What to Eat in France: Matafans, or Thick Pancakes from the Franche-Comté
Matafans are a specialty of the rugged region of Franche-Comté in eastern France; the word is Franco-Provençal. They are sometimes called mata fame, meaning in Spanish “to kill hunger.” It’s not surprising that the word originally comes from Spanish, since they controlled this region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Matafans are also found in the Savoy and Lyon under the francisized name matefaim.
They are fairly ancient, and Rabelais mentioned them in his third book in 1546.
Matafans were originally eaten by peasants for breakfast. Today, they are often eaten as a starter, accompanied by a green salad.
They are essentially very thick pancakes, and in the old days were made with leftover mashed potatoes, but can also be made with apples and eaten as a dessert. Lucy Vanel gives a recipe for the historical potato recipe on her website. Today, most people make them from wheat flour.
They are eaten at Candlemas, washed down with Génépi, an absinthe liqueur. The dessert version is accompanied by a sparkling rosé or a fortified wine.