Origin of Crepe: Story of a Humble Beginning to Paris Delicacy with History of Crepes Suzette
A crêpe is a delicious French dish that is quite popular in Brittany a town in France, serving up as super-thin pancakes in a range of sweet and savoury forms. It is a staple food in France selling in restaurants and street vendors all over the country. Despite the widespread presence, it got its humble beginnings in a specific area of western France.
A Crepe is a very thin cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour. The word pancake itself has a French origin and the delicious crepe derived its name from the Latin word crispa, meaning "curled."
Origin of Crepes:
Crêpes originated in a region known as Brittany – “Bretagne” in French, which lies in the northwestern region of France sometime around the 12th Century. Brittany is a region which disallows the growth of any subsistence plants due to the geography of it.
Brittany is lined with steep and rugged cliffs along its coastline, and it is often seen as a harsh area. However, in the 12th Century, when some traders showed up in the area carrying buckwheat, it turned out that this crop thrives in the harsh conditions of Brittany.
When buckwheat first began to be consumed, it was found that it is extremely healthy, as it contains the nutritious benefits of numerous amino acids and is high in fibre as well as protein.
Before buckwheat came into the picture, the staple diet of the people of Brittany consisted majorly of eggs and milk. Shortly after the arrival of buckwheat, the inhabitants began to grind the buckwheat into flour and add this buckwheat flour to another mixture of eggs and milk.
This made a kind of porridge, which was then poured onto a cast-iron plate and heat it in a wood fireplace, similar to the way omelets are made.
The way to cook a crêpe was to pour it over the hot plate, let it be for about a minute, flip it over and wait for another minute. When the edges of the crêpe began to curl up just slightly, that was the sign that the crêpe was now cooked and ready to eat. This also happens to be the origin story of how the dish crêpe got the name “crêpe” means to curl.
Crepe started spreading every area, arrondissement, and neighborhood in Paris, but more to the eastern quarter of Montparnasse because Gare Montparnasse was the train station directly connecting Brittany to the city of Paris.
Upon first opening in 1840, People flocked to Paris opening different shops and restaurants in the Montparnasse quarter, specializing in the exports of Brittany. After the voyage to Paris, the crêpe was exported to every region in France.
In 1930, French Chef Henri Charpentier brought crepe to America, he claims to be to first to serve original Crepes Suzette to future King Edward VII in Monte Carlo. Crepes Suzette is a classic orange crepes recipe created in 1895 according to the legend, a fifteen-year-old future chef Henri Charpentier accidentally ignited some liqueur.
Through the origin have been in dispute but there is no dispute that the classic dish and its delicious orange sauce soon became the staple feature of haute cuisine in America.
Side Dishes with Crepe:
A crêpe is not eaten by itself though. It can be eaten with any fresh food that was available in the area – sweet or savory delights wrapped up in the crêpe itself. People often wrapped cheese, ham or eggs with their crêpes and ate them as full meals. Sweet crêpes are relatively newer than savory crêpes, although they both originated in Brittany itself.
The difference between the two, apart from the obvious one where one is sweet and the other is not, is that sweet crêpes are made with white flour instead of buckwheat. However, this wasn’t until the 20th Century, when white flour came into the market, up until which it was the same buckwheat flour that was used for both kinds of crêpes.
To sweet crêpes, people may add maple syrup, lemon juice, sugar or sugar syrup, even fruits. In today’s world, people may simply add a giant dollop of Nutella or whipped cream or both.
Today in France, crepes are served everywhere from shops, bistros, restaurants, and homes. Families celebrate holidays such as Candlemas, Tuesday before Lent. February 2 is celebrated as a National Holiday, it is known as “Day of Crepes” or “Le Jour de Crepe”. This is more of a familiar custom than a religious celebration.
Also on this day, February 2, “La Chandeleur,” meaning “the return of the light” is celebrated. It commemorates the season where dark winter is ending, and spring light is coming.
In medieval times, peasants used to present the crepes to their feudal lords to symbolize their loyalty and friendship and believed in eating as many crepes to finish all the wheat stock of the past harvest to gain a fortune for the next year to come.
During this day, some believe to hold a coin on hand while cooking crepe on another hand to get a wish and also a prosperous year. They commonly believe in making a wish as the crepe is being flipped! as believed to bring good luck to the crepe maker.
Traditionally the first crêpe made is offered to the cat. This is because the first crepe is usually a flop and so it deserves on the floor.
Varieties of Crepe:
As time progressed, now they are available with plenty of variations and names around the world such as crespelle in Italy, palatschinken in Austria, pfannkuchen in Germany, and more that can be eaten with salted caramel, fruit jam, melted dark chocolate, feta cheese, goat’s cheese, sugar, honey, mushroom or hazelnut-chocolate or can be filled with a different variety. Although great to eat solo but do try with drinks such as coffee, cider, milk, and tea.
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