"The French... have surrounded food with
so much commentary, learning and connoisseurship as to
clothe it in the vestments of civilization itself... Cooking
is viewed as a major art form: innovations are celebrated
and talked about as though they were phrases in the
development of a style of painting or poetry... A meal at a
truly great restaurant is a sort of theatre you can
Richard Bernstein, The Fragile
This is the
complete guide to discovering and enjoying
the regional foods and wines of France.
Glynn Christian takes you through the
whole of France, suggesting which foods
and wines to buy while you are there and
what to bring home. He shows you how to
shop and eat like the French, with walking
tours of many city markets,
and the huge hypermarkets which have
invaded the French way of life, as well as
tips on ordering and etiquette in
Christian, Jenni Muir
ships within 24 hours.
Paperback, 200 pages
Published March 1997 by Interlink Publ.
Our Price: $12.00
You Save: $3.00
Indisputably, one of modern
France's greatest treasures is its rich cuisine. The French have an
ongoing love affair with food, and their reverence for time spent
eating is evident in any culinary
establishment nationwide. It is also manifested in the
traditional family gatherings around the home dinner table,
particularly the Sunday mid-day feast which is prepared lovingly over
many hours and consumed leisurely through a bevy of appetizers and
main courses, usually accompanied by a number of wines and often
lively discussion which tends to center on political topics.
What is perhaps less
widely recognized is that France's reputation for fine food is not so
much based on long-held traditions but on constant change. In fact,
the general expectation of good eating is a relatively new experience
for the French. At the time the Bastille was stormed in 1789, at
least 80% of the French population were subsistence farmers, with
bread and cereals as the basis of their diet, essentially unchanged
since the time of the ancient Gauls nearly two millenia before. In
the mid-nineteenth century, following the demise of the aristocracy,
food was a conspicuous symbol of social position, swiftly adopted by
a new ruling class of bourgeoisie, who recreated the sumptuous meals
of the very aristocracy they had once criticized. At the same time,
two-thirds of Parisians were either starving or ill-fed, five times
more likely to be nourished from vegetable proteins than from any
meats or dairy products. The golden age of haute cuisine benefited
only those at the very top of the social ladder.
It took a world war
at the beginning of the twentieth century to halt the gross
inequality of wealth at the table, and to bring about a more even
distribution of the nation's produce. The advent of improved
transportation, especially by train, brought culinary revolution to
the regions, and slowly the spreading affluence could put a chicken
on every peasant's table. Eventually, tourism fanned the flames of
change in France's commercial kitchens, as chefs were obliged to
create dishes appealing to an ever-widening audience of British,
Japanese, Middle Easterners, and Americans, as well as French
travelers hungering for new experiences. In some instances the
reasons for change in regional products were a pragmatic reaction to
a decline in other industries (such a silk) or to the economic
disaster brought about by the Phylloxera pest, which wiped out
most of France's grape vines at the turn of the century.
The "French Paradox"
It is well-known
that the stereotypical French meal is heavy in saturated fats; heavy
creams and butter are a staple in many dishes. Despite this fact, the
French populace suffers from lower incidences of cardiac disease than
many other western nations, including the U.S. Much research and
medical opinion seems to credit their consumption of red wines with
an overall reduction in cholesterol levels (see
French Paradox"). Whatever
creedence one might place in this theory, it is a given that all
French food is best accompanied by wine
to be enjoyed to its fullest.
Cheese Tips & Trivia
- The golden rule for cutting cheese: each person should get his
or her share of the center of the cheese...and of the rind.
- Since it is the least cold, the vegetable drawer in your
refrigerator is the best place to store cheese. Keep cheese in its
original wrapping or cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
- The French eat more cheese than any other nation in the world
- an amazing total of 20.4 kg (45 lbs.) per person per year. 400
different kinds of cheese are made in France.
- Some goats' milk cheeses are sprinkled with charcoal ash. This
gives them an ash-grey color and is intended to absorb surface
moisture, thus helping to preserve them.
Intro to French Cuisine || Eating
Contributions, suggested links and comments are
Cheese & Wine
à Recettes offers a list of 76
categories of cheese and recommends which wines are
appropriate to consume with each one.
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