And I start wondering, when did humans first start eating candy? A long time ago is the short answer. The word candy first appeared in the late 13th century, but we've been eating sweets a lot longer than that. Prior to the discovery and ultimate refinery of cane and beet sugar, sweets were almost exclusively made from honey by many ancient cultures, including in Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, and the Middle East.
And then of course, I start to think about the kinds of containers these ancient sweets must have been stored in. Clay and stone were frequently used, but materials like brass, gold, silver, ivory and jade certainly played a part. Once chocolate escaped its cradle in Mesoamerica/South America and became a sweet food to the Europeans, chocolate and candy boxes really became something of an art form. In France, a container to house chocolate or candy is called a bonbonnière and there are many breathtaking examples from the 18th and 19th centuries, including this one which you can find in the Napoleonic Rooms at the Louvre in Paris - it's encrusted in diamonds and fit for an emperor!
When I finally cut through all the wrapping on my box from France, I'm delighted to find unscathed the first shipment of the bonbonnières which I have commissioned for Maison de Castelnau. These have been hand-painted by an artist in Martres-Tolosane, France, whose family has been creating this style of faïencerie for six generations. I'm relieved they are here safely, and excited to be able to share them with you.
As I repack everything for opening day, I think about not only how grateful I am for amazing foods like chocolate and honey, but also for dedicated artisans who carry forth their ancestor's torch.