Amid calls for “chocolatine” to be added to the French dictionary, we take a look at a debate that has divided France for centuries – what is the name of the chocolate-filled pastry treat?
When you walk into the corner bakery craving that iconic, buttery, flaky pastry with a dark chocolate center, do you ask for a pain au chocolat or a chocolatine?
The majority of the French would say pain au chocolat, at least according to one website entirely devoted to the topic.
Its survey of over 110,000 people found that almost 60 percent would say pain au chocolat, with 40 percent going for chocolatine.
The website asks voters for their region of France, and has provided an interactive map that reveals the “chocolatine” voters are hugely congregated in the south west.
And the “chocolatine” crew feel they shouldn’t be overshadowed. In fact,
Pupils from the south western town of Montauban have recently penned a letter to France’s president in a bid to get the word chocolatine added to the French dictionary.
“It’s a word of our region, where a lot of people live, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south,” one pupil told La Dépêche du Midi newspaper.
So why the confusion?
One theory traces the origins of the ubiquitous French treat to the 1830s, when an Austrian named August Zang opened the very first boulangerie viennoise at 92 rue Richelieu in what is now the second arrondissement of Paris.
According to culinary historian Jim Chevalier, author of “August Zang and the French Croissant: How the Viennoiserie Came to France”, it was the schokoladencroissant, a crescent-shaped, chocolate-filled brioche that slowly evolved into the rectangular chocolatine.
As the French gradually integrated viennoiseries into their culture, laminating the brioche layers, chocolatine became one and the same with pain au chocolat, which historically referred to any chocolate-filled bread that children enjoyed as a snack at school. The southwest region, meanwhile, is supposed to have stuck with chocolatine due to its similarity to the Occitan word chicolatina.
Another theory floats around that, during a period of English rule over France’s Aquitaine region in the 15th century, the English would walk into bakeries and ask for “chocolate in bread, please!” which the French understood as, simply, “chocolate in.” However, this theory has been disputed due to the fact that chocolate did not arrive in Europe from the Americas until 1528.
Other countries all over the world have adopted their own nomenclature, with ‘chocolate croissants’ in the United States and ‘napolitanas de chocolate’ in Spain, for example. But on this widely controversial issue, France may never come to an agreement.
But one thing the whole country can agree on is that it’s NOT called a chocolate croissant.