|Old postcard of Montmartre in 1890|
|Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre, 1885|
Public domain image from Wikipedia
"Looking back on my childhood, I remember the delicious golden galette I ate from time to time at the Moulin de la Galette on the summit of my dear Butte Montmartre. There was a garden round the windmill with arbours and a showcase with cardboard pastrycooks rolling out sheets of dough ... I knew the Moulin de la Galette when Montmartre still had its vineyards, its streams and its fields of oats.
"Do you know that in 1830 there were still twenty windmills on top of the Butte Montmartre? And do you know that on 30 March 1814 Pierre-Charles Debray, the miller who owned all these mills, fired the last cannon shot which, alas, did not halt the charge of the Russian troops. ... Perhaps my digression has wearied you, and I ask your forgiveness. When I think of my dear Butte Montmartre of long ago I could go on and on..." (Cooking with Pomiane, p 243-244)The Sundays of Pomiane's boyhood were special with exceptional treats to eat. He particularly remembered friands, which were small stuffed pastry rolls made in charcutrie shops, and delivered to homes in "shining metal containers" along with piping hot cutlets, sausages, and black puddings. After lunch, "the children went to play on the Butte at the edge of the fields of oats which grew where the busy rue Caulaincourt now runs. As they were wearing their Sunday clothes, they were not allowed to paddle in the streams which flowed all about the Butte Montmartre of my childhood." (Cooking with Pomiane, p. 58)
Life had not been perfectly idyllic for Pomiane's parents, who were of Polish origin, and whose name was Pozerski. (He later used his alternate Polish surname, Pomiane, as a pen name for his cooking publications, and I use it exclusively, for consistency.) Both parents had participated in the Polish revolution against Russia in 1863, and both were arrested. His father served time in Siberia -- where he was Dostoevski's only Polish friend. His mother, who was the daughter of a Russian general and a Polish woman, was condemned to death. She escaped to Paris; his father eventually escaped also, and joined her there.
The Pozerskis' first son starved to death during the Paris Commune in 1871. Pomiane's sister was born in 1873, and he in 1875. Pomiane attended a Polish primary school, and then continued his education at the Lycée Condorcet, a French secondary school and continued with scientific and medical studies at the University of Paris and various laboratories. These facts of his life appear in both Ginette Mathieu's book A Table avec Edouard de Pomiane, p. 9, and in his official biography at the Institut Pasteur where he was employed as a scientist. The preface to the English edition of Pomiane's The Jews of Poland: Recollections and Recipes claims that he was born before his parents left Poland, but this is contradictory to many other facts of his life.
As Pomiane became a scientist, a food writer, a radio personality, and a recognized expert on both biology and cuisine, he appears to have been grounded in his early experiences as a French boy with a dual French and Polish identity. He often offered recipes from Polish and other cuisines as a supplement to the fairly classic French family cooking that he documented. During World War I, he was in an ambulance company and often tried to help find and prepare food for the troops as well as treating the wounded. During World War II, he wrote several books about how to deal with the extreme deprivation caused by the occupation of Paris, and how to make the best of very sparse available rationed food. While I have not seen any direct reference in Pomiane's own writings to the misfortunes of his parents prior to his birth, I wonder if he saw in his life a repetition of some of their experiences.
Note: this is one of a series of blog posts I've been writing about Edouard de Pomiane, French food writer and broadcast journalist -- he was the first person to have a cooking show on radio, in 1923. Pomiane spent his entire life in Paris, so I'm linking this post to the ongoing blog event "Paris in July." For more of my Pomiane posts, click on the "Pomiane" label.