I hope you've had a happy Christmas, if you celebrate it, and that this week leading up to New Year's is restful and a break from your normal routine...
Last night's conversation over a multi-course, cooperative Christmas dinner at a friend's house included (not surprisingly) a brief mention of the word "indulgence," but in its plural, historical, Catholic context. "I think it is a French word originally**," said one of the French guests, raising an expressive eyebrow. "Borrowed by the English."
"Well, indulgence is a rather French concept, wouldn't you say?"
Eyebrow up again, slight smile, no comment.
A bit later, as we pushed our chairs away from the table after the main course of roast goose, groaning a little, this same guest -- who had come to the party straight from the airport -- pulled out a bottle of Calvados (apple brandy) he had brought back from France as a gift for the host. "You are feeling perhaps too full?" he said. "In Normandy we like to have a small cup of apple sorbet with a shot of Calvados on it between courses. It calms the digestion and then you can eat again." There was mango rather than apple sorbet in the house, but we tried it anyway, and then went on to dispatch three more courses -- a large beautiful salad; a platter of clementines, grapes, and Quebec cheeses; and dessert (a Gâteau Reine Elisabeth) -- before tumbling out into the cold at 1:00 am.
** the etymology and gradual change in meaning of indulgence are, in fact, fascinating:
mid-14c., "freeing from temporal punishment for sin," from O.Fr. indulgence or directly from L. indulgentia "complaisance, fondness, remission," from indulgentem (nom. indulgens) "indulgent, kind, tender, fond," prp. of indulgere "be kind, yield," of unknown origin; perhaps from in- "in" + derivative of PIE root *dlegh- "to engage oneself."
Sense of "gratification of another's desire or humor" is attested from late 14c. That of "yielding to one's inclinations" (technically self-indulgence) is from 1640s. In British history, Indulgence also refers to grants of certain liberties to Nonconformists under Charles II and James II, as special favors rather than legal rights; specifically the Declarations of Indulgence of 1672, 1687, and 1688 in England and 1669, 1672, and 1687 in Scotland.