73 episodes

French history is wacky, wonderful - and seriously weird. If the only thing you know about French history is that you hated reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school, pour yourself a glass of pinot noir and get ready for a wild ride. Learn about the time France ran out of cows - and figured out how to eat zebras. Learn about the eccentric national hero keeping bees on top of the Louvre. Learn about the revolution which fought for brotherhood, equality, and a national holiday for marshmallows! New episodes every few weeks! /// Featured on iTunes Buzzed About, CBC/Radio-Canada, Bello Collective, and The Audit.

The Land of Desire: French History and Culture Diana Stegall

    • History
    • 4.9 • 479 Ratings

French history is wacky, wonderful - and seriously weird. If the only thing you know about French history is that you hated reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school, pour yourself a glass of pinot noir and get ready for a wild ride. Learn about the time France ran out of cows - and figured out how to eat zebras. Learn about the eccentric national hero keeping bees on top of the Louvre. Learn about the revolution which fought for brotherhood, equality, and a national holiday for marshmallows! New episodes every few weeks! /// Featured on iTunes Buzzed About, CBC/Radio-Canada, Bello Collective, and The Audit.

    70. Fifth Anniversary! Listener Q&A

    70. Fifth Anniversary! Listener Q&A

    What if it succeeds?



    Aloha from Hawaii! Your host is celebrating a lot of things right now: Bastille Day, the ability to travel responsibly, the birthday of a certain overworked and abused producer-intern, and oh yeah, the fifth anniversary of The Land of Desire!!! I’m celebrating by answering some excellent questions from you, dear listeners. Merci beaucoup.

    Episode 70: “Fifth Anniversary! Listener Q&A”













     

    Sources:



    * Y’all 🙂



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    But that’s not all: you’re always welcome and strongly encouraged to ask questions on the show’s Facebook page or through Twitter! And of course, you can contact me directly here. Thank you so much for listening to the show. Until next time, au revoir!















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    • 15 min
    69. The Boy Who Solved Vanilla

    69. The Boy Who Solved Vanilla

    “Here Albius fertilized vanilla.” – Tribute to Edmond Albius, Saint Suzanne, Réunion.



    We’re back! After a big move, which required the dismantling and relocation of the trusty recording studio (a.k.a. Diana’s closet), I’m excited to record in my new space! 

    Next month is the show’s sixth anniversary – I know, right?!! – and I’m asking YOU to submit questions for a special listener Q&A episode. You can contact me right here. Otherwise, send me a question on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! 

    After my last episode about potatoes, I figured I’d follow up with a little dessert. Today, let’s learn about one of the most valuable and mysterious plants on earth, the dizzying journey it made from its native homeland to its most famous outpost, and the unlikely character who unlocked its secrets. This plant’s intoxicating flavor is so widely enjoyed, and so universally incorporated into dishes around the world, that its name has become a byword for the everyday and boring. This is extremely unfair, since we’re talking about one of the world’s most labor-intensive and delicate plants, the only edible orchid on earth. That’s right: this week, we’ll learn about the sultry secrets of vanilla.

    Episode 69: “The Boy Who Solved Vanilla”













     

     

    Edmond Albius, the boy who unlocked vanilla



     





    Watch “Edmond’s gesture” in action in this video of vanilla hand-pollination, still used for the production of essentially all commercial vanilla in the world.



    See the humble melipona bee, which naturally fertilizes vanilla plants in Mexico.

    Sources:



    * Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid, Tim Ecott.

    * When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History, Matthew Restall.

    * Jean Gabriel Fouché, Laurent Jouve. Vanilla planifolia: history, botany and culture in Reunion island. Agronomie, EDP Sciences, 1999, 19 (8), pp.689-703. hal-00885962

    * Brixius, Dorit. “A Pepper acquiring Nutmeg: Pierre Poivre, The French Spice Quest and the Role of Mediators in Southeast Asia, 1740s to 1770s.” Journal of the Western Society for French History, vol. 43, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.0642292.0043.006

    * Brixius, Dorit. “From Ethnobotany to Emancipation: Slaves, Plant Knowledge, and Gardens on Eighteenth-Century Isle de France.” History of Science, vol. 58, no. 1, Mar. 2020, pp. 51–75, doi:10.1177/0073275319835431.

    * Maverick, Lewis A. “Pierre Poivre: Eighteenth Century Explorer of Southeast Asia.” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 10, no. 2, 1941, pp. 165–177. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3633634. Accessed 23 June 2021.



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    Support the Show

    There are so many ways to support the show! First and foremost, sign up for a paid subscription to The Land of Desire newsletter or contribute via Patreon.

    • 35 min
    68. Antoine Parmentier & The History of the Potato

    68. Antoine Parmentier & The History of the Potato

    “The vegetable of the shack and the château.” – Le marquis de Cussy



    April showers bring May flowers – unless they bring floods, famine, and fear. This month, I’m looking at the moment in French history when farmers turned their nose up at the foods of the New World – until they realized what the potato had to offer. Antoine Parmentier, one of the great hype men of food history, features in this month’s episode all about the tastiest of tubers!

    Episode 68: “Antoine Parmentier & The History of the Potato”













     

     

    Antoine Parmentier, “the apostle of the potato”



     



    Sources:



    * The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 – Brian Fagan

    * De Moor, T. (2015). The Dilemma of the Commoners: Understanding the Use of Common-Pool Resources in Long-Term Perspective (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139135450

    * JONES, P.M. “Arthur Young (1741—1820): For and Against.” The English Historical Review, vol. 127, no. 528, 2012, pp. 1100–1120., www.jstor.org/stable/23272740. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.

    * Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life – Fernand Braudel

    * “How the Potato Changed The World” Charles C. Mann, Smithsonian Magazine, November 2011.

    * Nunn, Nathan, and Nancy Qian. “THE POTATO’S CONTRIBUTION TO POPULATION AND URBANIZATION: EVIDENCE FROM A HISTORICAL EXPERIMENT.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 126, no. 2, 2011, pp. 593–650. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23015685. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.

    * A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment – Stephane Hénaut & Jeni Mitchell

    * Earle, Rebecca. “Promoting Potatoes in Eighteenth-Century Europe.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 51 no. 2, 2017, p. 147-162. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/ecs.2017.0057.

    * Observations on such nutritive vegetables as may be substituted in the place of ordinary food, in times of scarcity – YA BOY, Antoine Parmentier

    * “Starvation Stalks Europe” Erik Sass, Mental Floss, August 24, 2016.

    * The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World – Larry Zuckerman

    * The History and Social Influence of the Potato – Redcliffe N. Salaman

    * Gráda, Cormac Ó., and Jean-Michel Chevet. “Famine and Market in Ancien Régime France.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 62, no. 3, 2002, pp. 706–733. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3132553. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.

    * Grantham, George W. “The Persistence of Open-Field Farming in Nineteenth-Century France.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 40, no. 3, 1980, pp. 515–531. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2120751. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.

    * Séguy, Isabelle, and Christine Théré. “Demography and Famine: A Pioneering Article.” Population (English Edition, 2002-), vol. 71, no. 3, 2016, pp. 541–545., www.jstor.org/stable/44135483. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.

    * Meuvret, Jean. “SUBSISTENCE CRISES AND THE DEMOGRAPHY OF FRANCE UNDER THE ANCIEN RÉGIME.” Population (English Edition, 2002-), vol. 71,

    • 49 min
    67. Marcel & Celeste, Part II

    67. Marcel & Celeste, Part II

    “Proust n’a aime que deux personnes, sa mere et Celeste.” – Prince Antoine Bibesco



    What better way to “celebrate” a year of sheltering in place than a closer look at France’s most famous social distancer? This week, I’m looking at the curious relationship between the eccentric, reclusive writer, Marcel Proust, and his beloved housekeeper-confidant, Céleste Albaret. Together, the two hunkered down into a mostly nocturnal life of writing, collaborating, and remembering while the world outside became incomprehensible. It’s the ultimate experiment in working from home – if your Uber Eats came from the Hotel Ritz, that is! Here’s the conclusion of our two part history of Marcel & Céleste. (Listen to part one here: 66. Marcel & Celeste, Part I.)

    Episode 67: “Marcel & Celeste, Part II”













    The Bedrooms of Marcel Proust



     



    The formidable Céleste Albaret





    Farewell, Marcel



     

    Sources:

    The two biggies:



    * Marcel Proust: A Life, William Carter, 2013.

    * Monsieur Proust, Celeste Albaret, 2003. (Screw those reviewers, reading this book was a joy, I loved it.)



    The rest:



    * “Marcel Proust and the medicine of the Belle Epoque” pamphlet, the Royal Society of Medicine: https://www.rsm.ac.uk/media/2060/marcel-proust-exhibition-booklet.pdf

    * Lamont, Rosette, and Céleste Albaret. “Interview Avec Céleste Albaret.” The French Review, vol. 44, no. 1, 1970, pp. 15–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/385924. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * “In the Footsteps of Marcel Proust” William Friedkin, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/t-magazine/william-friedkin-marcel-proust.html

    * Boym, Svetlana. “Nostalgia and its discontents.” The Hedgehog Review, vol. 9, no. 2, 2007, p. 7+. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A168775861/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=9c209110. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * Manley, Janet. “Longing for a Distant Home Amid a Pandemic.” New York Times, 14 Sept. 2020, p. B6(L). Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A635356510/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=115d21c9. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * “these were the days; OPINION.” Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada], 11 July 2020, p. O1,O6,O7. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A629146415/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=6f8acd35. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.



    Further reading:



    * “How I Came to Love My Epic Quarantine Reading Project”, Oliver Munday, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/11/reading-proust-in-search-of-lost-time-during-pandemic/616850/

    * “Analogue Ambles: Marcel Proust’s Dark Room”, Adam Scovell, February 10 2019, https://www.caughtbytheriver.net/2019/02/marcel-prousts-dark-room/

    * Kear, Jon (2007) Une Chambre Mentale: Proust’s Solitude. In: Hendrix, Harald, ed. Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory. Routledge, New York/Oxon, pp. 221-235. ISBN 978-0-415-95742-7



    Subscribe to the newsletter

    Want more French history and pop culture in your life? Subscribe to the Land of Desire newsletter. The revamped newsletter comes in two flavors: free and paid. Free subscribers receive one newsletter per quarter; paid subscribers receive at least one newsletter per month. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

    • 25 min
    66. Marcel & Celeste, Part I

    66. Marcel & Celeste, Part I

    “Proust n’a aime que deux personnes, sa mere et Celeste.” – Prince Antoine Bibesco



    What better way to “celebrate” a year of sheltering in place than a closer look at France’s most famous social distancer? This week, I’m looking at the curious relationship between the eccentric, reclusive writer, Marcel Proust, and his beloved housekeeper-confidant, Céleste Albaret. Together, the two hunkered down into a mostly nocturnal life of writing, collaborating, and remembering while the world outside became incomprehensible. It’s the ultimate experiment in working from home – if your Uber Eats came from the Hotel Ritz, that is!

    Episode 66: “Marcel & Celeste, Part I”













    The Bedrooms of Marcel Proust



     



    The formidable Céleste Albaret



    Farewell, Marcel



     

    Sources:

    The two biggies:



    * Marcel Proust: A Life, William Carter, 2013.

    * Monsieur Proust, Celeste Albaret, 2003. (Screw those reviewers, reading this book was a joy, I loved it.)



    The rest:



    * “Marcel Proust and the medicine of the Belle Epoque” pamphlet, the Royal Society of Medicine: https://www.rsm.ac.uk/media/2060/marcel-proust-exhibition-booklet.pdf

    * Lamont, Rosette, and Céleste Albaret. “Interview Avec Céleste Albaret.” The French Review, vol. 44, no. 1, 1970, pp. 15–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/385924. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * “In the Footsteps of Marcel Proust” William Friedkin, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/t-magazine/william-friedkin-marcel-proust.html

    * Boym, Svetlana. “Nostalgia and its discontents.” The Hedgehog Review, vol. 9, no. 2, 2007, p. 7+. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A168775861/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=9c209110. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * Manley, Janet. “Longing for a Distant Home Amid a Pandemic.” New York Times, 14 Sept. 2020, p. B6(L). Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A635356510/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=115d21c9. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.

    * “these were the days; OPINION.” Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada], 11 July 2020, p. O1,O6,O7. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A629146415/AONE?u=sfpl_main&sid=AONE&xid=6f8acd35. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.



    Further reading:



    * “How I Came to Love My Epic Quarantine Reading Project”, Oliver Munday, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/11/reading-proust-in-search-of-lost-time-during-pandemic/616850/

    * “Analogue Ambles: Marcel Proust’s Dark Room”, Adam Scovell, February 10 2019, https://www.caughtbytheriver.net/2019/02/marcel-prousts-dark-room/

    * Kear, Jon (2007) Une Chambre Mentale: Proust’s Solitude. In: Hendrix, Harald, ed. Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory. Routledge, New York/Oxon, pp. 221-235. ISBN 978-0-415-95742-7



    Subscribe to the newsletter

    Want more French history and pop culture in your life? Subscribe to the Land of Desire newsletter. The revamped newsletter comes in two flavors: free and paid. Free subscribers receive one newsletter per quarter; paid subscribers receive at least one newsletter per month. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

    Support the Show

    There are so many ways to support the show! First and foremost, sign up for a paid subscription to The Land of Desire newsletter or contribute via a href="https://www.

    • 32 min
    65. A Trip to the Spa

    65. A Trip to the Spa

    “The waters of Vichy…gave me back my strength.” – Madame de Sévigné



    The darkest days of winter are here, and I think it’s time we all indulged in a little self-care, non? My own quarantine hobby, skincare, set me down a particular path. Why was I spraying my face with thermal spa water from France? What is thermal spa water? Why do we drink thermal spa water? Does any of it really do anything? France loves her thermal spas, no matter what form they take: rustic watering hole, glamorous resort, or rigorous medical establishment. 

    Episode 65: “A Trip to the Spa”













    The history of French thermal spas:



     



     



    Sources:



    * Weisz, George. “Spas, Mineral Waters, and Hydrological Science in Twentieth-Century France.” Isis, vol. 92, no. 3, 2001, pp. 451–483. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3080730. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

    * Tilton, Elizabeth Meier. “Mineral and Thermal Spas in France.” The French Review, vol. 54, no. 4, 1981, pp. 566–572. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/391139. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

    * Brockliss, L.W.B. “The Development of the Spa in Seventeenth-Century France.” Medical History, Supplement No. 10 1990, pp. 23-47. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/85a4/4c6b9caab12ded2f94ae0a354da2e1e372d4.pdf

    *

    van Tubergen A, van der Linden S. “A brief history of spa therapy.” Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2002; 61:273-275.



    * Palmer, Richard. “‘In This Our Lightye and Learned Tyme’: Italian Baths in the Era of the Renaissance.” Medical History, vol. 34, no. S10, 1990, pp. 14–22., doi:10.1017/S0025727300070964.

    * Erfurt, Patricia J. “An assessment of the role of natural hot and mineral springs in health, wellness and recreational tourism.” PhD thesis, James Cook University, 2011. https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/31110/1/31110_Erfurt_2011_thesis.pdf

    * Debus, Allen G. “Solution Analyses Prior to Robert Boyle.” Chymia, vol. 8, 1962, pp. 41–61. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27757217. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

    * Gordon, Bertram. (2012). Reinventions of a spa town: the unique case of Vichy. Journal of Tourism History. 4. 35-55. 10.1080/1755182X.2012.671377.

    * Lagrange, Joel. “Aix-les-Bains, the creation of the City of Water and publicity.” Histoire Urbaine, vol 3, 2019, pp 129-152.

    * Marie-Eve Férérol, « Lust, tranquillity and sensuality in French spa towns in the heyday of balneotherapy (the belle époque and the roaring twenties) », Via [En ligne], 11-12 | 2017, mis en ligne le 14 mai 2018, consulté le 24 février 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/1763 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/viatourism.1763

    * Mackaman, Douglas P. “Competing Visions of Urban Grandeur: Planning and Developing Nineteeth-Century Spa Towns in France.” New Directions in Urban History, 2000, pp 41-64.

    * Brei, V.A. (2018), How is a bottled water market created?. WIREs Water, 5: e1220. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1220

    * Cacciapuoti, Sara et al. “The Role of Thermal Water in Chronic Skin Diseases Management: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 9,9 3047. 22 Sep. 2020, doi:10.3390/jcm9093047

    * “Our Rich History.” Avène website. https://www.aveneusa.com/history



    Subscribe to the newsletter

    Want more French history and pop culture in your life? Subscribe to the Land of Desire newsletter. The revamped newsletter comes in two flavors: free and paid. Free subscribers receive one newsletter per quarter; paid subscribers receive at least one newsletter per month. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
479 Ratings

479 Ratings

hellacross ,

Hidden gem podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and this one is top notch in terms of the storytelling and research that goes into it. I was totally hooked on the Dreyfus affair series and followed that up with the Three Alexandres which was also great. Looking forward to listening to more!

Xanath-Grantman ,

Excellent.

I got in almost at the very beginning. She has a great voice and is very entertaining. I just switched to an iPhone, so now I can review!

TwentiesStruggles ,

Favorite Podcast with stories on France history, travel and culture

Thank you Diana for sharing these interesting insights into France and its history. Diana is an amazing storyteller. She takes historical figures and events, and turns them into fascinating stories that you won’t want to put down. I was drawn to the many historical fiction novels so popular lately but then I found this podcast! Diana’s writing and voiceover is easy to listen to, dramatic, humorous and engaging. The music behind the storytelling lends a bit of mood that takes history lovers and Francophiles like me directly to France. Like a book you can’t put down, each podcast episode I listen to draws me into the next. I highly recommend this podcast.

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