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In the grand tradition of secretive societies – the Rosicrucian Order, the Templar Order – the Brethren of Haricots Couenne have been operating in the dark ever since their order was established. This undoubtedly explains how, still shrouded in mystery, they have managed to survive right into the twenty-first century. And yet, this summer, we were invited to witness the dubbing of two new knights, undisputed virtuosos in the art of preparing that mouth-watering bean stew, “haricots couenne”, but endowed with other hidden talents fully justifying this concerted expression of friendship and gratitude.
And so it was that on 6 August 2006, draped in the appropriate attire, Gilbert Gensou, 83, and Gilbert Delteil, 81, were solemnly made Knights of the Paunat Brethren of Haricots Couenne - before a reverently silent assembly, while Jacques Saraben (officially : a distinguished Paunat artist ; unofficially : a high-ranking dignitary of this ancient order) struck up a “curious chant”.
An eminent member of the Brotherhood, Raoul Silvert, also secretary of the Amis de Paunat, duly embarked upon a lengthy and highly philosophical speech which seemingly set out to be “a history of the bean through the ages,” but eventually turned out to be “the interesting and exciting saga of the ups and downs of the so-called “Frères de Couenne”.” Subsequently, the priestly leader of the movement, the mayor of Paunat, Roger Chapotot, read out, in terms that mystified many of us, the ten commandments that govern the behaviour of the brethren.

Gilbertus Premius and Gilbertus Secundus, clad in their exquisite robes, designed for the occasion and, true to tradition, made by the innocent hands of Sisters Andrée Vignal and Hélène Gensou, feigned surprise throughout the whole ceremony. It was all a bit of a hoax of course, contrived specially for the camera. Let it be known, noble knights, that we were not taken in by your pranks! Your enthronement was the crowning event of an activity you have been involved in for quite some time now – the preparation of “haricots couenne” - a dish that most certainly has magic in it. Otherwise, how could such a tiny village draw so many people round your steaming cauldron ?

N.B. Gilbert Gensou (cattle merchant) and Gilbert Delteil (retired farmer) lovingly prepare « haricots couenne » each summer for the Thursday evening markets in Paunat. You’ll find them too at Paunat Truffle Market in December.

We wish to thank all the “Amis de Paunat” for their warm welcome - also Jacques Saraben, who took the photographs of this supernatural event.

Sophie Cattoire

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