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Les Cabanons – ‘Lou Cabanoun’ in Provençal dialect

This month Calisson by Gilles brings you to the discovery of the authentic, deep and sometimes unknown world of Cabanons around Provence. 

What is a cabanon?

Cabanons are isolated shelters that you can find all over Provence. The remoteness of their plots of land required farmers, fishermen, shepherds to resort to small buildings. Hence the cabanon serve as shelter, toolshed and also a haven for a nap in the hollow of the day. The construction of a Cabanon is simple: a single room, sometimes a floor, a tiled roof and always a mulberry or hackberry nearby. Harvests of grapes, of olives ... the cabanons come alive with the harvest. At the end of an intense and tough workday family and friends gather together for happy feasting.

The Provençal way of life

In the past the Cabanon was a shelter for shepherd and today is a place of conviviality where friends and family are welcomed to share a pastis, eat a local, Provençal meal made with seasonal ingredients and enjoy a Pétanque game. You have guessed that the Cabanon gathers the quintessence of Provençal way of life in one place. If you want to discover more Calisson by Gilles has selected for you one of our numerous articles dealing with these authentic topics 

  • Pétanque :
  • Aïoli
  • Transhumance

We are proud to make you discover throughout our blogs, rich and true contents of Provence. Month after month we make it richer and consider it as an heritage of Provence shared on American soil. 

Feel the magic of Cabanon 

At the Cabanon, happiness has never been measured in proportion to the surface of a floor, but to the beauty of a smile. Calisson by Gilles has selected a quote of an anonymous author of Provence : “The smile, was likely born between a friend and a lover, when the cloudy sky suddenly became deep blue. I want for pleasure write a legend. I want, close to you, make a story and tell to everyone: thus was born the Cabanon".

Calisson by Gilles is definitely in love with the Cabanon. If one day you come in Provence, no matter where you are, you will always find a Cabanon. A blessed refuge, where you always find the song of cicadas and the breath of the mistral. The Cabanon is refreshing in summer. Sit near a tuft of thyme or rosemary and let your eyes be filled with the pure and simple landscape. It is in the middle of all this that lounges the Cabanons of Provence. The Cabanon is neither a cabin, nor a house. But Calisson by Gilles can tell you that it is a wonderful experience, a tradition of well-being and good living. Provence inhabitants certainly forged deep friendship, all simple and all true nearby a Cabanon. 

The occupants of a Cabanon, whatever their age, all experience boundless passion for these few square meters covered with red and round tiles. How not to be impregnated with this authentic atmosphere? 

Testimony of a “Calisson by Gilles” collaborator: “When I was born 30 years ago, on October my grandparents, uncles and cousins were having fun and sharing a wild boar at the Cabanon of my great-grandfather. Later when I was a child I discovered the delights of being at the Cabanon, playing outside, cooking; away from the sounds of the city in a quiet place of nature. I will remember it all my life”. 

Different kinds of Cabanons :

The seashore Cabanon:

The history of the seashore cabanons that you can find around the Calanques of Marseille is very original. If you have ever visited the Calanques of Marseille you will certainly remember how hard it is to get there. And so, how is it possible to build little shelters at the seashore of Marseille spotted with cliffs, sharps rocks and hard to reach from land? 

Inhabitants of Cabanons were workers that could not afford to bring raw materials through the sea. Indeed the Cabanons have been built with the remains of shipwrecks!

Experienced sailors usually say that Mediterranean Sea is one of the most dangerous sea in the world. You can sail peacefully under a blue sky when suddenly weather and conditions turn bad. Wind starts blowing, waves are more and more powerful and you can’t reach the port by your own means.

Unfortunately many sailors have experienced this, including the writer of this article. And some “Rapian” (Provençal dialect, see under the definition) have thrived of the sea wrecks to build their Cabanons at the seashore of the Calanques. They turned these wrecks into a house, a place of peace for fishing, for retiring and being away of everything. 

These cabins were not made for full time living, but spending a night there after a hard working week was and is very enjoyable.

The hinterlands cabanon: 

Here is a Cabanon we can all afford. In the south of France, it is very popular, especially during the summer; cooler compared to the seaside, wilder, far from tourists. The cabanon of the hinterland can bask in a shady valley on the side of Saint Maximin close to la Sainte Baume or just 10 kilometers from a bustling city center. Having a hinterland Cabanon means living peacefully while paying tribute to olive trees, figs, cicadas crickets and owls. 

The hinterlands Cabanon is sometimes surrounded by pines in which the cicadas roost. We cook succulent dishes and drink wine that makes people sing. In these conditions we can only be happy!  Provence inhabitants have the strength to turn things so they can be happy with anything.

The vineyard cabanon :

Its hardiness makes it a wild beauty. If it is called vineyards cabanon is because of its location : always on the edge of a vineyard. This humble shed, an old shelter used to store tools and small plows used for the work of the vines, has been transformed little by little to make it the last refuge where we speak, where we tell, where we enjoy life.

The vineyards Cabanon is made of four solid walls. It has struggled with strong Mistral wind for many decades and still stands, solid and ineradicable. We eat a lot more chops than sea urchins. Sometimes a grill of fish perfumes the autumn harvest and perfumes the grapes. Magical ! Do you know how to conclude? With one of our sweet Calissons by Gilles, a golden piece of Provence to taste without moderation! 

Local Vocabulary: 

"A cafouchi": pronounced “cafoutchi!” a small, cool dark room in which food was kept before the invention of the refrigerator. This room still exists today in the sheds whose water is supplied by the rainwater cistern and the light by the petrol lamp. 

"Rapian": means the one who recovers everything, without scruple, and without discernment.

Calisson by Gilles would like end by sharing with a quote that we have heard from a Cabanouniés near Gardanne. He told us: “In this modern world we are the heritage, Cabanons have a soul and Cabanouniés are kind-hearted.

This post first appeared on French & Almonds Candy Blog By Cal, please read the originial post: here

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Les Cabanons – ‘Lou Cabanoun’ in Provençal dialect


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