What to Eat in France: Marquise de Sévigné on Chocolate
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, born the Marquise de Sévigné, was one of France’s most prolific letter writers of the seventeenth century. Known often as simply Madame de Sévigné, she was known for her love of chocolate, although her letters of 1671 reveal that she sometimes had a love-hate relationship with it.
In her letter of February 11, 1671, to her ailing daughter, Madame de Grignan, she wrote:
“You’re not feeling well, did you not sleep? Chocolate will make you feel yourself again. A thousand times I have thought: she has no chocolatier near her, poor child. What will you do?”
Letter of May 13, 1671:
“I beg you, my dear soul, my beautiful, to not eat any more chocolate. I’ve turned against it myself. A week ago I suffered from 16 hours of colic that gave me an acute kidney infection.”
Letter of October 25, 1671, when Madame de Sévigné’s daughter, who was pregnant, continued to follow her mother’s earlier words of advice:
“Chocolate, what can we say about it? Aren’t you afraid you’ll burn your very blood? All these miraculous effects, do they not hide something obscure?”
Letter of October 28, 1671:
“I wanted to reconcile myself with chocolate. I ate some the day before yesterday to help me digest my dinner and enjoy my supper. I ate some more yesterday just to get a little nourishment and to help me fast until evening. It had all the desired effects: this is why I find it so pleasant. It does what it is intended to do.”
Translated by Jonell Galloway, from Lettres de l’année 1671
Jonell Galloway grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. She is a freelance writer. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France, At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. She ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with her two sisters in the U.S. She organizes the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, is an active member of Slow Food, and runs the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. Her work has been published in numerous international publications and she has been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. She has just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and is now working on two books, The French and What They Eat and What to Eat in Venice.