What’s in a name, part deux: the French battle over chocolate pastries

For decades, a rural-vs-urban, south-vs-north debate has been raging. No, it isn’t in a political dispute in the United States, but instead involves France and a specific chocolate pastry. Known as ‘pain au chocolat’ in most of France but especially in Paris, the laminated dough encasing chocolate bars is called ‘chocolatine’ in the southwest portion of the country. The debate over the name has been elevated all the way to the French parliament. 

pain au chocolat

A small group of MPs from southwest France recently introduced an amendment to the Food Industry and Farming bill aimed at recognizing the term ‘chocolatine’. As the BBC video illustrates, the debate mainly pits rural French citizens against their urban counterparts. Using the term ‘chocolatine’ is a rejection of what rural dwellers feel is the ‘peculiarness’ of Parisian life. The debate “reflects the contrast between the capital’s modernity and the regions’ traditions.”

The origins of the competing terms are unclear. The most widely accepted explanation of the debate comes from culinary historian Jim Chevallier. He says that the word chocolatine derives from the German ‘schokoladencroissant’, a crescent-shaped, chocolate-filled brioche. As the French “integrated other viennoiseries into their culture, laminating the brioche layers, “chocolatine” became one and the same with pain au chocolat,” concludes Chevallier. He believes the southwest region, remained in the ‘chocolatine’ camp due to that word’s similarity to the regional word ‘chicolatina’.  

For what it’s worth, the renowned Poilâne Bakery (located in Paris, of course) insists that the correct term is ‘pain au chocolat’. The EYB Library seems to concur, because there are only six results for the term ‘chocolatine‘ but 122 for ‘pain au chocolat‘, including the  Balthazar Boulangerie pain au chocolat from Observer Food Monthly Magazine. I’ll gladly eat one no matter which name is appended to it. 

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