Chocolate at the French Court of Versailles

Chocolate at the French Court of Versailles

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A stranger to French Court, Chocolate was first introduced at Versailles by Spanish conquistadors in 1615 at the nuptial ceremony of Louis XII and Anna of Austria in Bayonne.  By the time Louis XIV took the throne, chocolate had became a culinary staple in all forms and, in the following century, Louis XV would be referred to as the greatest admirer of the cocao-based drink; on occasion, the king would even prepare his favorite beverage in the kitchen of his private apartments.

The King’s recipe, which has been passed down through history, is still made today as it was originally:

“Place the same quantity of chocolate bars and glasses of water in a coffee maker and boil gently; when you are ready to serve, place one egg yolk for four servings and store over a gentle heat but do not boil.  If prepared the night before, those who drink it every day leave a leaven for the one they make the next day; instead of an egg yolk you may use a whisked egg white after having removed the first mousse, mix it with some of the chocolate from the coffee maker then pour back into the coffee maker and finish the preparations as with the egg yolk.” Sourced via “Les Soupers de la Cour ou l’Art de travailler toutes sortes d’aliments pour servir les meilleurs tables suivant les quatre saisons” (Court dinners or the Art of working different foods for the best restaurants based on the four seasons).

But it wasn’t just men who savored this rich decadence! King Louis XV’s favorite mistress, Madame du Barry, was also particularly fond of the exotic elixir and found herself indulging in it for its particular qualities as an aphrodisiac.  In 1770, Chocolate would be elevated to even higher status; with the declaration of Marie-Antoinette’s engagement to  Louis XVI, she showed up to French Court with her full entourage – including her very own chocolate maker!  Titled as “Chocolate Maker to the Queen,” this culinary genius’ role was to continuously concoct new recipes while mixing chocolate with various new flavors; recipes included “chocolate mixed with orchid bulb for strength, chocolate with orange blossom to calm the nerves, or chocolate with sweet almond milk to aid the digestion.”

Reigning as a luxury item, chocolate consumption dwindled in France during the French Revolution.  However, during the royal family’s escape from Versailles to Varennes in 1791, Marie Antoinette refused to part with her silver chocolatiere.  Unfortunately, the original service that contained “one hundred items made of silver, crystal, porcelain, ivory, ebony and steel,” didn’t mean much when she was brought to the guillotine.

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