We are somewhere between Dachau and Linz, Germany and Austria, having and having not, not having. You see?
Yesterday my friend Gus sauntered into the room and declared laconically that he had a flan.
“I have a flan,”
He said. Liz Green, a good friend also, walked past the door and commented on how good the quiche looked.
“That looks like a good quiche”
I think it’s because of my cooking background that later, when we were alone Gus asked sheepishly
“It is a flan isn’t it Sam?”
I didn’t know what to say. No one wants to hurt the feelings of a good friend, nor would you wish to confuse them. The plain truth is that I was not entirely positive myself about the distinction between a flan and a quiche.
I felt straight away that I should solve this matter. Sometimes it’s necessary to get one’s hands dirty away from the sandpit.
The word quiche, etymologically speaking seems to come from a multi-generational bastardization of the word for cake (‘Küeche’) from the Lorraine region of Franconia. The central Franconian region adapted the pronunciation rounding the ü and shifting the fricative from ”ch” to “sh” thus resulting in “Kishe”. Sometime later the French adopted the name giving it the spelling “Quiche” which is the spelling we know and love today.
Although regarded as being a typically French dish, the form of the savoury custard tart (quiche) appeared in English cuisine at least as early as the 14th century. The recipes for these baked custard pies containing meat, fish and fruit were referred to as ‘crustardes.’
A flan is a tart, a type of pie. Interestingly the name flan takes its roots from the Medieval Latin word “fladonem” which derives from the old Castillian “flado” a sort of flat cake. From these roots came the French “floan”, in early English “flawn” and later the trusted “flan”.
So a quiche – taken as a savoury open faced pie with a custard based filling and a garnish of meat, fish, vegetables or cheese is actually a type of flan but funnily enough so is the crème caramel.
The distinction is this; in order to be a quiche the dish must be savoury, have a shortcrust base and have a custard filling. To be regarded, as a flan the base must be shortcrust and the filling custard but the dish can be either sweet or savoury.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. In actual fact the diversity of the umbrella term ‘flan’ spreads as far as the Bakewell Tart which as we all know does not have a custard filling and I’m sure you picked up on the disobedience of the crème caramel omitting the shortcrust base.
To summarise, the distinction of merit in the flan seems to be linked with the shortcrust base and custard filling of a dish rather than of its categorical aromatic content or chronological gustative qualities. And the quiche lies somewhere under the broader term amongst the tarts and pies and, the sweet and the savouries, in our hearts and on our tongues forever.