Marie Antoinette and French Fries

In Cecil’s article on French Fries he says, “But she decided to take a break from eating cake…”

I have found several references that the whole Marie Antoinette saying “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake!!” bit is a bunch of horse pellets. She never said this but I wonder if someone did or was this just damaging false rumors.

The best explanation that I have found is that the “Cake” that is being referred to isn’t what Americans think of as Cake, i.e. something we eat at birthday parties. There is another type of cake and that is a coating inside of bakers ovens used for insulation as in “caked on”. I have been told it is make of some type of bread dough. This coating, as you can imagine, was rock hard but might have been edible.

All in all, this makes the phrase “Let them eat cake.” make more sense. Why would she tell the peasents to eat something wonderful? Because they can’t possibly buy a three layer chocolate cake? I think what was meant, paraphrasing, was “You are starving peasents and aren’t worth anything, so go out and eat something that is used by bakers, is a little like bread and is aweful. I don’t give a damn.”

Thanks, John

OOPS, it wasn’t Cecil. It was Dex of the
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board.

Sorry, John

Hi and welcome, thanks for reading the straight dope.

First let me point out that it is considered proper form to include a link to the column in question so the rest of us can read what you mean. In a couple days, that column will no longer be on the front page, and thus that will cause confusion. The column you mean is
What’s the origin of French fries?.

Next, I guess I get to be the one to inform you that you missed a column. May I humbly point out Did Marie Antoinette really say “let them eat cake”? on exactly that topic. And then there’s already a couple threads in the Cecil’s Columns forum.

Irishman - Thanks for the education in the NETIQUETE of the Straight Dope news system. While I have been reading Cecil since I first saw the column in the Chicago Reader during my halcyon college years (1971-1975), this is my first attempt at working a thread. You were very gentle on this neophyte.

Also, thanks for the references to the previous article. I should have known that Cecil would have covered it already. Too bad that there wasn’t a reference to "Did Marie Antoinette really say “let them eat cake”? in the French Fry article.

In any case, it appears that the cheap and disgusting “cake” that I was lead to believe referred to (and is referenced in a rebuttal of N.D.G., Chicago) but a rich and expensive “cake”. Personally I think that the cheap/disgusting version makes more sense as a peasent slam by the aristocracy…that is while sitting here in 2003, three hundred plus years later.

Maybe “brioche” is not the operative word and there is yet another word that refers to the cheap/disgusting “cake”. Was there every such a thing as flour/water used as a lining in baking ovens in France at that time and, if so, what was it called (in French)?

Thanks Again, John

Yes, I know and knew what Cecil said about “Let them eat cake.” It was a joke. A play on words. Wit. Designed to spice up an otherwise drab and dry history.