In Praise of Sensible Cakes.

maxresdefaultThe French call it « Gouter », which for want of a better translation would be « teatime » in English, however, depending of where you live in England’s green and pleasant land, « tea » can be one of several different meals.

So, I am not talking full blown « afternoon tea » – that meal in-between meals enjoyed mostly by tourists, neither am I talking « teatime », that term used in the North of England to describe what us southerners might simply call « dinner » – because in Northern England, « dinner » is actually your lunch.

Back to the French « gouter » which is no more than a couple of biscuits or a choclate bar or some kind of sweet snack that kids wolf down when they arrive home from school.

So, this being Saturday – I hit the supermarket like the thousands of other souls in this small town who shop on Saturday morning, because that is the time that everyone goes shopping. Long lines at the checkout, bumper-to-bumper trolleys in the aisles and … the « phenomen » that annoys me above all else – people meeting and chatting and standing right in the middle of the aisle as they do so, oblivious to the fact that they are blocking the way for everyone. I wish supermarket trolleys were equipped with horns ; I’d honk all thses aisle hogs – worse than road hogs.

Back to cake

It was on leaving the house that my daughter asked me (shouting from her bedroom) « dad can you bring back a cake (gâteau) for the gouter »

A cake – oh please for a real, sensible cake ! A Victoria sponge, a carrot cake, a banana and walnut, a Dundee cake – something copious, solid and sensible. This is France though, and the French don’t do decent cakes (I can hear howls of gastronomic francophile anguis as I write) – Yes the French have Patisseries – icing-covered, cream filled créations hat are better to look at than taste. Oh the chocolate eclair – NO, that is not a cake, it’s an éclair – and worse the coffee cream éclair. I don’t want fancy pâtisseries, I want a slice of carrot cake.

Of course, for the purposes of the « gouter », when the daughter says « gâteau » and I translate as cake, I should of course have understood « biscuit » – yep, this is the country where a cake can be a biscuit and a biscuit – well that’s something fancy that pastry chefs use in their pâtisseries. Confused – you should be.

To avoid confusion we use brand names in my house

Nevertheless – I wandered into that aisle where sweets and biscuits are sold, looking for a real cake. Ginger bread, Brownies, « English » fruit cake, but nothing that I would consider as a real cake in my very English définition.

I might get a « cake » at the baker’s, but the baker is a baker and not a pâtissier, though there are a few fruit tarts (referred to in English as pies) because when the French make an apple pie, it is an apple tart.

Oh for real cake !

Yes, I can get almost real cake in my corner of deepest France, though I have to frequent one of the plethora of tea rooms or coffee shops that have opened up in my small provincial town.

Even then, the carrot cake on offer is a very small « ersatz » affair.

No decent cake. All this in the land where Marie Antoinette told the peasants to eat cake beceuqe they had no bread.

Lost in translation again. Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say cake or « gâteau » – she actually meant Brioche, which is Brioche, because we don’t have that in Britain because it’s French.

« Let them eat cake ! »

Perhaps if they’d given the peasants a nice slice of Victoria sponge and a decent cup of tea, we would never have had all this revolution nonsense.