A Valuable Lesson From Sieur Papillot

April 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

A word of history is in order. Indispensable element of year’s end festivities, the papillote is a confection originating in Lyon, France during the late 18th century, consisting of a chocolate treat wrapped in glistening paper, usually accompanied by a paper featuring a phrase, or image, reminiscent of the Chinese “fortune cookie.” Found in the Lyon chez moi monthly publication from December 2007 is this concise explanation(Fr) [PDF] of how the papillote came about — like many momentous discoveries, a completely fortuitous event, the original motives for the innovation being completely unconnected to subsequent developments.

If the legend proves true, and it seems likely that it is, Monsieur Papillot was a confectioner of candies in the Terreaux quarter of Lyon whose company had employed a young man who, as young men will do, became enamored of a young woman. At the same time that Papillot began noticing that a certain amount of merchandise was missing from his stock of chocolates, he surprised the young apprentice disappearing certain items for his own personal use, enveloping them in wrapping, concealing secret messages to be given to the object of his passions. The apprentice was swiftly reprimanded and thrown out of the enterprise by his ears.

Though the young man was removed from his service, not someone to let a good idea go to waste, the inspiration wasn’t lost: Papillot developed the notion of enveloping messages along with the chocolates, transforming the love letters into jokes or puzzles, which were then commercialized in the form of “papillotes.” Now an exceedingly popular item, a concept subsequently taken over by numerous other chocolatiers, annual production presently reaches nearly 3,000 tons per year nationally (France). If Papillot was able to profit from his former employee’s idea, another lesson surely didn’t go unnoticed by the young apprentice, who, after some time, must have realized that having a good idea is not enough: one must also be in a position to capitalize on it.

papillote candy chocolate France

Papillotes (image sallywallaceinfrance.blogspot.fr)

— Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute.

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