Les papillotes

IMG_4442Both 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?





  1. poshbirdy · December 10, 2015

    Oh yum! What a lovely choccy treat. And dark choc is my fav too

    • MELewis · December 10, 2015

      When I first came to France I found them way too sugary and sweet but now the chocolate is lovely and dark – also my favourite kind!

  2. Food,Photography & France · December 10, 2015

    First time that I’ve heard of them….sounds a nice idea…most good chocolate is a good idea but I do prefer chocolate without a moral message if possible:)

    • MELewis · December 10, 2015

      Food is religion enough, n’est-ce pas? 😉

  3. Colin Bisset · December 10, 2015

    Love the inner cynic of marketing that gets softened by the lure of chocolate. I’m sure I’d manage to snaffle a packet – for private indulgence only, of course.

    • MELewis · December 10, 2015

      Funny you should say that: I prefer to indulge privately also. Perhaps a sign of closet chocoholism?

  4. Osyth · December 10, 2015

    I love the idea of these and I love your advent ritual. My favourite way with chocolate? It tends, I’m afraid to be all or nothing. Either self-righteous and imagined virtue when I turn the other cheek and graciously decline, or (too often for my own good) a feeding frenzy followed by inevitable remorse and self castigation.

    • MELewis · December 10, 2015

      Which is when the message of forgiveness comes in handy! I know what you mean though, it’s easier to stay on the wagon and just say no. One little ‘oui’ and the damn is burst…. 😥

  5. davidprosser · December 11, 2015

    I was fully expecting it to have to do with butterflies after papillon so you surprised me today Mel. I’ve never had a papillote but you make them sound nice.
    My favourite way to eat chocolate? Darkly wrapped round a ginger biscuit.
    Have a Great Weekend
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · December 12, 2015

      Yes, I always thought about butterflies when I hear the word ‘papillote’ too! Perhaps there is something in the etymology – the twisted wrapper ends look a bit like a butterfly. As for ginger and dark choc biscuits – that’s a marriage born in heaven but sadly one the French have not discovered! Merci mon ami. Bises xo

  6. Lisa @ cheergerm · December 12, 2015

    Ha, love the idea of moralistic advent fortune cookie chocolate. Would love to able to put them in the lads nativity wooden advent calendar. Imagine their joy at the chocolate (let alone the nativity addition they find) then the slight confusion on reading a moral lesson in the chocolate wrapper. Maybe not a bad thing as I discovered this evening they have been taking a peek before their turn, to see if they are getting a camel, sheep, cow etc.) Wee rascals.

    • MELewis · December 13, 2015

      Ha, ha….I love hearing about your rascals! Lest we forget, Christmas would not be Christmas without a bit of peeking. 😉 As for the Advent Calendar, I came to these late in life and in France they are all about chocolate. Created my own twist on it this year by inserting both a chocolate and a home-grown own post-it message in each day’s pocket – some reminders of what must get done by the 24th, others just little messages of joy. Kinda corny but it’s working!

  7. acflory · December 14, 2015

    I wish we had those here! -drool-

    • MELewis · December 15, 2015

      They are indeed delish – but I’m grateful they’re only around at Christmas!

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