07 October 2011

Day 38: Vichywhat? Vichywho?

Our chef-instructor demonstrated three soups yesterday, one of which provides a great example of how naming conventions, especially in the food world and especially when the French language is involved, can bring a hefty amount of mystique.

Exhibit P: Potato-leek soup. Or potage parmentier in French, apparently named for potato advocate Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (Google translate tells me potato in French is la pomme de terre). I presume the knife cut, which we practice on potatoes in class, is named for him, too.

Garnish the soup with julienned vegetables and it becomes potage julienne d'arblay, named for English novelist and French officer's wife Frances Burney D'Arblay. Because in those days they didn't have megacorporations to purchase naming rights like Whole Foods' potage julienne presented by AT&T.

Serve it cold and it more or less becomes vichyssoisse, named of course for the town of Vichy, one-time capital of German-occupied France during World War II. And yet, Julia Child, in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, refers to vichyssoise as an American invention. I'll take her word for it.

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