Mar 31, 2017

Shield Your Family: Gueule d'Amour


The Chateau Fontaine-Henry is really into their family crests, and a visit there gets me thinking: What would our family crest be? The tradition of blazons -- heraldry, shields, crests, coats of arms -- goes back to medieval ages, and possibly beyond. Each color, symbol, and even sometimes the shape has meaning. It's like a language you just haven't learned.

Throughout Chateau Fontaine-Henry's 1,000 year history, different family  names, and shields, have come and gone.


Red signifies love and patriotism.

Blue is for beauty, fidelity, and perseverance.

Here at the castle on Jersey:

In fact, at every castle we go to, we find a family crest proudly displayed somewhere. Here at Chantilly and Angers:


Here at the Tour Jean Sans Peur in Paris, former castle home to the Dukes of Burgundy:

And, of course, it's not only the shields. The symbols are used for all manners of identifying accessories and heraldry.

What would a historical reenactment be without the coats of arms emblazoned (that word is not a coincidence) on flags, horses, helmets, capes.

Even in modern times, each French department has its own coat of arms, its own blazon, as do virtually all "old" families that can trace their roots to before the revolution.

map from: http://armorialdefrance.fr/recherche_par_departement.php

If you really want to talk about the family crests, there's a grammar to be used, and specific vocabulary. For instance these three blazons are described as "from chief to base: in pale a lozenge and a mullet" (on the left) and "from the field up: on a bend a rondel" (in the middle) and "argent, a fess sable and three bezants" (on the right). And that's the English description; it's probably only slightly more comprehensible than if it were in French, or Swahili for that matter.

drawings from: http://heraldry.sca.org/armory/bruce.html

Each symbol, shape, direction, and color means something. There are four main colors, and other than the blue -- Azur, representing beauty, fidelity, and perseverance -- each has a slightly indirect name. Black, for example, is not "black" but "sable" (literally, "sandy") and means sadness and humility. Green is "Sinople" and means health, joy, and freedom and is the oddest of all of the color names. Sinople originally meant "red" and was used to describe the red in blazons. But then around the 13th or 14th centuries, for reasons that are unclear, it came to mean "green". It was probably in response to red being called "Gueules", though nobody knows why the transition from one term to the other was made. Red represents love and patriotism, but the word itself -- "gueule" -- means more literally "maw" as in an animal's great, gaping mouth.

My family is currently working to create our own family coat of arms. One thing I am sure of is that it will need to have a green background or predominant green theme, as it's the only color whose meaning resonates fully. That's too bad, because I'd rather use red and blue, representing both the flags of the US and of France. Well, at least I can be certain we won't go with black, as sadness and humility aren't exactly my family's defining characteristics or virtues.

THE CHEESE: Gueule d'Amour

Gueule d'Amour is a French term of endearment that translates something like "What a face!" and refers to a face that really draws you in with its beauty (and perhaps an element of mystery). The expression seems to come from a 1926 novel of the same name. The cheese, however, is a much more recent invention. It was created in 1978 to a cheese house created in 1950, Fromagerie Maître Pennec, whose cheesemakers must have a great sense of humor and enjoy creatively naming their cheeses.

It's an artisanal cheese, made from pasteurized cows' milk in Normandie. The green sprinkles on top are chives, and there's even a tinge of white wine used in the process (I'm assuming to help preserve the chives and keep them green, because I can't see, smell, or taste any traces of it in or on the cheese itself).

It's a vaguely Camembert-like cheese, but more of a pasteurized, grocery-store version of Camembert. The texture is on the slightly chewy side, but it's still a fine, simple, buttery-cow cheese overall.


Gueule d'Amour is a term of endearment meaning something like "What a face!" Gueule d'Amour is also a cheese; based on the name, perhaps the creators hope it's a particularly attractive one. Gueule d'Amour is also the name (Gueule) and meaning (d'Amour) of the red color used in traditional family crests and heraldry. Hmmm...perhaps our family crest should have a wheel of cheese on it, but if it does, I'm going to be honest and say it would be something oozier.


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