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When a French pastry teaches you History


Maybe you are like me. You think you spend too much time on your Smartphone when you are outside and you miss the real world. Instead of embracing the universe, you scroll your screen. Exactly like me. This morning, as every morning, I went to my bakery to buy my baguette. As we must keep our distances now, I had to join the line and wait my turn. But this time I decided to let my phone where it was, meaning in my bag. And I embraced the world. Well, in a bakery, the world is rather sweet and full of delightful pastries. Not so bad after all. As I was admiring the different colorful cakes, my eyes suddenly stopped on a pastry. not because of its shape but because of its name. « The diplomat » It’s a kind of pudding. Of course I knew this pastry before. In French we also call the pudding, a pudding. I mean we use the English word as well. To be honest it’s quite unusual that French use English language when we talk about food and cuisine. Because food is a serious matter in France. It’s like a religion and it’s a French religion not an English one.


So as I was waiting for my bred I thought « But why is this pudding called a « diplomat » ?

Maybe because it’s a pudding? Maybe it’s an English ambassador who invented this cake? Maybe it’s because there is a sweet cream with it that we call the English cream ? ( la crème anglaise) » When the charming bakery lady asked me what I wanted I answered to her

« One baguette …and eh… one diplomat please !. »


Le Diplomate


And while I was eating my (delicious) diplomat outside, I checked on my Smartphone the meaning of this pastry. Incredible! The diplomat was created after Napoléon’s defeat. I mean Waterloo defeat. I had no idea! In 1815 and in Vienna. European diplomats were all together in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, trying to think about a peaceful world after Bonaparte. France was invited and was represented by his foreign office minister, the prince Talleyrand. As a prince, Talleyrand was in the habit of bringing along his chef travelling outside of France. One can be a fan of Viennese Schnitzels but from time to time one might prefer French cuisine.

Talleyrand in 1805 by François Gérard



But the French minister was only invited to watch and not talk as France was the looser. France had to obey and accept what other Europeans countries would decide. The European ministers and European ambassadors were talking and talking so much that they forgot to eat. Talleyrand as the good strategist he was, knew that food always help to bring people together. And his chef was not an anonymous chef he was the best, Antonin Carême known as the King of the Chefs.

Antonin Carême the King of the Chefs



Suddenly the king Carême had a revolutionary idea and told his boss « And if I created a meal, sweet and cold so you can eat it at any time of the day? » « Excellent! said the French minister. And let’s give him the name of the European people around this table suggested Talleyrand. Le diplomate. »


I know what you think. I told you that I would stop using my phone outside and I would embrace the world. But when a pastry can teach you history , a Smarphone can be useful, even in a bakery.


Congress of Vienna in 1815 by Godefroy



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©Ethan Werb 2018

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