result than a few fleeting minutes in a Parisian bedroom.