Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Cookies" becomes a French word

A funny thing happened around 20 years ago. American cookies were introduced in France by some commercial bakeries that I presume were trying to expand market share. (Maybe Mrs. Fields or other emissaries of the Chocolate Chip Cookie craze then blazing in the US opened a couple of kiosks somewhere first, I don’t know.) Chocolate chip cookies were totally exotic for French people. The word went with the item: French children asked for “un cookies” – that is, one cookies. They kept the plural ending on the singular word. I believe that the mass-market cookie bakers in France subsequently adapted all kinds of American cookie recipes. The French hate when American food creeps into their lives, so they’ve probably edited the cookies' origin out of their history.

Before that, French packaged cookies were called “biscuits,” and frequently sold in oblong cardboard packages. Quite a few varieties of them are now generally sold in the cookie aisle of American supermarkets by the bakery called LU and a few others. Petit Buerre for example are solid cookies (almost like teething biscuits), that aren’t very sweet. La Bastogne are cinnamon-brown sugar cookies, recently renamed for US grocery stores. Little Schoolboys (Petit Ecolier) are flat cookies with a solid chocolate bar stuck on top (delicious).

In artisanal bakeries in French cities, you could also buy expensive and beautiful little hand-made cookies. The famous Poilane (near where we lived on two long stays in Paris) sold wonderful sugar cookies called “sables.” In most bakeries you could get some variety of sables, as well as very thin rolled up wafer cookies like Pepperidge Farm ones from a can, but better. I’m not at all sure that French people baked cookies in their homes. They had very small ovens that would have a problem with a decent-sized cookie sheet.

I'm out of touch now. Next time I'm in France I look forward to all kinds of surprises.

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