tartempionTartempion is a fictitious character, often featured in 19th century French literature, especially in comedies, and was made famous by the satirical journal Charivari between 1849 and 1850. The name was then commonly used to designate just about any obscure or non-existing character. A nobody.

My father – who had a whole library of Georges Courteline’s “ Les Tribunaux Comiques” – used it often to ward off pesky questions and it stuck. I even use it today, in the 21st century, when one of my grandchildren overhears a conservation and butts in asking “who are you talking about?” I always shoot back: “Tartempion.” Nobody.

Then, one day on a cold and windy May in Montmartre, Paris, as we were walking down the umpteen steps of the Sacré Coeur looking for the least touristy place to sit and have something hot, I was enthralled to see the sign: "Tartempion" on a nondescript café. Of course, I went in.

It was a Tartempion through and through! And what's worse, food and beverage too. I should have known better!


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