Well, to be fair, we bought the alcohol outside of a cathedral.
And to be even fairer, we didn’t even drink it.
Okay, maybe a taste.
When in Troyes… buy Prunelle de Troyes.
It’s a 40% alcohol made from blackthorn (or sloe, like sloe gin). It’s been distilled there in that tiny town with a giant cathedral since 1840.
And we just had to have it.
Partially as a surprise for my very distant cousin who is very interested in all sorts of fruit-based alcohols (particularly calvados, which is prevalent in the north of France).
But partially because we hadn’t tried it before, and can’t easily get it anywhere else.
With that, we’ll bring a little bit of Troyes with us. And we’ll remember it, not just for its cathedrals, but for this light yellow alcohol.
What’s different, maybe, is unlike Champagne (the region) which is known for champagne (the booze), is that the idea behind Prunelle de Troyes is just to keep the gastronomy of the place alive, a way of sharing a bit of the past with the people who visit today.
Champagne is a bit more… proactive, shall we say, in protecting their image, barring anyone who isn’t from the region from calling their sparkling wine “champagne.”
But that control over the name works. And it creates an allure, and a story, and people go to Champagne. Just to drink champagne. It’s still about a regional product, just a different tact. A different scale.
Then there are the BN biscuits, a popular enough cookie herein France that stands for Biscuiterie Nantaise (from Nantes, France, where they’re made, but for the French people I’ve asked, most didn’t know the connection). The name isn’t as prominent, but it’s still there, still reminding the people who know the connection of the city it comes from.
There’s nothing quite like the sense to trigger a memory.
And does it go the other way?
Because our senses – and our experiences with all sorts of treats – can just as easily motivate our desire for experiences.
(Only guessing here, but I bet someone has gong to Italy just for the pizza.)
So what can we do to create those kinds of experiences for others?
Because if someone in your town has been brewing up gin for the past two hundred years, or making some tasty regional cookies, you might just have something on your hands.
(Or if that all fails just open up a liquor store across from the church and see who wanders in.)