Le thé goûter

Rumour has it that Parisian women always stay slim; this might be partly due to the eternal underground walking one has to do in order to get from one métro line to the other, but I also think this is greatly to do with another, crucial factor: they don't snack. It's kind of an authomatic rule everyone but me seems to be aware of (which is reminded to you with discreet megaphones on buses, radio and in groceries stores - talk about contradictions!). Whereas we all human - apart from the Brits - have three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner (alternated with casual snacks), the French have a further, gourmand one in which to fully indulge: the thé goûter. A ritual of its own, it's usually sublimated with loads of incredibly tasty cakes which origins can be found all over France. Gaufrettes Amusantes coming from the North, Calissons and Pâtes de fruits from blossoming Provence, Niniches from Quiberon, Madeleines from Commercy, Quernons d'ardoise from Angers, and the list goes on and on, filled with amazing anecdotes. Take the Financier aux amandes, for example; in the Middle Ages, the Visitation sisters were already making small almond flavoured oval cakes. Abandoned for a time, these monastic creations enjoyed a new scene in 1890 thanks to maître pâtissier Lasne. His store was located near the Paris stock exchange and so he decided to create a gold bar shaped cake which would be easy to eat and wouldn't embarassingly dirt one's hands. A cheeky wink to its clientele, the patissier called this cake "le financier".

The legend tells of a beautiful lady, the Marquise de Sable, who brought a little round biscuit at the court of Louis XIV. The king was conquered by the cuteness of this tiny sweet and decided to call it Petit Sablé, in tribute to the Marquise. Originally from the Sarthe valley, this shortbread has its own history, maison and museum even.

The Pope Clement V organized a banquet in Carpentras around 1313. During supper, the pâtissier poured a background of caramel, flavored with mint and lemon on a marble slab, formed a small pudding, and presented it still warm to the Pope. By cutting it with scissors, the Pope got an amber-colored, striped sweet with a unique taste. The berlingot was born and is still today the pride of all Provençal people.

I can't wait to go to Galerie Vivienne in Paris over the weekend, where the HQ of on-line sweet French delicacies store Jours Heureux are going to be for a pop-up event lasting until October 13th.

With love and sablés,