This is arguably the most famous passage in Proust, introducing the idea of 'involuntary memory'. Proust's inspirational experience occurred with a piece of dry toast and tea, but he changed the toast to a madeleine in Swann's Way. The shell-like shape of a madeleine has been compared to the scallop-shells worn by the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, who would have passed through Illiers (Combray) on their way to Spain, during Proust's childhood (hence its "severe, religious folds" on page 54). The madeleine is therefore a symbol of a 'pilgrimage' to the past.
See a recipe here.
These are called Japanese water flowers. They come in little packets, the contents of which unfurl enchantingly when dropped in water.
In In Search of Lost Time Françoise takes on the role of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, commenting on the actions of the main characters.
It was thought that the card game tarot (similar to whist), which uses a special deck of cards associated in the U.K. with fortune-telling, was invented to amuse the medieval King Charles VI of France. This idea is based on the existence of three decks of playing cards painted by Jacquemin Gringonneur in 1392 which are now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Tarot is now thought to have originated in the fifteenth century in Northern Italy.