My apologies to our faithful readers about the intermittent blanks in publishing France Daily Photo. It’s certainly not from a lack of passion or interest. One of several projects at the forefront include a book with a dual focus: challenging readers to indulge their passion for travel and providing personal glimpses of the many faces of France. I hope you will share with us the things you most enjoy reading and learning about France. Many have told us how much they appreciate the wide range of topics and ‘territories’ covered. Others particularly like those personal moments and suggestions that offer a deeper look at a village, an inn or a person. I appreciate your longstanding loyalty and will keep you posted on our progress.
In the meantime, welcome to a different slant today on our France.
I cherish the lessons I learn along the way about what is important and lasting. One of those lessons centered on an endearing Chapel Dean, who made his own omelette at La Mère Poulard in the medieval village of Mont-Saint-Michel. It is a wonderful story.
As an alumnus of Rollins College, I wrote an article for our collegiate magazine. The piece profiled our Dean of the Chapel, who had recently completed a one-year sabbatical the University of Edinburgh.
I knew him to say a warm hello and have an occasional conversation. Rollins was and still is an exceptional, small Liberal Arts college with less than 2,000 full-time graduates. All of us on campus were like an extended family with all of the ups, downs and merry-go-rounds family can entail; so it would have been impossible to miss this charismatic professor and Dean.
We saw him as a man with a twinkle in his eye, an abiding love of God … and a penchant for chomping on cigars! In preparing for our interview, I brushed up on his ‘official’ background. Boston-born, from a Scottish family that emigrated to Prince Edward Island; he and his family later moved on to Massachusetts. By the time he was fifteen, he had made up his mind to enter the ministry.
After completing his Bachelors of Science and Bachelors in Sacred Theology at Harvard, he was invited to join the Rollins College faculty. By that time, he and his wife had produced four children and had ministered in two Connecticut churches. He was the fourth dean of the Knowles Memorial Chapel and would ultimately earn the title of full professor. He was bemused by the latter. He related that his professorship was a real accomplishment, in that his only previous teaching experience was instructing Sunday School.
So I had the privilege … finally … of sitting down for what seemed like a fireside tête-à-tête with this remarkable man – as extraordinary for his ‘in the moment’ ways as for any of his accomplishments. We simply chatted. He recalled rainy days and interesting moments in and around Edinburgh; and he cherished his well-deserved exploratory retreat, after a lifetime of significant responsibilities.
With his bifocals perched on the bridge of his nose, he peered over at me like a school child ready to share something that happened on the playground. That is when he recalled his trip to Mont Saint-Michel, to this historic pre-Romanesque settlement on a rock in the midst of a huge bay. When the tides come in, the Mont is isolated. It becomes a village tucked away from the world for a while; perhaps with ancient whispers from the Benedictines, who settled the rock.
With all of that beauty, that religious history, that magnificent sight in the North of France; his story centered on the invitation to, “Come and make your own omelet.” The tale was appealing; he would have made a great village storyteller.
But it was only when we finally made our own way to La Mère Poulard that the ‘bud’ he presented to me that day came into full bloom.
As we ducked away from the grey drizzle into the warm entry of the restaurant, the picture he had painted transformed from black and white to color. A young girl in a long burgundy apron stood before the open fire, long-handled omelette pans at the ready. Since the L’Hôtel de Madame Poulard opened in 1888, the ultra-light omelette has become quite famous, drawing countless celebrities since the 19th century.
I imagined his hands whisking those eggs in an old copper bowl and holding that long handle. I believe his heart was as warm as the hearth where he stood. You needn’t guess what we ordered on our visit, and it came with his long-ago message about the importance of little moments in life.
After the sabbatical, he received his honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Rollins College. These words were read to him:
“…The scourge of the administration, an implacable foe of red tape, the custodian of a thousand and one faculty and student confidences, and always a jealous advocate of freedom of the pulpit, and worship.”
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