French food: Dame Tartine

Today’s shocking news: there is no Wikipedia page for the French song “Dame Tartine”!

Dame Tartine is a kid’s song, very famous in French folklore, and probably quite old too (apparently around the 19th century). I couldn’t even find an history of it!

I was initially looking for statistics about the contents of the song, so I made mine and I’ll share them in this post. You may wonder why so much fuss for a little song, but Dame Tartine is not any little song! It is a song entirely about food and sweets. You can find an English version here.

Here is a small excerpt:

[Lady Slice-of-Bread] married Mister Ring-cookie
His hair was beautiful cottage cheese,
His hat was a flat French cake,
His suit was made of canapés:
Pants of nougat,
Vest of chocolate,
Stockings of caramel
And shoes of honey.

Their daughter, the beautiful Charlotte
Had a nose of marzipan,
Very beautiful teeth of compote,
Ears of crackers,
I see her garnish
Her leisure dress
With a roll
Of apricot paste.

You bet it’s popular with children! Although some of the dishes named in Dame Tartine are so old that they have virtually disappeared from French kitchens.

So here are some numbers about Dame Tartine (Lady Tartine/ Lady Slice-of-Bread) :

36 different foods, drinks or dishes are cited in the song; they rhyme two by two but none is cited twice. That is 42 out of 240 words, 17.5% of the total length of the song!

Among these, 26 are sweets, 7 are savory dishes, and 3 are neutral (Tartine, Butter and Cottage Cheese) . About half are still very common in French homes. Some have completely disappeared.

4 main characters have food-related names: Lady Tartine, Sir Gimblette (almond flavored cake / ring-cookie), their daughter Charlotte (big cake made from fruit custard in a biscuit crust), her husband Prince Lemonade. The 5th one is the bad witch Carabosse (not food!).

Only 2 fruits are cited (dried grapes/raisins, and apricots), versus 4 vegetables: potatoes, capers, pickles and onion. All the vegetables appear only in the description of the Frightful Guard of the mighty Prince Lemonade… Booh, frightful vegetables!

There is only so much one can say about a kiddies song, but tomorrow if I have time I might add pictures of the food appearing in Dame Tartine. And don’t forget, as pleads the song in its last sentence:

Give at leisure,
Give, good parents,
Sugar to the children!

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