We are in the midst of grape harvesting in our region at the moment, les vendanges. You can see the people with their trucks and machines along the little country roads, and there are signs warning you to be wary.
I am more than happy to oblige. It seems that this vital activity is always on the verge of a crisis – whether from hail or poor weather conditions, pests or other pépins.
Which brings me to the inspiration for this post. The seed that is found inside the grape, along with other fruits like apples, is called le pépin. For reasons that I have not been able to elucidate, this tiny seed or pip is associated with trouble.
To encounter un pépin means to run into a problem of some sort along the way. Readers of this blog will have gathered by now that such things occur not infrequently in France. So although I do not know the etymology of the expression, I can easily imagine how the pip could be associated with trouble and strife.
Eating fruit, for example. Personally, I would much rather drink grapes than eat them. But for those who are amorous of the grape itself, running into pips can be problematic. Do you spit them out? And then there’s wine making. Perhaps the grape seeds themselves are not good for the wine? Something to do with the tannins?
On the other hand, I have recently learned that grape seed oil is a healthful choice for cooking as it has a relatively high smoke point, is full of antioxidants and promotes good cholesterol. And according to this source, you should chew and swallow the seeds as they are healthy for you.
My dear late mother was a source of many wonderful things, not the least of which were her expressions. “She gives me the pip” was one of my favourites.
Pépin le Bref was also the name of a king, the father of Charlemagne. I am useless with history, however, and will leave further explorations of his rather fascinating name to those more qualified.
Will 2016 be a good year? It is hard to say. The summer was slow to start but hot and dry for a good long while. In any case, we’ll find out before long. The first young wines will be out in November.
Until then, may you stay clear of les pépins!