Both sides of our supermarket’s central aisle are lined with chocolate at this time of year. At least half of these are the Christmas holiday confection preferred in our parts: les papillotes. These brightly wrapped bonbons hide not only a delightful chocolate but a message inside, much like the fortune cookies we North Americans enjoy at Chinese restaurants. The difference is that the message inside the papillote is traditionally one of love. This is, after all, France.
Legend has it that a young assistant candymaker chez Monsieur Papillot in Lyon back in the late 17th century was inspired to slip love notes inside his confections as a way of gaining favour with the boss’s niece, who worked on the upper floor.
The fate of the hapless fellow is contested: some have it that he married his sweetheart (a happy pun if ever there was one), others claim that he was sent packing by Monsieur Papillot, who wisely retained the young man’s clever idea.
I cannot help but suspect a marketing mind at work somewhere in that story: ‘papillot’ plays upon papille, or papilles gustatives which mean taste buds in French. And to wrap and cook food en papillote is a longstanding cooking tradition. Peu importe, the ending is inevitably a happy one.
I open the cellophane bag and an unmistakable bittersweet fragrance wafts out: le chocolat. Could there be a headier elixir? I plunge my hand deep into the bag and pull out one of the tasselled wrappers, holding it up to the light. “Ganache” it says. Ha! It will be a good day indeed. With a gentle twist I pop the shiny wrapping to reveal the inner, waxen one, upon which is written my fate.
“Forgiveness, tolerance and wisdom are the language of the strong.” Hardly a love note, but this year the chocolate-maker, Révillon, has decided to go all dark on us, packing up the papillotes with African proverbs.
I bite into the deep, dark secret that is my daily advent ritual and decide that forgiveness is in order.
Have you ever enjoyed a papillote? What is your favourite way to eat chocolate?