Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pâte, paste, pasta, pasty, pâté... and pies.

For those who study bread, it is useful to understand the variants on the French word for dough: pâte, or in older French, pasteThe latter word, pronounced differently, became the English word for flour-based glues and things like fruit paste. It is derived from the Latin word pasta, and in fact the Italian word means exactly the same thing (pasta, though made with harder dough and in many shapes, is essentially dried dough). The French use exactly the same word as for dough for the latter (though typically in the plural: pâtes). When Le Grand d'Aussy, for instance, refers to “Italian pâtes”, he clearly means pasta, but it is also possible that in the eighteenth century he still thought of these as “Italian doughs”.
Foods encased in dough were called “doughed”: pasté or (later) pâtéThis word became “pastie” in English. The modern version has come to mean, not the dough container, but the meat preparation put inside it. Today, when meat pâté is served inside pastry, it is called pâté en croûte ("pâté in crust").
Meanwhile, originally, foods made in pasté came to be known collectively as pastisserie – that is, pastry. Those who made such foods were known, literally, as “pastryers” - pasticiers. Today we would call them “pastry-chefs”, but these artisans made far simpler fare and can more fairly be called “pastry-cooks”. In fact, one common English translation was even more pedestrian: “pie-men”. Many medieval pasties, then, were essentially what the English called “pies”.
Typically, the boundaries between all these different meanings are clear. But for period speakers, their common relationship was probably far more apparent.

The above has been adapted and extracted from the front matter to a new translation of Le Grand d'Aussy's classic chapters on bread, as well as those on pastry and sweets:

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