Let Them Eat Cake – A Blog of Food and Drink
The first thing to say about this familiar saying is that it is a mistranslation. It never meant ‘Let them eat cake.’ We have to see it in the context of French culture and French cuisine.
‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’, meant, ‘Let them eat brioche,’ and what the French call a brioche is not a cake. It’s a luxury form of bread enriched with butter and eggs, perhaps more like pastry.
(You may have a pain au chocolat as a nice treat with your coffee. If this is your only experience of this delicacy you would think of it as a cake. You may not think of it as a breakfast item. But the French have croissants and pains au chocolat with their breakfast where we have toast and marmalade. The word ‘pain’ even means bread or it can mean a loaf. Sorry about the correct French plural.)
So if the French peasants didn’t have baguettes or croissants for their breakfast it wasn’t quite so outlandish suggesting brioches. It didn’t mean ‘Why don’t they have Black Forest Gateau?’
The other important thing to note is that it was almost certainly never said by Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI. It’s not the only popular saying to be misattributed!
It appears in the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was written when Marie Antoinette, then Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, was nine years old living in Austria. He attributes it to ‘a great princess.’ It may have been said a hundred years before Marie Antoinette by Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV.
It is unlikely that Mari Antoinette would have made such a callous statement.
I looked at various possible titles for something about Food and Drink and its provisional title was ‘Food, Glorious Food,’ from the musical ‘Oliver.’ You will see soon why the emphasis on cake seemed appropriate.
It’s going to be a relaively short blog post. You have already seen some of what I had to eat on my Birthday.
And you have seen some of my cooking skills at Christmas.
I don’t only do desserts at Christmas.
The first one is a sort of Bakewell Tart – the same recipe as Christmas but a few weeks earlier. (It’s a posh Bakewell. Officially it’s a frangipane.) The second one from a couple of months later is completely different – with rhubarb. (I’m an unbiased commentator. They were all delicious!)
There is something about the ‘English Breakfast’ that keeps its name even though we hardly ever have it at home now. It is still offered routinely in hotels and until recently it was always sold at Motorway Services and at Slimbridge.
Very recently it has disappeared from many places. Motorway Services now just have the familiar Costa or Starbucks coffee and national burger chains. Slimbridge now just does Bacon sandwiches.
I sometimes have lunch out and I have to admit to Fish and Chips as a favourite. If it come with posh ‘Fine Dining’ presentation it soon gets tipped on to the plate!
There are other options and sometimes it’s a toasted sandwich or even just a sandwich. [Toasted sandwiches can have foreign sounding names like ‘Panini’ or ‘Croque Monsieur.’]
You may notice the odd cake or biscuit in the background of the pictures above. To complete my research for this blog I had to try a proper dessert.
I have a lot of coffee out and this almost always includes a cake of some sort.
Marks and Spencer do a nice apple turnover but I think they only have one each day. It I miss it there is always something else.
Waitrose is my more usual haunt. I have a free coffee every day but I have to buy something to get the coffee free with my My Waitrose card. Sometimes it’s a couple of toffee waffles but I am sometimes I am tempted by pastries and cakes.
Here are some more from my travels around the country and abroad.
You may recognize some of them.