Flavigny-sur-Ozerain France and Anise Seed Candy

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in the Burgundy region of FranceFlavigny-sur-Ozerain is a small, medieval village in Burgundy France, one of literally hundreds of charming villages found throughout rural Europe. It’s a member of a group called “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France,” which translates to “the most beautiful villages in France.”

Flavigny is a walled community of fewer than 400 people today, and is on the path of the Santiago de Compestela. This is the Olde World with an “e” that so captivates us New World Americans.

The movie “Chocolat” starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche was set in Flavigny. That and an amazing anise seed candy using a 1200 year-old recipe is Flavigny’s claim to fame.

There are a couple of Flavignys in France, but there’s only one Flavigny on the Ozerain River. That’s why my sister and I had such a hard time finding it on a map. But we had to go.

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Flavigny France, the Abbey and World War I

Entrance to the walled city of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy France.Much of our journey following Grandpa Eastman’s footsteps through his service in World War I was based on generalities. We knew when and where he arrived on French soil. We know the big battles that took place at that time and that he was in the midst of the action. But to specifically say that Sgt. Wilbert Eastman stood on this spot on this date was not always possible.

But we knew without a doubt that Grandpa was in Flavigny. In his own handwriting in papers we found long after he had died, Grandpa wrote of spending Christmas 1918 in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

After the war ended on November 11, Grandpa’s unit began moving south, eventually to sail home via Marseilles in May 1919. They spent the winter in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. Grandpa was sick with what we assume was the Spanish flu that ravaged much of Europe that winter.

was ill from Dec 9 with influenza until Dec 31. slept on the floor without medicine or fire in Flavigny on the third floor of an abbey,” he wrote.

Anise Seed Candy in Flavigny

The Anise Candy Company in Flavigny FranceThe abbey still stands in Flavigny, as it has since the eighth century. Today it is home to Les Anis de Flavigny, a company that follows a centuries-old anise candy recipe created by monks who once lived in the village.

We toured the factory and bought some candy as souvenirs. The decorative tins are just beautiful, reflecting images of the village of Flavigny. It’s hard to believe Grandpa wrote of being bored here in the spring of 1919. But it’s a little town and he had been gone a long time and ready to get back home to our Grandma.

Later, my sister and I had a few minutes to chat with Catherine Troubat, the third generation of her family to own the candy company. She told us that yes, the abbey had been used to house American troops that first winter after the war. Her grandmother volunteered to care for the sick and wounded.

It gave us goosebumps to think that her grandmother might have nursed our sick grandfather nearly 100 years ago.

dishes of anise seed candy

As we tasted the candy, my sister and I remembered that our grandmother often had a similar candy around her house. I remember not liking it because anise tastes like black licorice and I don’t like licorice.

It’s not easy to get Flavigny candy in the United States today. But how would Grandma have had these treats in the 1960s and 70s? There was no internet, certainly no Amazon then. Could it have been the same? Did Grandma order this candy from France as a tribute to the care they provide Grandpa when he needed it most?

Anise Seed Candy from Flavigny France

 

The abbey in Flavigny France.

The abbey in Flavigny where our Grandpa spent the winter of 1918 at the conclusion of WWI.

How we wished that we had asked Grandma about it. How we wished we had asked Grandpa more about this incredible period in his life.

But how fortunate we felt for this opportunity to step back for just a few days and share these experiences with our Grandpa. How fortunate we were that he survived the trench warfare of World War I and the Spanish flu, and came home to us, that 100 years later, he still has so much to give.
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