The Terminology War Between Pain Au Chocolat And Chocolatine

One of France's most beloved pastries, pain au chocolat, is muddled in both name and origin. The most famous creation story points to an Austrian military official who brought this chocolate-filled pastry to France in the 1830s. According to The Local, August Zang opened Boulangerie Viennoise (a cross between a bakery and a pâtisserie, per Cordon Bleu), where he sold schokoladencroissant, a crescent-shaped brioche with chocolate inside. This Austrian pastry eventually became the laminated pain au chocolat we know today and spread in popularity throughout all regions of France. Another tale of origin credits the Brits who asked for "chocolate in bread" during their reign over the Aquitaine region of France in the 15th century. As with so many cultures and foods, there were variations in the name from region to region, which gave way to heated debate.

While many knew it as pain au chocolat, it was called chocolatine by those from the southwest regions of France, like Toulouse and Bordeaux, as seen on this map in The Conversation. And although this difference seems trivial to the foreigner, it is an important matter that carries more cultural and historical significance than meets the eye. Some may retort: "What's in a name? That which we call a pain au chocolat by any other name would taste just as sweet!" But the debate over this name was so divisive that it became a matter brought before the French Parliament.

The issue reaches French Parliament

The insistence of the minority of France to call this pastry the chocolatine may come from something deeper. According to The Local, the word is a derivation of "chicolatina" which means little chocolate in Occitan, a Romance language used in the southwest region of France, along with parts of Italy and Spain. The pride in the Occitan culture and language is particularly strong in these regions, where locals distinguish themselves from the country's capital.

This can be the reason for such staunch objection to the popular name, "pain au chocolat," which is used by French people in other regions. In fact, a group of French Parliament members proposed an amendment to officially recognize chocolatine as the name for the popular dessert (via ABC News). They argued that this name would bring historical and cultural value to the dessert, which is the pride of the southwest region of France. Others scowled at this proposal, accusing them of promoting a term that originates from an English phrase, "chocolate in," from the 15th century. Although the amendment was rejected, the term chocolatine remains the name of choice in certain regions, while pain au chocolat is prominent in others. One thing everyone can agree on is that this pastry is a work of art.