Verdun Sugar Coated Almonds (page 2 of 2)Home >> Experiences
Mr Heusele does not think that the most intriguing product made at Braquier is of very good taste. But we sell 1000 chocolate shells a year, people love it. Only 200 are exported, mainly to the UK. We can't export them anymore into the US.
This is no Chinese crap. Each artillery shell has a brass base and handmade thread.
The lady in charge of artillery shells assembles each base by hand...
... carefully tying the cotton thread to a small chamber filled with smokeless powder, the kind used in guns.
The chocolate artillery shells come in three standard versions "10", "15" and "20", according to the number of gadgets inside. They work fine, the only complaints we ever get is when from time to time there is only 19 gadgets in a "20" shell, says Heusele with tongue in cheek. They go for €78 to €108 a piece. Some people order them special, and ask for wedding rings or car keys to be placed inside the shell. With gas prices going through the roof already, is that such a good idea?
The chocolate artillery shells are place upside down, filled with the candies and gadgets, and finally the exploding mechanism which will sit at the base is carefully placed.
You can probably find similar, although less tasty, wedding bombshells elsewhere. But although Mr Heusele insists that Braquier sold those candy shells already in 1869, the mention of a Verdun Bombshell for dessert is bound to catch the attention of even those with the flimsiest historical culture. For Verdun is known was the center of one the worst battles of WWI.
The visitor of Verdun who needs a reminder of how transient human life is just needs to drive on the same road were Braquier is for about 2 miles, and he will arrive at the Douaumont Ossuary. 1916 was a bumper crop for the Grim Reaper, with the military operations at Verdun leaving about 300,000 unidentified dead soldiers on the battefields in but a few months. Pétain, who successfully defended Verdun, inaugurated a large ossuary in 1920 where the young bones of those harvest by the Reaper's mighty scythe could be mourned by their families who so far did not even have a grave to weep on.
A chapel was made for each of the 52 sectors of the Battle of Verdun inside a giant church shaped like a black femur with an artillery shell as a belfry. They say it was designed to look like a giant sword buried into the earth. This is not a sight you are likely to forget, and any warmonger should visit this place to know what war comes down to. The light inside the ossuary comes from reddish stained glass and sent my camera into an immediate cerebral attack. I kept the color as it gives an impression of what you feel inside this place, where you are surrounded by the earthly remains of 300,000 people.
During the first Gulf War, in 1991, French television interviewed Antoine Pinay, a former French finance minister and WWI veteran. The journalist wanted him to bless the war and to say that cause was just. I still remember him unbuttoning his cuffs. You see, he said, showing a scar on his right wrist, I have been wounded in the First World War. There is still a piece of shrapnel in my wrist. I am now 100 years old, and it has made me suffer every single day of my life. So Madam, I do not wish war for anybody.
You can visit Dragées Braquier in Verdun and join the public factory tour or just ransack the extraordinary factory shop: