Fieschi, who has Corsican ancestry, has just returned from France with confections for the celebration: the candied fruits, chestnuts, nougat, and the famous Calissons d’Aix, small oval confections made from almond paste covered with royal icing. Yuki Fieschi was particularly happy to see the marrons glaces (candied chestnuts). She peels away the gold foil from each one and announces, “These are delicious.”
The Brattle Street residence where the Fieschis live is now owned by the French government. It was built in 1917 for artist Albert Felix Schmitt, a member of the Boston School of painters and of the Guild of Boston Artists. The entire top floor was once the artist’s studio and has a magnificent skylight. Although most formal dinner parties are held on the first floor, the massive light-filled atelier, with a grand piano, is a fine setting for larger events. A kitchen on that floor saves Jaulin many trips up and down three flights.
Fabien Fieschi, who is fluent in Japanese, attended a Japanese university for a year. His fields of expertise are Asia and strategic affairs, and his postings have including the United Nations in New York, Tokyo, and Paris. France has had a mission in Boston since 1768, he says. He met his wife in Tokyo, where she studied clothing design. At the time she spoke almost no French, but is fluent now and chats away comfortably with Jaulin to plan menus. Their sons move easily between Japanese and French and are learning English at the International School of Boston.
After Christmas, says Fabien Fieschi, “We also celebrate Japanese New Year’s traditions by eating toshikoshi soba [noodles] on New Year’s Eve and mochi [sticky rice cakes] on January 1st.”
The consul general’s responsibilities extend to all the New England states (there are nine other French consulates in the country in addition to the embassy in Washington). There are about 7,500 French citizens living in this region, to whom the consul provides support. “We also work with French business, small labs, and faculty doing research,” explains Fieschi. The office also offers services to non-French citizens who seek to study, visit, or do business in France.
Jaulin takes the fennel and cumin cookies from the oven and sets them on a plate. He tucks whole almonds into molded logs of almond paste and places them between rows of cookies, then rolls apricots and prunes, also stuffed with almond paste, into sugar to sparkle the edges.
The fougasse and a footed dish of fruits are in the center of the table. Yuki Fieschi places the nougat on a small plate. All the confections Fabien Fieschi brought with him from France are artfully arranged. “Calissons d’Aix were my favorites growing up,” he says. Jaulin dashes into the garden and cuts pine boughs for a splash of green.
The Fieschis unwrap the hand-painted creche and set it on a table in the hall. “The important thing to remember,” says Fabien Fieschi, “is that the baby Jesus is absent from the scene until Christmas, the day of his birth.”
They are not really without family. They have their traditions.
Debra Samuels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.