Saturday, April 30, 2016

Papeton d'Aubergines – Eggplants (USA), Aubergines (UK) cooked in the manner of the Popes of the city of Avignon, France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Papeton d'Aubergine et Mesclun de de Salade
This eggplant dish which translates, with difficulty,  as "Aubergines in the manner of the Pope's hat",  is a pate served as an entrée (the French starter), and it will be on many menus in and around Avignon. The dish uses the insides of the eggplant, which when cooked becomes the caviar of the eggplant and most recipes include tomatoes, onions, eggs add garlic and some a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, and bay leaves.

Papeton d'Aubergine
Over the years, many chefs have adjusted the recipe, and some claim the original version used corn, (USA maize), and not an eggplant. I tend to doubt that the use of corn as it would not have arrived in Avignon until Columbus returned from the Americas; by then the popes had left!  Despite, any historical confusion when I have had Papeton d'Aubergines as an entree all my memories of the dish have been good ones. Nevertheless, there are now more claimants for the authentic recipe for Papeton d'Aubergines than there were popes who ruled from Avignon.


Where is Avignon
The city of Avignon is in the prefecture, the regional capital of the department of Vaucluse in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.  The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur includes all the French Mediterranean from the Camargue to the Italian Mediterranean border. From Avignon to the city of Arles, which borders the Camargue and the Mediterranean it is less than 40 km (25 miles). Nimes is 45 km (28 miles), and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is 25 Km (15 miles). The largest cities in the region include Marseille, Nice, Toulon, and Aix-en-Provence.

The tourist information office of Avignon has an English language website:

Map of Avignon
Photograph copyright Google.  
You may wonder what the Popes of Rome were doing in Avignon

In 1305 Clement V, a Frenchman from Avignon was elected Pope. He did not wish to move to Rome, and so he ruled the Roman Catholic world from an independent Papal State with its capital in Avignon called Comtat Venaissin. Even after the popes had left Avignon the Papal State remained separate from France until the French Revolution. Historically, it was the refusal of Pope Clement V to move to Rome that caused a breach in the church.  After Pope Clement, there were six more French Popes who ruled from Avignon, until 1388.  For part of the time, there was a Pope in Avignon and another Pope in Rome!   It is impossible to be sure that the Avignon popes ever tasted Papeton d'Aubergines; nevertheless, some citizens still long for the time when Avignon was under Papal rule.

The flag of the Confrerie of the Vaucluse truffle.
This Confrérie, a Brotherhood and Sisterhood, works to protect and promote the good name of the truffle from Vaucluse and have the Comtat Venaissin insignia on their flag. The truffle of Comtat Venaissin is the same as the Perigord Truffle, the black diamond. If you are visiting the area the earliest truffle market is in the town Carpentras  (from mid-November to mid-March,early on Friday mornings), Avignon to Carpentras is 26 km (16 miles).
Also linked to the popes are the wonderful red and white wines called the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP. The wines come from grapes that grow around the area near the village of  Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP where the popes had their summer palace; the village is 12 km (7 miles) from Avignon. This specific appellation produces more wine than the whole of the Northern Rhone region. That's what you call a popular wine!

Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP 2007 on sale in the UK
Where did the eggplant, the aubergine, come from?
The eggplant came from Asia with China being the first country to cultivate the plant.   How and when the eggplant arrived in Europe is not very clear, but since the plant is not in any Greek or Roman recipes, of which many survive, it probably came to Europe when the Berbers and Arabs conquered Spain.

(Catalan -   albergínia), (Dutch -   eggplant), (German - aubergine ), (Italian – melanzana), (Spanish).

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Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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