Flour. Butter. Up to 20 eggs. And cooked in a tin that resembles a chef’s hat.
Sure, the ingredients are different, but if I didn’t know any better I’d say that this was an Italian Panettone.
Compare the pair.
Both sit 20-30 cm high.
Both are similar in shape.
Both are common among celebrations.
And both bring people together in the name of food.
So what exactly makes this dish French?
Could it be link between the ingredients and the narrative of indulgence which is commonly attached to French cuisine? Or maybe its codification in cookbooks since the 1650’s? Perhaps it is because it is exclusively artisianal; making it almost impossible to replicate on a large scale and served overseas. Or could it be its regionality, its terroir that make it inherently French?
You see, this dish hails from the north of France and is considered typical of Picardie. In fact, it has been claimed culturally, codified textually, and has been recognised as the regional speciality of Picardie since the 1900’s.
‘ il est enfin considéré comme spécialité régionale’ –La Cuisine de Mercotte
From being eaten only during celebrations to being eaten for breakfast, or a quick snack, this brioche type cake has managed to stay relevant in the changing cuisine landscape that has become increasingly challenged by the globalisation and homogenisation of food.
So what makes this dish French? I’d say a mixture of terroir, history and cultural significance.
Logic tells me this dish is French, so why do I still think of it as French ‘Panettone’? Perhaps this is because of my Italian background? Or perhaps it is because, despite logic, our experience of food is heavily linked to our own personal experiences.
Is there any way food can be objective rather than subjective? If you pardon the pun, it’s definitely food for thought.