what Marie Antoinette ate, since we all know it wasn’t cake

Just when I thought the leftovers were over–by day 3 finishing them felt like war–yesterday my husband decided to take every potato in the house and mash them all. Oy yoy yoy…there’s still half a pot left. So let the punishment fit the crime. I suppose it’s perfectly sound to address the regimen of the regina whose abundance of legend led to her downfall. Not to mention inspiring psychedelic pastel macaroons of Ladurée fame.

Although we’ve made much of the “princess pastries,” how Marie Antoinette’s fashion directly inspired the Ladurée’s cookies and candies of legend and, in a fittingly cyclical manner, the patisserie cakes actually set the tone of the 2006 Marie Antoinette film, not much is actually mentioned of Marie Antoinette herself having a sweet tooth. In fact, some sources paint m@ as the opposite of the character Kirsten Dunst portrayed in the film.

Although Maria Teresa advocated a new healthy diet for her children, she and the Emperor ate rich foods.

As a child growing up in Vienna her imperial mommy Maria Teresa employed one of the most famous physicians in Europe, Dr. van Sweiten, colleague of the renowned Swiss doctor Tronchin, to care for the health of her children. The regimen that Dr. van Sweiten advocated that seems so commonplace now was absolutely unheard of at the time. The archdukes and archduchesses were to eat broth, light soup, eggs, vegetables and fruit. The doctor warned against an overly rich diet of stew and high game which could cause health issues. No way! Foie gras at every meal is unhealthy? Ok, what about triple creme brie?

Doctor Gerard van Swieten

interesting side note, Dr. v.Swieten also fought to dispel the superstitious fear of vampires in Eastern Europe.

Yes, yes, we all know this is your blog hostess’ sarcasm shining through once more but it could easily be the voice of m@’s husband, the notoriously rotund Louis Auguste. Ok that’s a bit harsh, it could be the voice of anyone dining at Versailles, where they had apparently never heard of van Sweiten or Tronchin or had dismissed them at heretics. Wouldn’t life be glorious if just believing something were healthy made it so? Hey, I lost 25 pounds thanks to Ladurée’s mail-order macaroons and LOOK I’m wearing the same jeans I wore in high school. Now if they weren’t so terribly out of fashion…

Yeah, yeah, We’re all so hilarious on Wednesday but as Versailles was a living illustration of overflowing abundance on every scale it’s not that much of an exaggeration. The food was no exception. Not only was it picturesque, quantities just towered. No wonder they wore such restricting corsets in France. Ahhh! Three servings of veal was a bad idea! Yank those laces harder! No no, put your back into it! Glamorous… According to biographer Stephen Zweig, m@ just picked at her meals, had little time for wine (blasphemy!) and then flitted off to the next activity, the polar opposite of her husband who sat and indulged for hours. Biographer Zweig paints Marie Antoinette and Louis as Venus the ADD Case and Vulcan the Drag.

Now whether she ate sparsely of the impressive spread of French cuisine out of habit from childhood upbringing or because she had no attention span as Zweig suggests, she did enjoy consuming the fresh foods from her Rousseau-inspired playland: the Petit Hameau. These foods would have fallen in line with what Dr. van Sweiten would have recommended: fresh eggs, milk, vegetables and fruits.

It’s well known that Marie Antoinette only drank water from one particular spring in Ville d’Avray, but the jury is still out on her champagne consumption. Antonia Frasier claims the Queen abstained from alcohol by choice, then again, I could not find in her references anything to prove this wasn’t just a habit she adopted after motherhood. I found many references to the Ville d’Avray spring water as the Seine water made m@ ill. According to legend the coupe-shape champagne glass (aka the birdbath) was modeled after the shape of m@’s breasts (yeah, you read it right) so the entire court could toast to her good health. Of course, this legend has as much validity as that “Let Them Ate Cake” flim-flam.

I still doubt, giving all of her other foibles and indulgences (clothing, hair, décor, gambling) that the Queen had such a monastic diet, especially in later years as she definitely seems to have put on much weight in later portraits. Besides, from experience I know that one tends to adapt their diet to the culture around them. Believe you me, no matter how cute you are (or think you are) centuries of eating habits will not change for you. Besides, Marie Antoinette was expected to shed everything Austrian about her when she crossed over onto French soil, her clothing, her friends, her pug Mops. Why would this new loony diet be allowed to follow her to France? Ah France, where the bread is so amazing I would not bat an eyelash if you told me it was made with heroin.

It’s been verified by all of the three ‘big time’ biographers (Zweig, Lever and Frasier) that Marie Antoinette was a party girl, a gambler and a masqued ball-frequenter just like in the movie. (And the birthday party outline.) But was she the champagne-swilling queen recorded on celluloid as well? When Zweig said she rarely drank wine, it’s in the context of dining with her husband. Sitting still. Come now, he didn’t say it was sparkling wine! He did mention that champagne was served with dinner in addition to wine, even during the royal family’s early imprisonment in the Tower. Clearly bubbles were considered a necessity next to the sel and poivre.

King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette imprisioned in the Tower with their family

…and eventually those luxuries were taken away.

As was chiseled in stone, there is always a need for champagne. If I were the Queen of Anything I’d be doing the backstroke in it…no wait I’d just submerge and swim around like the Little Mermaid. As this is not the case–I’m not sucking down bubbly instead of oxygen–this lack of straight answers driving me mad!  I had to get to the bottom of this!

I simply Googled “Did Marie Antoinette drink champagne?” Wiki-answers says yes, as do a bunch of other know-everything sites. (Unlike this site, which strives toward know-it-all.) But that’s it. Yes. Nothing else. Without solid verification, it can’t take it for truth. Unfortunately, though writing memoirs was very much the fashion at the time, nobody really recorded what they drank that night back then.

Pre-Hemingway is weird, isn’t it kids?

 

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About ♔ la dauphiine ♔

Connecticut-based jewelry monger, history buff, Mets fan. On the hum-drum side, call me a lauded poet, novelist and ghost-writer. (That's right, I haunt prose.)
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it's not just a love-affair with my own voice

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