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French words in English dessert names


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#1 emelinecannelle

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 06:53 AM

HI!

I've decided to start this topic in order to help me for a dissertation I'm writing for my Master of Arts.

(By the way, I'm French so don't blame me for the possible mistakes)

 

My dissertation is based on the long history which has intertwined English and French lexicons for centuries now, and on the contemporary use of French loan-words in the English language.

To cut short, I've noticed that a great number of French words are used in the pastry and dessert lexical fields and I was wondering why they were still used today, especially in dessert names.

 

Just to be sure... what I call loan-words are French words which are used as French and which have not be transformed in order to "loook like" English native words.

Examples would be:

Beetroot macarons (where the English nativized word is "macarOOn")

Caramel apple crème brulee

chocolate soufflé

cranberry beignets

Chocolate Trio: Chocolate  Sorbet , Chocolate Tarte with Lemon-Thyme Sabayon, Choco late Fondant Cake (this is quite a loooong name for a dessert :) )

 

I would like to have a reflexive feedback on the use of French loan-words so that I could compare what YOU think of those French words and what I think.
 

Do you feel that the words in the example are French. And, if so, why do you think they are used?

Do you use the same terminology when talking to your friends or family?

Do you understand the above-mentioned words?

Do you sometimes use French words on purpose? and, of course, if so: why?
 

Thank you so much for the time that you'll spent to answer me!



#2 Nicolai

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 08:13 AM

Sabayon is originally Italian = Zabaglione


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#3 emelinecannelle

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 08:31 AM

Sabayon is originally Italian = Zabaglione

 

I agree, no problem with that.

However, what is interesting (or at least to me  :wink: ) is the fact that the French word was chosen and not the Italian original one... 



#4 gfweb

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:05 AM

I use the French words as needed (and always on purpose, my French does not spring forth by accident ;)  )

 

What else would you call a beignet etc?


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#5 mkayahara

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:30 AM

It's been a while since I studied lexical formation (and all my technical vocabulary in the field is in French, but I sense that's not going to be a problem for you). I think you're going to need to make a distinction between emprunts and xénismes... indeed, maybe that's your point here? I would identify macaron, crème brûlée, sabayon and soufflé all as xénismes, because they have no equivalent native preparation in English cuisine; the word and the object were introduced at the same time. My instinct is that the same is true of sorbet, tarte and fondant, but they've just been around a little longer. Beignet is a loanword, because doughnut could suffice. 

 

As far as sabayon vs. zabaglione, I would argue that it's a case of either geographic proximity or simply the French dominance (at least post de'Medici) of the culinary field of knowledge and, consequently, culinary vocabulary.


Edited by mkayahara, 27 May 2014 - 09:32 AM.

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#6 cakewalk

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:48 AM

I agree, no problem with that.

However, what is interesting (or at least to me  :wink: ) is the fact that the French word was chosen and not the Italian original one... 

Hmmmm. Not to get all theological or anything, but chosen by whom?

 

Language is a funny thing, evolving at the drop of a hat. Echoing gfweb above, what else would you call creme brulee? And I can't help thinking in the opposite direction as well: Americans call it puff pastry, not pate feuilletee (did I get that right?), a name which simply did not stick around. I figure you probably have a very different name for apple turnovers. But a croissant is still a croissant wherever you go, no? A macaron is a different item than a macaroon, not just a different word. If I use the French word for something (sorbet, for example) I'm not consciously thinking it's French, it doesn't matter. The origin is French, but the word is English now. (I keep thinking of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction talking about MacDonald's in France, where they call it "Le Big Mac.") :smile:


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#7 mkayahara

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 10:14 AM

And I can't help thinking in the opposite direction as well: Americans call it puff pastry, not pate feuilletee (did I get that right?), a name which simply did not stick around.

And then you get the funny calques and blends, like "choux paste".


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#8 Franci

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 11:14 AM

I agree, no problem with that.

However, what is interesting (or at least to me  :wink: ) is the fact that the French word was chosen and not the Italian original one... 

 

Maybe in this case the French word is easier to pronounce. I always find Anglophones having a tough time saying the "gl" right.

Funny enough, also Italians borrowed beignets but it means choux.

 

Also mille feuille is not easy to pronounce, maybe easier to translate.


Edited by Franci, 27 May 2014 - 11:16 AM.

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#9 djyee100

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 02:58 PM

Off the top of my head --  macarons, creme brulee, souffle, beignets, sorbet, and sabayon are not mainstream American foods and perhaps that's why they've kept their French names. These foods are most often found in high-end shops, bakeries, and restaurants.

 

Fondant is commonly used by professionals for cake decorating and candymaking. That term is borderline for French/English, IMO. "Tarte" has become "tart" in American English and is commonly understood to be a shallow pie (sometimes with fillings that are distinctly not French). "Sherbet" is the American cousin to sorbet, and that's what I remember eating as a kid. Sherbet has milk in it.

 

Now "croissant" may be an interesting case. Croissants are more mainstream for Americans, yet they have retained the French name. Why? They were introduced to mainstream American cuisine in the 1960s and perhaps they have kept their original name thanks to Julia Child and increased foreign travel by Americans since then. Croissants are also very unique in what they are, the flaky pastry and crescent shape.

 

I totally understand why "pâte feuilletée" became puff pastry for Americans. Does anyone have to ask?

 

Do you feel that the words in the example are French. And, if so, why do you think they are used? Yes, pls see above ramblings.
Do you use the same terminology when talking to your friends or family?  Yes. Foodie friends, anyway. My family are not foodies and they would be bored by the entire subject.
Do you understand the above-mentioned words? Yes.
Do you sometimes use French words on purpose? and, of course, if so: why? Only when necessary, as with the examples you gave. Otherwise, No. Can't be bothered if there is a perfectly good English word around.



#10 Lisa Shock

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 05:33 PM

macaron are the crisp little discs of egg white, nut flour and sugar sandwiched with jam, icing or ganache

macaroons are chewy coconut things

 

sorbet is a frozen fruit puree with sugar

sherbet is frozen milk with fruit flavor

 

Generally, I use the correct term for the dessert being referred to.

 

I think you're making far too great an issue of regional foods being referred to by their traditional names. Sure, some foods appear in multiple regions' classic repertoire with names in multiple languages, bread, pain, brot, pane, pão, etc. In those cases, we tend to use the native word.

 

When a food is introduced whole cloth from another culture, we tend to use that culture's word. We don't spend lots of time trying to accurately describe pho or larb in English, we just call it what the natives do.



#11 ChrisZ

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 06:56 PM

I might be imagining things, but I've noticed an increasing usage of "chantilly" instead of the more obvious "whipped cream".  It's probably due to TV cooking shows but I think it's kinda pretentious.  Whipped cream is so simple, and unambiguous, I don't see any reason to call it "chantilly"...


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#12 Lisa Shock

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 07:01 PM

I might be imagining things, but I've noticed an increasing usage of "chantilly" instead of the more obvious "whipped cream".  It's probably due to TV cooking shows but I think it's kinda pretentious.  Whipped cream is so simple, and unambiguous, I don't see any reason to call it "chantilly"...

 

Chantilly contains sugar and possibly vanilla, whipped cream is just cream and air.



#13 lesliec

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 07:05 PM

English has a long history of absorbing words from other languages.  I remember a (reputable) TV programme a few years back stating that English vocabulary grew by 10,000 words after the Normans arrived (it might even have been 100,000 - either way, it's a good number of imports).  I'm not a linguist, but I understand this makes English more of a creole than a 'pure' language; we don't have an Academie Anglaise to keep us straight.  It's also what gives English much of its power to grow and adapt.

 

But I wonder, Emiline, if it makes English a more difficult proposition for your study.  You're going to find unmodified French words in almost anything a native English speaker says or writes, not just in relation to patisserie (see what I did there?).  eGullet members would find it hard to have come this far without menus and restaurants, and kids have been making papier maché models in their first few years of school for a very long time.  There are many other examples; most of the time we're probably not even aware that words we used have been borrowed.

 

In many cases we might be able to come up with English equivalents to the French names - I came across something called a 'crossover' in Australia once; you might (just) recognise it as a relative of the croissant -  but traditionally, English doesn't do that.  It just adds the imported word to its vocab and barrels along, bigger than ever.


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#14 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 08:07 PM

Status.

 

English and I suppose other languages absorb the lexicon of a certain field from the language of the country that is perceived to have special status in that field at a particular time. In the case of French that applies to cuisine especially; also to dance. In plastic arts or music it would tend to be Italian.

 

To elaborate on what Leslie has said, there is also some correlation between invaders' languages and high-status domains. For example contrast germanic (Old English) terms with their Latinate (French) equivalents as they are represented in modern English:

 

pig/swine (Old English pigge/swin) vs pork (French le porc)

cow (Old English cu) vs beef (French le boeuf)

sheep (Old English sceap) vs mutton (French le mouton)

 

The lowly husbandry terms come from the conquered language while the more elevated culinary terms come from the invading language because in general terms the native people would occupy menial positions like farming and the invading French nobles would spend their time on fine dining  :biggrin:. You could say the same thing about food (Old English foda) vs dining/dinner (French le diner); the more prosaic general term belongs to the conquered language while the one more associated with leisure and enjoyable domestic ritual is from the dominant French.

 

I don't think that French lexicon necessarily persists or is adopted more in patisserie than in other areas of cooking, but patisserie has been a French specialty for at least several centuries; many of its techniques originated in France and so were named first in French and that is the name generally used. The reverse could be said of IT for example, where French has absorbed a lot of English words because the Americans produce a large number of IT innovations.


Edited by Plantes Vertes, 27 May 2014 - 08:11 PM.

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#15 djyee100

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:34 PM

This topic has become my favorite thing to think about while waiting in traffic for the light to change. So while I was stuck in rush hour traffic today I wondered about foods where the French term was not adopted.

 

Not baguette, but French bread. (Though more people are using the term baguette now.)
Not pommes frites or frites, but French fries, or just plain "fries."

 

Those are both popular and common foods, not haute cuisine. Any other non-adoptees you can think of?

 

Back to "croissant." In the 1960s Pillsbury came up with its crescent rolls, but that easy English term never replaced croissant. The Pillsbury crescent rolls weren't much like real croissants, I have to say. But then, neither is American "French bread" much like real baguette, yet the English term is preferred.



#16 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:56 PM

This topic has become my favorite thing to think about while waiting in traffic for the light to change. So while I was stuck in rush hour traffic today I wondered about foods where the French term was not adopted.

 

Not baguette, but French bread. (Though more people are using the term baguette now.)
Not pommes frites or frites, but French fries, or just plain "fries."

 

Those are both popular and common foods, not haute cuisine. Any other non-adoptees you can think of?

 

Back to "croissant." In the 1960s Pillsbury came up with its crescent rolls, but that easy English term never replaced croissant. The Pillsbury crescent rolls weren't much like real croissants, I have to say. But then, neither is American "French bread" much like real baguette, yet the English term is preferred.

 

 

Perhaps this is an example of reverse snobbery? English speakers might feel bashful about using French words for something as mundane as bread, while fancy French pastry items like croissants would be considered worthy of their own recherche vocabulary.



#17 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 11:26 PM

Do you feel that the words in the example are French. And, if so, why do you think they are used?

Yes.

Because the French invented and named the respective dishes (in the same way, I call tajine or ceviche by those words), with the exception of beignets, which is a French word but not I think a French dish. In that case I think the word is used partly because French terminology has a special value in the description of cooking in English, and partly because the word doughnut automatically means sweet doughnuts, while some restaurants apply beignets to savoury items.                                                                   

Do you use the same terminology when talking to your friends or family?

Yes, with the exception of beignets, where I would say doughnuts for sweet or probably fritters for savoury, and tarte, where I would say tart.

Do you understand the above-mentioned words?

Yes. Etymology, French language and cuisine are all particular interests so I enjoy thinking through the imagery and ideas behind this sort of specialist cooking term. 

Do you sometimes use French words on purpose? and, of course, if so: why?

I often use the ones mentioned, except beignets and tarte, because they have been adopted into standard English and because there is no generally accepted English equivalent. I would not use a French word instead of an existing English one when speaking English, for example saying le fromage instead of cheese, because this seems pretentious to me.



#18 jmacnaughtan

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 12:10 AM

A strange example is the word croquembouche, which isn't used at all in French (they tend to use pièce montée).

 

As many people have said, the honour of naming an invention goes to the inventor.  Whether it gets translated or not later is another matter.  This process seems entirely random- why has crème brûlée remained in French while crème pâtissière became pastry cream?

 

It may be that finished desserts tend to keep their name, but preparations that form part of them don't.  Although I'm slightly disappointed that éclair hasn't become lightning.

 

On a slightly unrelated note, for ChrisZ: Chantilly is named after the place it was invented, le Château de Chantilly, by a team led by François Vatel.  He's famous for committing suicide after not ordering enough fish for the king's feast.



#19 liuzhou

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 12:32 AM

Not baguette, but French bread. 

 

Baguette has been the term of choice in the UK for all of my long life. French bread refers to any bread in a French style (real or imagined). 

 

 

sherbet is frozen milk with fruit flavor

 

Not in the UK, it isn't. Sherbert

 

pig/swine (Old English pigge/swin) vs pork (French le porc)

cow (Old English cu) vs beef (French le boeuf)

sheep (Old English sceap) vs mutton (French le mouton)

 

The lowly husbandry terms come from the conquered language while the more elevated culinary terms come from the invading language because in general terms the native people would occupy menial positions like farming and the invading French nobles would spend their time on fine dining.

 

 

That theory is debatable and has been debated.at length by linguists. There is evidence in Chaucer and other literature of the time (when French and Old English had just merged) that both terms were used interchangeably by both the conquered and the conquerors.

Anyway, I really don't see what the fuss is about French words in gastronomy. Approximately half of English is derived from French. 


Edited by liuzhou, 28 May 2014 - 12:38 AM.


#20 emelinecannelle

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 01:00 AM

Thank you so much for your answers! I didn't think that this topic would interest so many people :blush:

Few details, just to explain a little bit more the subject of my dissertation paper:

- I had to restrict the scope of my study in order to be able to write my paper in one year time. That's why I've chosen the lexical field of pastry and dessert. of course, other lexical fields could have been chosen. This was just a personal choice.

- One part of my paper is entirely dedicated to the history of French loan-words in the English lexicon so no need to explain to me that some loan-words are used because of this kind of history (although it is always interesting to know what native English speakers think about it)

 

What struck me when reading your comments is that you don't really see the point (or at least you don't feel it's important) in studying such French words and to wonder why they were adopted in English as such or if they were adapted to the English language. In France, there are recurrently great debates about "how to keep the French language pure?" and "how to preserve French language from English invasion?" .... Ok, I might oversimplify but you get the point.

I do think it has something to do with the relative positions held by languages in the world.

English is everywhere, considered as an international language, and taught worldwide intensively. It could be argued that the English language is not as "threatened" as more minority languages (such as French) and thus does not feel the lexical innovations coming from other languages as "threats".... anyway

 

 

 

 

@cakewalk: I meant "chosen" by the author of the quoted dessert name ;) And it was an astonishment for me when watching Pulp Fiction to discover that there is no such thing as "Big Mac" in the US (so naiiiiive)

 

@mkayahara: you're right in making a difference between "xénisme" and "emprunt" :) But i didn't want to get this topic too technical

 

@dyjee100: thanks for the answers! Concerning the possible non-adoptees, I thought of French fries (which you mentioned) which are considered to be Belgian in France! There are also "French dressing", "French Dip Sandwich" and "French Custard Ice Cream" (I might be wrong there since I'm not an English native speaker)

 

@Lesliec: The effect of the Norman Conquest was indeed quite tremendous on the English lexicon! And in many lexical fields!

 

@Plantes Vertes: I focus my work on pastry terminology because I need to reduce the scope of my study... otherwise it would have taken me much more of a year! And what a better lexical field to study than pastry :)

And thanks for the answers!

 

@jmacnaughtan: Your point of view about preparation vs finished desserts is quite interesting, I didn't think of it!



#21 jmacnaughtan

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 02:03 AM

What struck me when reading your comments is that you don't really see the point (or at least you don't feel it's important) in studying such French words and to wonder why they were adopted in English as such or if they were adapted to the English language. In France, there are recurrently great debates about "how to keep the French language pure?" and "how to preserve French language from English invasion?" .... Ok, I might oversimplify but you get the point.

I do think it has something to do with the relative positions held by languages in the world.

English is everywhere, considered as an international language, and taught worldwide intensively. It could be argued that the English language is not as "threatened" as more minority languages (such as French) and thus does not feel the lexical innovations coming from other languages as "threats".... anyway

 

I don't really agree with you here- there haven't really been any such debates for a very long time, apart from perhaps in the corridors of the Académie Française (which has been 50 years behind the times ever since it was founded).  Although French is a minor language compared to English, it is in no way minor enough to feel threatened by foreign "invasion".  Words get swapped back and forth and integrated thanks to their convenience, hence French in kitchens and fashion companies and English in ICT and management speak.

 

One of the reasons for English's current dominance is its flexibility.  It's essentially a mongrel language, taking elements freely from any other (this is an interesting illustration).  It shouldn't be particularly surprising that we take words and phrases wholesale from other languages when appropriate.

 

It's also interesting that all of the examples cited are hundreds of years old.  There don't seem to be many named pastry inventions since the 1950's, in France or anywhere else- the techniques, ingredients and presentation are evolving, sure, but nobody seems to be inventing anything and giving it a name.  



#22 ChrisZ

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 02:14 AM

Chantilly contains sugar and possibly vanilla, whipped cream is just cream and air.

 

Yes but that doesn't automatically make it French!  Hypothetically - if there's a cafe in London, or New York or Sydney that has on the menu "Apple Pie with creme chantilly" I think it's a fair question to ask why they dodn't simply have "Apple Pie with whipped cream".  I think that sort of question is what the original post is about.  Even my local deli has "normal" bread rolls that are simply called bread rolls, and a range of "fancy" artisan sour dough rolls labelled as "batards".

 

Jmacnaughtan - Thanks for the entertaining trivia.  I had to google it - unfortunately wikipedia disagrees.  But I'd never given thought to the idea that someone "invented" whipped cream.  Maybe they were making butter and got lazy.

 

I'm veering away from the original questions but I thought I'd mention that I love Bill Bryson's book "The mother tongue" - a book on the history of the English language, and full of great pieces of linguistic trivia.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone who finds this thread interesting.  In my part of the world our kitchens only have pantries, but as I grew up reading Enid Blyton books I'm familiar with the terms "larder" and "scullery".  In Bryson's book he mentions how the English 'pantry' came from the French 'paneterie' (pain, i.e. bread) and that a 'larder' (a cool meat room) has the same roots as 'lardons' - a term still used to describe bacon strips used when roasting meats. Seems obvious when it's pointed out but I'd never thought about it...


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#23 emelinecannelle

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:51 AM

I don't really agree with you here- there haven't really been any such debates for a very long time, apart from perhaps in the corridors of the Académie Française (which has been 50 years behind the times ever since it was founded).

Yeah, I agree with you on the image the Académie Française has given of itself...
I may have exagerrated about the importance of such debates but they still exist! At least in academic circles... and in semi -journalistic magazines. Maybe it's not so common in everyday life (thank god!) but the fact that such debates are still current in French society, even at its margins, reveals something about how the French people see other languages and their influences.

 

It's also interesting that all of the examples cited are hundreds of years old.  There don't seem to be many named pastry inventions since the 1950's, in France or anywhere else- the techniques, ingredients and presentation are evolving, sure, but nobody seems to be inventing anything and giving it a name.  

 

Afetr having done some research, I got few words which are used in English but which were attested for the first time during the twentietch century, or which are not recorder (yet) in an English dictionary designed for native speakers:

crème anglaise, ganache, gelée, sabayon, chocolat chaud, mousse au chocolat, pain au chocolat, pâte à choux, pot de crème, and vacherin

These are words that I actually found on the Internet used by English net surfers

 

 

Yes but that doesn't automatically make it French!  Hypothetically - if there's a cafe in London, or New York or Sydney that has on the menu "Apple Pie with creme chantilly" I think it's a fair question to ask why they dodn't simply have "Apple Pie with whipped cream".  I think that sort of question is what the original post is about.

 

 

You're totally right! What really motivated the choice of "chantilly" in that case? Although a perfect answer can be given because of the prestige attached to such a word and thus the dessert would worth an extra pound or two on the menu, I found it interesting to wonder why people in everyday life are still sometimes using French words when an English equivalent could be used....

 

And thanks everyone for telling me the difference between a macaron and a macaroon (the same for sorbet/sherbet) :blush:



#24 jmacnaughtan

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 05:07 AM

For whipped cream/Chantilly, you can use either- it's just that Chantilly is always sweetened and normally flavoured with vanilla, and whipped cream doesn't have to be.  The distinction probably comes from the French- Chantilly is what you put on a cake, between meringues etc. and crème fouettée is incorporated into mousses.  

 

I'm pretty sure it's a recent invention anyway- I've never tried it, but I don't think you could make whipped cream without a wire whisk.  Not anything you'd be able to do anything with, anyway.

 

emelinecannelle: most of those words are from the 19th century or earlier.  For French etymology, I recommend this.  I know for sure that pâte à choux, vacherins and gélées were around at the time of Marie-Antoine Carême, anyway.  Apparently, chocolate mousses were around before the Revolution as well.

 

Another interesting piece of trivia: the Sachertorte with its shiny chocolate glaze was invented almost forty years before smooth (conched) chocolate was available anywhere.


Edited by jmacnaughtan, 28 May 2014 - 05:07 AM.


#25 emelinecannelle

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 05:12 AM

Considering the French etymology, for sure they existed well before the 20th century. I was referring to the first attested usage in English precisely!

 

 

Thanks for your clarification about whipped cream :)



#26 mkayahara

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 05:30 AM

Yeah, I agree with you on the image the Académie Française has given of itself...
I may have exagerrated about the importance of such debates but they still exist! At least in academic circles... and in semi -journalistic magazines. Maybe it's not so common in everyday life (thank god!) but the fact that such debates are still current in French society, even at its margins, reveals something about how the French people see other languages and their influences.

At the risk of topic drift, it may be worth pointing out that these discussions are de rigueur in Quebec (academically, journalistically and popularly), where it is felt that the purity of French is rather more at risk, given that Quebec is a single official French-speaking jurisdiction in a large sea of English. (Whether or not that risk is real remains uncertain.) [Edit: Actually one of two such jurisdictions, when you count New Brunswick.]

 

Without being too rigorous about it, it seems clear that there are at least two explanations as to why the French terms are used: because there's no equivalent English term (macaron, crème brûlée, soufflé) or because the French term carries a sense of prestige (chantilly, tarte) - not necessarily the prestige of the Normans conquering the Anglo-Saxons, but more the prestige of French cuisine being considered the apex of culinary achievement for the bulk of the 20th century. You could possibly also add technical precision as a third reason, although some of my co-workers in the pastry department still look at me funny when I say pâte à choux instead of choux paste, and they would certainly never say crème pâtissière instead of pastry cream. (On the other hand, yes, crème anglaise and not "custard sauce", though I did catch myself saying custard sauce to a young guest this past Sunday...)

 

As far as recent innovations in pastry, I wonder if anything out of modernist cuisine should enter into the discussion. Espuma, for example?


Edited by mkayahara, 28 May 2014 - 05:31 AM.

Matthew Kayahara
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#27 djyee100

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 12:51 PM

For the majority of Americans, English is not the ancestral ethnic language, but the language our ancestors used to live in their new country. Maybe that's why it's so easy for us to pick up words from other languages as needed. We use our language to get around, we don't particularly love it or identify strongly with it. There's no reason for our language to be pure in any particular way, because we're a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society to begin with.

 

 

"French dressing", "French Dip Sandwich" and "French Custard Ice Cream"

 

These all exist. There used to be a flavor called "French vanilla" ice cream when I was a kid, which meant an extra-strong, rich vanilla ice cream. Again, the prestige factor of "French" comes into play.

 

I've also thought of crepes as another dessert that has entered the American mainstream and kept its French name. Like tarts, American crepes may be served with some very un-French fillings. What I find interesting, other American ethnic groups (like the Russians and Swedes) make thin pancakes, but the French name won out. Not even "French pancakes," the name had to be "crepes."


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#28 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:29 PM

I've noticed that a great number of French words are used in the pastry and dessert lexical fields and I was wondering why they were still used today, especially in dessert names.

 

 

Specifically in relation to pastry, it seems that French terminology is quite figurative (bichon, religieuse, éclair, jésuite, palmier, financier, puits d'amour, mendiant...). Maybe one reason why French names are not translated directly is that names involving imagery are less popular in the English pastry lexicon.



#29 djyee100

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 09:14 PM

...Maybe one reason why French names are not translated directly is that names involving imagery are less popular in the English pastry lexicon.

 

You mean like "spotted dick"? :wink:

 

Seriously, though, maybe you're onto something. I can imagine in times past that French names referring to the Catholic religion would not be a hit in English. Also, of the French loan words we've mentioned here, many are physically descriptive of the pastry/dessert, not figurative: creme brulee, souffle, croissant, crepes, croquembouche.



#30 tug

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 08:27 AM

For the majority of Americans, English is not the ancestral ethnic language, but the language our ancestors used to live in their new country. Maybe that's why it's so easy for us to pick up words from other languages as needed. We use our language to get around, we don't particularly love it or identify strongly with it. There's no reason for our language to be pure in any particular way, because we're a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society to begin with.

 

 

These all exist. There used to be a flavor called "French vanilla" ice cream when I was a kid, which meant an extra-strong, rich vanilla ice cream. Again, the prestige factor of "French" comes into play.

 

I've also thought of crepes as another dessert that has entered the American mainstream and kept its French name. Like tarts, American crepes may be served with some very un-French fillings. What I find interesting, other American ethnic groups (like the Russians and Swedes) make thin pancakes, but the French name won out. Not even "French pancakes," the name had to be "crepes."

 

delurking to quote your post as an uproarious endorsement of my exact sentiments.


Peter: You're a spy
Harry: I'm not a spy, I'm a shepherd
Peter: Ah! You're a shepherd's pie!

- The Goons


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