Why ‘World’ Chocolatine Day is unlikely to unite France

Pain au chocolat
Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash
A small radio station in the southwestern city of Toulouse is still trying to make World Chocolatine Day a thing - but a long-running language battle means that most of France won't be celebrating the delicious chocolatey pastry.

Toulouse FM, the self-described best radio station in Toulouse and the Haute-Garonne département of southwest France, is relaunching Journée Mondiale de la Chocolatine (World Chocolatine Day).

The annual celebration first took place in 2018 but was cancelled last year due to Covid. The organisers instead sent boxes of chocolatines to a local children’s hospital. 

As part of this event, scheduled for Thursday, November 18th, a team from the radio will roam the streets, handing out free chocolatines to passers-by. This year, the organisers are also delivering chocolatines to Toluouse businesses for free – you can sign up here. The world champion chocolatine maker, Sébastien Lagrue, is also participating in proceedings. 

But as much as Toulouse FM are trying to create a buzz, it is unlikely that Journée Mondiale de la Chocolatine will catch on because most French people (84 percent according to a 2019 survey by IFOP) don’t even use the word chocolatine, instead referring to pains au chocolat

READ ALSO French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine

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The terms chocolatine and pain au chocolat were both coined in the 19th century. Originally, chocolatine was the word used to describe both a kind of fruity chocolate and a concentrated chocolate drink. The name Pain au chocolat meanwhile first emerged in Switzerland and referred to the delicious treat that we all know and love today. 

In the southwest of France however, many are determined to stick with the term chocolatine – some even view pain au chocolat as an anglicised bastardisation. The rest of the country broadly uses pain au chocolat although there are exceptions. 

In the far north east France, on the border with Belgium, it is often known as a petit pain or petit pain au chocolat, while along the eastern border with Germany it can be either a petit pain au chocolat or a croissant au chocolat.

People living in the southwest are fiercely attached to the term chocolatine – with some pâtissiers threatening to charge extra for customers who ask for a pain au chocolat

Several public efforts have been made by south-westerners over the years to gain legitimacy for chocolatine. In 2017, five high school students unsuccessfully petitioned then-President François Hollande and the Académie Française to have the word officially recognised. 

READ ALSO ‘Chocolatine’ vs ‘pain au chocolat’: French pastry war spills over into parliament

In 2018, a dozen or so right-wing MPs attempted tabled an amendment to the new Food Industry and Farming bill aimed at recognising the term chocolatine. The amendment was thrown off the table after the Agriculture Minister at the time, Stéphane Travert, argued that it was a waste of parliamentary time. 

Until France can agree on what to call this food, it is unlikely that World Chocolatine Day will attain support from across the nation – let alone from the international community. 

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