III: Chicory

A blue flower with a root that makes you sip and think.

III: Chicory
A chicory flower. Photo by Christopher Luther / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is tridi, the 3rd of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la chicorée, a pretty blue flower with a root that makes you sip and think.

You can eat the whole chicory. The flower is related to the dandelion, and like the dandelion, its leaves and flowers have long been used to make tea. It's also very closely related to endives. But the star of the plant is its long taproot, which you have to pull very carefully from loose soil if you don't want it to break off. Ground chicory has a similar enough flavor profile to coffee (though on the smokier side), which made it a popular additive in times and places where coffee beans were hard to come by. Sometimes it's even used as a decaffeinated substitute.

Chicory was having a moment when this calendar was made – a plant on the rise. Coffee had just been introduced to Europe a century earlier, part of the massive plunder of the global south, and entire societies became addicted to the caffeine jolt. You can't throw a stone at a biography from the 17th and 18th centuries without someone meeting someone else in a coffee shop to conspire about something.

France took to coffee just like everyone else, and it became one of the staple trade goods – along with sugar and chocolate – that flowed through its newly established trade port in the Americas: New Orleans.