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'Chocolatine' vs 'pain au chocolat': French pastry war spills over into parliament

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'Chocolatine' vs 'pain au chocolat': French pastry war spills over into parliament
Photo: Twitter/@SultanPopi
10:14 CEST+02:00
The age-old French war over what to call France's famous chocolate-filled pastry treat -- known to most as a "pain au chocolat" -- has reached French parliament, where a group of MPs are fighting to have the the rival term "chocolatine" officially recognised.

It's a debate that has divided France for centuries - what is the name of the chocolate-filled pastry treat?

While most of the country, and visitors to France, might say "pain au chocolat", a stronghold in the south west has resisted, proudly sticking to the term "chocolatine".

And then there's the outposts in the north where the locals use the term "petit pain au chocolat" or even just "petit pain". The map below from linguist Mathieu Avanzi based on his survey of hundreds of French people in different parts of the country, explains all.

READ ALSO: French pastry wars - the story of pain of chocolat versus chocolatine

But now the historic row has spilled over into the chambers of the French parliament where a group of right wing Republican French MPs have tabled an amendment to the new Food Industry and Farming bill aimed at recognising the term "chocolatine".

The MPs want the Countryside and Fisheries code changed in order "to give value to the customary name and fame of a product".

In other words they want the popular term of certain local specialities recognised, but the only one they mention in the amendment is "chocolatine".

"For example, this would be the case for the chocolate pastry whose name has historically been rooted in the Gascon region, and which is the pride of all of southern France: the chocolatine," Aurélien Pradié, an MP from the south west Lot department who is backing the amendment said.

"This is not just a chocolatine amendment. It's an amendment that aims to protect popular expressions that give value to culinary expertise," she added.

But given that most MPs in France are from "pain au chocolat" strongholds they may have a tough time getting the amendment accepted.

But where does all the confusion come from?

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.
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