Brief and Indelible History

Inside the Provencal-Weir Home in Grosse Pointe Farms
Having savored lavender lemon ice cream since Independence Day, I packed the last half-gallon in a cooler. Mel drove us through thick rush hour traffic to Grosse Pointe Farms for a special event.
Oh, almost forgot to mention the Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownies to serve with the ice cream—the most praised culinary pair conceived in my kitchen. I’ve witnessed reserved folk swoon at the flavor of lavender lemon ice cream and a Ghirardelli brownie.
Mel and I arrived at 381 Kercheval for a tour of the historic Provencal-Weir House. Fellow docents of the Detroit Public Library—foragers of history, culture, and art—gathered inside the house’s parlor.
The Grosse Pointe Historical Society invested research and funds to relocate the building and resurrect its period wallpaper and furnishings, Mike Skinner, the Society’s tour guide explained. Then came my favorite part—the Euphemia and Pierre Provencal love story.
Imagine “the shores of the lake and Detroit River…lined with the picturesque windmills of the French ‘habitants’ and the air full of their legends and superstitions.” In that setting the Rev. Gabriel Richard united Pierre Provencal and Euphemia St. Aubin in holy matrimony February 1, 1831.
In this wilderness known as a ribbon farm, Pierre and Euphemia commenced their charitable work to build an orphan’s home. In the sequence of time, they rescued and educated Detroit children who had lost their parents from the Cholera Plagues of 1832, ’34, and ’49.
          A total of twenty-four orphans reached adulthood under Pierre and Euphemia’s care. They left the Provencal farm with “enough of Pierre’s worldly goods to make a start in life.”
          When crops failed, Pierre distributed provisions from the farm’s “spacious granaries” to their neighbors. He installed a confessional box and altar in the east parlor where we stood.
          “There was no church or chapel in the area, so people came from miles around to worship,” Steve said.
Our minds chuck full of local history, DPL docent Tudi Harwood led our group to the Grosse Pointe Farms Pier Park on Lakeshore Drive for a potluck. Mel and I were awestruck by the sun upon Lake St. Claire—the scent of fresh water.
No wonder the French settled here, I pondered. The contrast between the Provencal’s provincial farm and the mansions along Lakeshore Drive defied reality. 
But there we were in the park’s parking lot with our ice cream cooler and container of brownies, walking in history on a former ribbon farm. We passed a sign inscribed with “Farewell to Summer. Bring your own Smores fixings for a campfire.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” I replied.                                        
“What?” Mel asked.
“To wrap up summer with a bonfire and Smores.”
You see dear Reader, as brownies and ice cream, Smores are a part of my food DNA. I’m a former Brownie Scout, a brief and indelible season in my history.
Not as charitable as Euphemia Provencal’s. Yet, those who wrapped up the last bit of lavender lemon ice cream in the clubhouse’s activities room didn’t seem to notice.