Monday, 1 April 2013

The Auld Alliance

In this bleak midwinter spring it is appropriate for Fantasy Bob to return to a subject that is not so weather affected as the attraction of outdoor nets in sub zero conditions.
Grenoble - no cricket facilities visible

FB and Mrs FB have just returned from a successful visit to Grenoble and Lyon in France.  Not hotbeds of cricketing fervour, which is a matter of some regret.  While this forced FB to take interest in a range of interesting attractions in the form of museums and galleries, he could not but notice how awash both cities are in patisseries and chocolateries.  Every second store front seems to offer an enticing display of goodies.

So much so that FB came to the conclusion that if this region took up cricket, while they might take some years to reach the high standards of the East of Scotland Leagues, they would immediately push for Test status in the provision of cricket teas.  Not, in FB's opinion, a matter lightly to be ignored.

These cities have ancient origins, and FB's historical interest was hugely stimulated by one particular discovery.

FB's handful of readers will be aware of his intense and academic interest in the empire biscuit, the highest achievement of Scottish patisserie.  They will recall the general historical understanding that the empire biscuit was based on a German confection which came to the shores of Caledonia sometime in the dark ages through some undefined route.  They may also remember how FB discovered in Austria what might be an early relation of the empire biscuit.
French Empire Biscuit
However this theory may now have to be reexamined.  For FB discovered in Grenoble another primitive variant of the empire biscuit known locally as the lunette roman.  It bears the main characteristics of the empire biscuit - two layers of shortbread separated by a jam filling.  It is dusted with icing sugar - the Scottish improvement of water icing not having been discovered by French makers.   Similar to the Austrian version reported in FB's previous researches, it contains two holes on the top.  In these primitive versions, neither French nor Austrian makers have come to appreciate the delight of the glace cherry, far less the jelly tot as a finishing touch found on the fully developed Scottish version.

Could the empire biscuit therefore be of French origin, not German?

Plaque in Regent Terrace Edinburgh
in which Gen de Gaulle
recalls the arrival of the empire biscuit
in 1295.
Historians have long speculated on the gains that Scotland derived from the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France which originated in 1295.  This alliance, which sought to unite the two kingdoms in their efforts against England, was celebrated by General de Gaulle in 1942 as the oldest alliance in the world.  While some of the value to Scotland in military and economic terms is open to disagreement, many cultural influence have been suggested to originate from the alliance.  But any doubt on the benefits of the Alliance will have to be revaluated.

For if the Auld Alliance was the vehicle through which the primitive empire biscuit came to Scotland, then it is of lasting and irredeemable value.

And the French still celebrate it in their national anthem

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
La lunette de gloire est arrivé!