You can hardly walk one block here in Buenos Aires without seeing a sign for a cafe selling medialunas.
Media Lunas are croissants covered in a sugar glaze. They are delicious, especially with a café. And they cost hardly anything. One store sells 2 for 12 pesos. (roughly 20 cents for 2 croissants.)
But where did these things come from? And how did they get their name? This story, like all good stories, leads to new ones. Interestingly, it reveals the political influence of a few clever bakers.
According to legend, the croissant was first made in Vienna, Austria in 1683. During this time, the Ottoman Turks were attempting to take seige of Vienna by digging tunnels under the city of Vienna. The Turks did their digging during the night, so as not to draw any attention. For some time, they dug silently underneath the sleeping city of Vienna like termites trying to infest the city. It was a clever plan… who would ever hear them?
Not everyone is asleep in the middle of the night. Early in the morning, the bakers of the Vienna were awake making the next morning’s pastries. They heard some odd noises from below the city and alerted officials. Vienna’s defenders and allies including Poland arrived in time to defeat the Turks and save the city.
To celebrate their role in the victory, the bakers of Vienna turned the symbol of the Ottoman empire, the half moon, into a pastry. After Austria’s victory, the croissant would be eaten in front of the Turks as a mockery.
Click here to learn about how other pastries made political statements in 19th and 20th century Argentina.
Thanks to Sean Barry for turning me on to this story. If you have any other cool stories, go ahead and post them in the I wonder section of the site!