Friday, March 09, 2007

The Great Pastry War

Today, March 9th …

We don’t usually explore the reasons behind international conflict on this blog. Some highly creative justifications for war have been made throughout history – there have been some notable recent examples – and the discussion of these is best left to others with greater interest and superior insight. There is one particular war which does fall clearly into our territory however, and it came to an official end on this day in 1839.

The story took place in Mexico, the protagonists were the Mexicans and the French, and the conflict came to be called The Pastry War.

Civil disobedience was the norm, it seems, in the early days of the Mexican republic. Many expatriates in particular got thoroughly fed up with the damage to property and disruption to business that ensued from the daily strife, but appeals to the Mexican government for compensation fell on deaf ears. A French pastry-cook called M. Remontel claimed that Mexican soldiers had damaged his establishment, and when he was refused compensation (he had asked for what seems like an exorbitant sum), he appealed to his own king, Louis-Phillipe for support and assistance.

The French were not happy. As we know they take their pastry very seriously, and no doubt the fact that Mexico had defaulted on large debts owing to France was also taken into account. The upshot of it all was that the French sent a fleet to Veracruz in December 1838. To cut a military story short, Britain acted as mediator, and Mexico promised payment, so the French withdrew on this day in 1839.

Is invading a country on account of damage to a pastry-shop justifiable? Sillier reasons have been advanced for military action, methinks. But they would have to be very good pastries.

Here is a classic pastry recipe from The professed cook: or the modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy. Consisting of the most approved methods in the French as well as English cookery ... by Menon (1769.)

Pâte feuilletée. Rich Puff-paste.
Mix some fine Flour with cold Water, Salt, one or two Eggs; the Paste ought to be as soft as the Butter it is made with; in Winter soften the Butter, with squeezing it in your Hands; in Summer, ice it; put Butter according to Judgement, to make it very rich, and work it with a Rolling-pin several times, folding it in three or four Folds each Time: use it to any Kind of Pies, or small Cakes.
N.B. The meaning of Feuilletée, is when the Crust breaks ... in thin Leaves or Scales, after it is baked, occasioned by the Richness of it.

Tourte de Franchipane.
Italian, after Frangipani, a proper Name.
Mix three Eggs with a Pint of Cream, two or three Spoonfuls of Flour, a proper Quantity of Sugar, boil this together about half an Hour, stirring it continually; then add some Almond-biscuits, called Macaroni-drops, bruised to Powder, a little Lemon-peel minced very fine, a Bit of Butter, two Yolks of Eggs, a little of the Orange-flower dried and pounded, or a few Drops of Orange-flower Water: use the best Sort of Paste, vix, au Feuilletage or Zephir; put the Cream in it, a few Bars of Paste over, laid according to Fancy, or cut Flowers; sugar it over to give a Glaze; serve cold.

Monday’s Story …

The Paris Markets.

A Previous Story for this Day …

Granny Smith and her apples were the topic of the day.

Quotation for the Day …

In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait. Jose Simon.

1 comment:

Sally said...

I agree with Jose Simon!