For the upcoming Fête du Travail festivities in France, I asked my friend Janig, who lives in Paris, about how the French typically celebrate Fête du Travail and the warmer weather of spring and summer.
Janig grew up in a small coastal village in the Brittany region of France, and associates springtime most strongly with Easter; she remembers holding laurel branches in Palm Sunday processions, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Easter bunny and the yearly egg hunt held in her parents’ garden, and surprising her mother with bouquets of fresh-picked forget-me-not, a favorite flower. She always looked forward to May first as a day off of school which, living near the sea, meant a day spent with “sun, beach, sailing, walks in the woods, parties with friends,” and, most importantly, visits from her Parisian cousins. She also recalls upholding the French tradition of offering lily of the valley blossoms to close family members and friends “ as a lucky charm.” These days, she has traded places with her cousins from Paris, and visits them in Brittany on holidays.
As far as Janig and I know, there aren’t any specific foods associated with Fête du Travail, which leaves the floor wide open for me to humbly suggest you outfit your May Day table with my favorite French dish of all time: sweet crêpes. Crêpes happen to be a Breton staple, which Janig’s grandmother, an illustrious home cook, prepared for her weekly during her childhood. Not to be confused with their savory cousin the galette, which is, in the Breton tradition, a crêpe made of buckwheat flour and stuffed with savory fillings like egg, ham, and gruyere cheese (the platonic ideal of a “salt” galette, according to Janig), sweet, or “soft” crêpes are made with wheat flour and sugar and filled or topped with just about any sucrose-related fantasy: fresh strawberries, melted chocolate, Nutella, caramelized bananas, and vanilla ice cream are de rigueur in crêperies across France. Some even come with a built-in party trick: crêpes Suzette are prepared with a delicious caramelized orange butter sauce, then set on fire tableside with the help of a skilled waiter and a good dousing of Grand Marnier.
This recipe for pineapple sweet crêpes doesn’t involve any flashy pyrotechnics, but satisfies the sweet tooth all the same. To offset some of the sugar shock, I prepared mine with whole wheat pastry flour, which behaves like all-purpose flour in the oven, but has retained the pigment, fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients that are otherwise stripped from the wheat grain during the refining process. The result is the same sweet flavor and delicate bite from a crêpe made with refined flour, plus the health benefits of a whole grain. Thanks to this recipe, you really can have it all.
As a note, the pineapple filling for these crepes is very similar to the pineapple coconut crisp filling from another La Dona recipe. If you happen to have some leftover filling, feel free to use it here! Just cook it in a hot pan with a tablespoon of butter until it bubbles, then spoon it on top of the folded crepes.
I recommend cooking your crêpes in a nonstick pan, unless you happen to have a special cast-iron pan on hand. Keep in mind that even with the right cookware, flipping the delicate, paper-thin crêpes can be daunting at first, so don’t worry about sacrificing your first few attempts to the spatula gods. Besides, as Janig will tell you, even crumpled-up crêpes taste amazing when smothered in butter. Bonne chance!