The unexpected headline of the spring confinement in France was the accidental discovery of a new cheese when a batch of Munster – unable to go to market because of the Covid-19 restrictions – was left in a cellar and developed a whole new level of tastiness.

Named Confinement after the lockdown, this isn’t the first French cheese, or foodstuff, to have been invented purely by chance. Here are some of our favourite legends behind some of our favourite morsels…


The king of cheeses, oozing, saltily creamy and cut-through with those delicious blue veins, Roquefort, so the story goes, was actually created par hasard. It was all down to a lovelorn shepherd in Aveyron some time in the 11th century, who was so busy chasing the girl of his dreams, he totally forgot about the ewe’s cheese and bread he’d left back in his cave. When eventually he returned chez lui, he found the cheese had developed a blue mould. Délicieux, non?


Apparently even the best chefs have disasters in the kitchen. Back in the late 19th century, sisters Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin ran a hotel-restaurant in Sologne. Stéphanie was having a rather busy day and was supposed to be making a traditional apple pie, but left the apples cooking in their butter and sugar too long and they started to burn. To rescue the dish, she cunningly popped the pastry base on top of them, shoved the pan in the oven and invented the upside-down apple tart, which we known today as tarte Tatin.



Ever wondered why a small puff pastry morsel considered the height of chic in the 1970s is called ‘flies in the wind’. Well, legend has it a young chef in the early 19th century was so overwhelmed to find himself working in the kitchen of legendary ‘king of chefs’ Marie-Antoine Carême, he forgot to prick his puff pastry before popping it in the oven. When it ballooned in size, he exclaimed: “It’s flying in the wind!” Carême spotted the potential and filled the pastries with savoury delights and thus an ever-lasting buffet favourite was born.


  1. Food street vendor? Why not call Vol- au-vent = Vol-au-Main?
    What better than to sell these mini pastries filled with tasty fresh fillings?
    Food to go: One “Flight in the Hand”aka no need to break, cut, and/or bite, just lift (flight), by hand, and munch a tasty bite without getting messy.

  2. Not quite as I recall it.
    I was raised in this area of France and I always heard that, in early 19th century, an owner of “Maxims” restaurant happened to be part of a hunting event and ate lunch at the Tatin Hotel et Restaurant. He enjoyed so much the apple tart – which was a regional specialty – that he asked for the recipe. The Tatin sisters, who were running the establishment, refused>
    So, he sent his pastry chef to Lamotte Beuvron, under the pretense that he was a gardener looking for work. He discovered the secret of the recipe and reproduced it but by courtesy and honesty, gave the “Tatin” name to the recipe. A food critic published the recipe which became an instant success. It is even said that this critic invented the entire story which you published above. For those who watch TV5 Monde, it was one of the questions lately on “Questions pour un Champion”.

  3. To pour even more fuel on the Tarte Tatin controversy, before the Tatin sisters worked in their establishment there was already a tarte solognote, popular in their local area. It was – as one might guess – a sort of ‘cobbler – baked upside down, with the upper crust inverted and the fruit bottom now uppermost when the tarte was turned out of the pan. Perhaps the Tatin sisters adapted or perfected the idea; either way, it is delicious.

    You can see my version here:


    Bon appetit


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