Following our guided walking tour of the village with Anne-Claire, we headed off to see the Absinthe Museum. The museum was founded and is directed by Marie-Claude Delahaye, a woman who is passionate about the subject of absinthe.
Patricia Ravenscroft, the PAN member who organized the day trip to Auvers-sur-Oise, introduced us to Madame Delahaye, who proceeded to give us a private tour of the museum. I learned later that Madame Delahaye has published at least a dozen books on absinthe and is lecturer on the subject of cellular biology at the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris.
The ground floor of the museum displays paraphernalia that is associated with the beverage, including trowel-shaped, slotted spoons through which water is dribbled over sugar lumps to sweeten the drink.
On the ground and upper floors are posters and works of art depicting people in various states of inebriation, as well as people praising the consumption of absinthe as a lofty virtue or condemning it as an absolute evil.
During the 19th century, the beverage became associated with artistic and literary creativity. The consumption of absinthe purportedly gave drinkers a heightened state of perception.
However, its high alcohol content (up to 70%) quickly led to drunkenness. By the end of the 19th century there were public campaigns to ban the beverage. It was banned in France in 1915.
Since last year, the production of absinthe has again been permitted, and it can now be ordered at bars and restaurants throughout France.
My overview of the history of the beverage has necessarily been sketchy. In reality, the subject is vast and complex! Madame Delahaye has been studying it since 1981, when she first started collecting absinthe spoons. The Web site of her museum can be found here.
Tomorrow: The house of Doctor Gachet.
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