“Lifted by the breeze” or thereabouts. “A waft of wind” is more precise. The term is evocative of the ultra-light and airy puff pastry case. Ironically that case is all-too-often stuffed with an overly heavy filling. Worst case scenario, the pastry case itself is thick and heavy, and the whole thing sinks in the gut like the SS Carpathia after a couple of German torpedoes. All of which is to say that if you’ve never had a good vol-au-vent you’re in for a treat.
It’s said, and is likely true, that vol-au-vent was invented by Antonin Carême in the first few years of the 19th century. His signature version of the dish was known as financière, meaning small dumplings of minced chicken and bread crumbs with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce. Sounds nice, no?