It was a mouthful of miniature sponge-cake dipped in tea that became one of French literature’s most powerful metaphors.
But the madeleine cakes that Marcel Proust made famous as the trigger for nostalgia in his book might have actually started out as toasted bread, according to draft manuscripts to be published in France this week.
A first draft of Proust’s monumental novel dating from 1907 had the author reminiscing not about madeleines as the sensory trigger for a childhood memory about his aunt, but instead about toasted bread mixed with honey.
A second draft, the manuscripts showed, had the evocative mouthful as a biscotto, a hard biscuit.
It was only in the third draft that Proust wrote that he had bitten into a soft little madeleine.Any dunker will tell you that plain digestives are the most appropriate, with hobnobs possibly in second place.