Food Media 2

The perfect pâté: year of 1387.

RicRios | Mar 21, 2008 09:54 PM

First, a disclaimer: I don’t watch TV, I don’t go to the movies. So excuse my exhilaration at what follows. And my ignorance, if this has already been pointed out elsewhere.

Just grabbed this week’s LA Weekly, and read Steven Leigh Morris’ article on John Doyle’s Sweeney Todd.


It starts:

This is the perfect moment for Sweeney Todd. Set during “hard times,” it’s the story of a Fleet Street barber who slits the throats of his customers before sliding their corpses down a chute to the pie shop below, owned by Sweeney’s partner and love interest, Mrs. Lovett, who grinds up the deceased into meat pies. You might say it’s a morbid view of the fast-food industry through Victorian eyes.

Well, if that’s the official story, let me tell you this: if you grab Jacques Hillairet’s “Dictionnaire Historique des rues de Paris” and read the entry “Parvis-Notre-Dame”, you’ll find this (I’ll first transcribe verbatim, the followed with my poor translation):


C’est dans cett rue [ de la Colombe ] , indiquée des 1206, que s’est pasée, sous Charles VI, en 1387, un fait divers qui a longtemps captivé l’attention de nos ancêtres. Deux commerçants, habitant cette rue, à 70 mètres environ du carrefour désigné ci-dessus, étaient voisins: un barbier et un pâtissier, celui-ci fort repute pour l’excellence de ses pâtés. En fait, le barbier tuait parfois un client de passage, puis, par une trappe, basculait son corps dans sa cave qui communiquait avec celle du pâtissier. Ce dernier tirait le corps dans la sienne, le découpait, le hachait, le transformait en pâtés qui remontaient à son magasin de vente. Ce furent les aboiements d’un chien, résté plusieurs jours et plusieurs nuits à hurler à la mort devant la porte du barbier dont son maître, un étudiant venu d’Allemagne, n’était pas ressorti, qui donnèrent l’éveil et firent découvrir les procédés criminels de ces deux commerçants jusqu’alors fort respectés.

It was in this street [ de la Colombe ] , known since 1206, that happened under Charles VI in 1387 an event that caught for a long time the attention of our ancestors. Two merchants from this street, living at about 70 meters from the previously mentioned crossing, were neighbors. The one a barber, the other a pastry chef, the last one highly renowned for the excellence of his pâtés. In fact, the barber killed every now and then a passing customer. Then, through a trap door, dumped the corpse in his cellar that communicated with the cellar of the pastry chef. The chef in turn chopped it and turned it into pâtés that resurfaced in his shop. The alarm that prompted to the criminal acts of these so far very respected merchants was the barking of a dog, that kept complaining the disappearance of his master, a German student, for several days and nights.

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