Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Le Temps des Cerises

Cherries and spring come together in Paris. I found this pile of cherries on rue du Cherche-Midi. The green leaves add just the right touch. Greengrocers intuitively know complementary colors (a Red/Green combo) bring out the best in each other. Dreaming of ripe cherries is considered a dream of wish-fulfilment.
These Burlat cherries are in the Marché d'Aligre , open every day until 1pm except Monday. La Burlat is France's most common cherry and represents half the nation's consumption. Some other variétés de cerises: la Belge, Beltza, Griottes, Rainier, Napoleon, Reverchon, and Montmorency. Provence provides 60% of the production, then the Languedoc-Roussillon and the Eastern Pyrenees. Put fresh cherries in a plastic bag. eat within 3 days.
Candy cherries are made from almond paste or marzipan but the fruit is used in France in les crêpes, tartes, and the classic clafoutis aux cerise. Here are two recipes for cherry clafoutis from La Petite Chinoise (pitted) and Ms. Glaze (not pitted). Both have luscious photos. Meanwhile I sprinkled cherries in all my Paris still lifes.
"La Cerise sur le Gâteau" is the title Pierre Hermé gives this huge choco cake filled with: bisquit dacquoise aux noisettes croquantes, praliné feullieté, fines feuilles de chocolat au lait, ganache et chantilly au chocolat au lait...Does this title mean the same as the English expression, "the cherry on top" as in over the top? Oui.

The queen of cherries from the annual June Fete des Cerises in Westhoffen, Alsace is not far from Strasbourg. Lots of crèpes à la cerise are eaten and cerises à l'eau de vie is drunk.
I grew up with a Queen Anne cherry tree. They were sour pie cherries, but the birds didn't mind. Back then I was a slow eater. I spent hours checking to see if the inside color matched the outside. I never guessed I'd be matching cherries with watercolor paint years later.
Cherry Tea Pot, watercolor, 12 x 10"
Cherry red is not easy to capture or match. Cherries look shiny, almost translucent and reflect light. But the brightest, warmest reds in your watercolor box, the Cadmium Reds, are opaque and look dead on the paper. The cool reds like Alizarin and Permanent Rose are transparent but don't best capture the cherries' warmth. I've been working on these watercolors over the long holiday weekend. I'm not happy yet. Painting cherries is not piece of cake.     

Cherry Tin, watercolor, 12 x 10"


  1. hi carol, can you believe this is my first time visiting? i am kicking myself for not having done it sooner - beautiful pictures! (and large ones too :)) watercolours are gorgeous too...

  2. Anonymous9:31 AM

    I had no idea your link from flickr opened to such wonderful things :) keep the loveliness coming - i'm living vicariously in paris thru your blog, instead of my dreary windowless office in hong kong :)

  3. Janine - I'm with you all the way. It's hot & humid here in NYC. Thanks for joining me in my vicarious adventures in Paris :)

    J - I'm so glad you stopped by :)
    I make my own watercolors from glycerin, honey and gum arabic + pigment - not unlike cooking...although your cuisine is the creme de la creme!

  4. Anonymous9:37 AM

    J’adore les photos des cerises, les aquarelles, c’est ravissant.
    The Blog Go On :)))))))))))

  5. Carol-
    Those cherries look unbelievably appetizing!
    Oh, and "la cerise sur le gateau" means "icing on the cake"

  6. MOI - THANK YOU for the translation of "la cerise sur le gateau". I had a feeling I was in the ballpark, but leave it to M.Hermé to give amusing titles to his cakes as well as knock our socks off with his visual creations!

  7. You are the most bella cherry on the cake! This is a delighful post, there were cherries galore when I left France on vacation!
    your paintings and the subtle blue light, how do you do it!

  8. TICA :) Thanks - that blue is my own special home-made brew of watercolor and I'm addicted to it..

    Yesterday PB got 2 very nice plugs at
    and at
    Merci !

  9. Love your blog.

    Now I have an excuse to stop window licking and go into the chocolatier - still life!

  10. Anonymous7:51 AM

    I think if I had to make a list of my top twenty five favourite things, cherries would be near the start! Love your blog.

  11. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Here's a "recette de cerise" to paint one:


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