Marc, a waiter at a busy brasserie in Montparnasse, takes a moment from twirling his tray between lunch tables
His eyes begin to shine. He is remembering the chocolate bears from his childhood.
“Oursons guimauve,” he says. “Oh, I used to love those.” Then, more urgently, he adds: “Is there anywhere round here I can buy some?”
Oursons guimauve are small chocolate-covered marshmallow teddy bears (an ourson is a “bear cub”, guimauve is “marshmallow”). About the size of a Paris Metro ticket but considerably plumper, they are celebrating their 50th birthday.
“If there’s something people won’t do without, it’s the comfort of their favorite childhood sweet”
The French – young and old – adore them. They eat 400 million of the chocolate bears each year. The seductive bears were invented by a confectioner from the north, Michel Cathy, who, the legend claims, bravely championed his recipe in the face of scepticism from superiors and has been vindicated by their triumph ever since.
Biting into an ourson guimauve, the French say, is like tasting Marcel Proust’s madeleine cake that launched his voyage into the remembrance of things past.
The chocolate bears come in milk or white chocolate, in cellophane packets from supermarkets, paper bags from small sweetshops or chic limited-edition designer tins.
They have just been launched on the US market, a move that prompted some disgruntled voters to call for French President Francois Hollande – long-nicknamed The Human Marshmallow (l’Homme de Guimauve) – to be dunked in chocolate and exported along with them.
The chocolate bears are predicted to make their French producers 900m euros (£720m) a year by 2015.
By Joanna Robertson, 03 November 2012
Source: The BBC