Duck Fat Caramels
I was in Brittany once, but I can’t tell you too much about it. My French host family took me to Vannes, a commune in the Morbihan department, after a very early sweat-and-alcohol-soaked morning with my “sister” Aurélie and her friends at the discothèque. I was 16 years old.
The family must have told me where we were going, but even though the Visine made me look awake, I most certainly was not. And so, I didn’t know where we were until I saw the region’s reed-roofed houses out the car window. I failed to take in the scenery; my main focus was trying not to vom all over the back seat. That would have been just too horrifically American. The drive wasn’t long—I’d say about an hour and a half from the family’s home in the Haye-Fouassière commune of the Loire-Atlantique. (In fact, the Loire-Atlantique was a Breton territory pre-Vichy France.) But it was very uncomfortable, as I undoubtably smelled like a combination of some Jacques-ass’s armpits and the inside of the thong that I found stuck to my shoe as I walked out of the club hours earlier.
Brittany was so wonderfully Brittany that it was almost a parody of itself. We walked down Vannes center’s cobblestone streets, which were lined with medieval, wood-paneled buildings and dotted with vendors skillfully flipping lacy buckwheat crêpes. When we’d arrived, like clockwork, the bagadoù, a traditional Breton band of bagpipers, marched through the square, and children, playing tag or swinging wooden yo-yos, squealed and ran to the side to allow for their procession. It felt a lot like that scene from my favorite of the 1970s Rankin-Bass stop-motion TV Christmas movies, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, in which the children playing in the streets scurry away to allow for the Burgermeister’s passing, except the scene in Brittany was much happier and less German.