When I was growing up we sang our national anthem, O Canada, in school every morning. Once I started studying French (a compulsory subject in my officially bilingual country), we learned and sang O Canada in French*.
I must have been daydreaming when they gave us the French translation, though, because for the longest time whenever I sang the words in French, I had no idea what I was saying. (The English and French lyrics are not the same.) One in word particular – “foyers” – puzzled me. I didn’t even know how it was spelt; I only knew that when we got to the rousing part at the end that went, “Protégera nos foyers et nos droits,” I had no idea what we were protecting (“protégera”) in addition to our rights (“nos droits”).
Then in university I worked for a couple of summers as a treeplanter in the Northern Ontario bush, and befriended some of my French-Canadian coworkers. One night at dinner I sheepishly asked, “What does “foy-yay” mean?”
Turns out it means hearths.
*To be fair, O Canada was originally written in French, and only later translated into English.
For me, the hearth is the focus of home. (Those two words – “hearth” and “focus” – actually have the same Indo-European root.) My life is focused on the transformative fire of my stove, where I cook the meals that nourish my body. My kitchen – warm, sensual – is the centre of my home.
In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, the household hearth was the only visual representation of Hestia or Vesta, the goddess of the hearth fire. She was so important, she received the first offering of every household sacrifice.
How important is the hearth (or the heating or cooking appliance) in your home?
If your hearth doesn’t receive your first attention, what does?