Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Horror chambers, panoramic views and spelt

We started our tour of the keep of Loches in a humid and musty round cellar with a high dome-like ceiling. The story goes that Cardinal de Balue, a former confident of King Louis XI, was imprisoned here after displeasing the king. A plaque in the cellar, however, explains that this is only a legend and that there is no historical evidence whatsoever that this story is true.

Replica of a medieval prison cage.

As the donjon was mainly used as a prison, we saw several horror chambers where prisoners were locked up in tiny alcoves, evasion-proof cages or buckled to the walls with large iron chains and collars. The limestone walls are covered in medieval graffiti, the last, silent witnesses of the forced residence of long-forgotten and nameless prisoners who lived and eventually died there in the most dreadful circumstances. Cruelty is definitely not an invention of the 21st century!

After this depressing and distressing part of the visit, we climbed to the top of donjon, from where we had a spectacular view over the old and new town of Loches and the surrounding countryside. It made a nice change from the gloomy prison cells.

View from the top of the donjon.

Next we spent a pleasant half an hour in the medieval garden, marvelling over the meticulously kept patches of medicinal herbs and ‘forgotten’ vegetables. My attention was drawn to a patch that was largely occupied by a tall, vivid green wheat-like plant. It turned out to be spelt. Spelt is the original or authentic wheat.

'Epautre' or spelt.

Our local bakery sells great whole-grain spelt bread. It’s very nourishing and extremely good for you. Recently, I’ve also started using whole-grain spelt flower for cooking and baking. It works just as well as plain white wheat flower and the taste is so much better. The only ‘inconvenience’ is that it gives your traditionally pastry and white B├ęchamel sauce a slightly greyish tint.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but spelt and spelt bread have become increasingly popular in Belgium over the last 15 years or so. Have you ever tried spelt bread?



Carolyn said...

I think we have eaten homemade bread with spelt in it but I can't recall the taste. A mill in the Sarthe that grinds spelt is on my list to visit. I bought a bag of whole-grain spelt from Leclerc last year but later discovered it was past its sell-by date so didn't cook it. A mill in the Sarthe that grinds spelt is on my list to visit and there I'll buy some fresh spelt.

Carolyn said...

Did I really need to repeat myself?

Nadege said...

I have eaten spelt bread but I really like a frozen spelt pizza crust "Graindance", from San Francisco.

The Beaver said...


I use spelt flour for my cranberry muffins. I have used it also to make pizza.

ladybird said...

Carolyn, Don't worry about repeating yourself. I've read somewhere that it's one of the fundamentals of good communication. ;)

Nadege, I haven't had a spelt pizza yet, but I'm sure it's very good ... like the bread!

The Beaver, Wouldn't mind tasting one of those muffins. Mmmmmm