Joined Feb 22, 2002
What wonderful threads I have read, But none on France.

I consider French cuisine the tops. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts on French cuisine and it's history, a little bit at a time because I have carpel tunnel from so many years in the kitchen.

In France, Cuisine is not simply a source of pleasure but a multifaceted discipline. For centuries, French gastronomes have articulated opinions in their writings and woven historical, sociological, and biological elements into personal philosophies of taste. A true "Science of the table" has developed with it's grand masters, heroes, and evn martyrs all serving the cause of " La gastronomie Francaise"

The development and growth of French cuisine owes much to the fact that, unlike many other western countries, France has historically had a gastronomic capital, Paris. Culinay resources are concentrated there, the best ingredients and the most sensitive palates were all found in one place. For centuries, observers marvelled at the diversity and abundance of foods availible to Parisians. The provinces have long paid a gastronomic tribute t the capital in the form of hams, sausages, cheeses and fish.

But a concentration of resources, a receptive enviroment do not alone explain the growth and development of French cuisine, one needs chefs. in France, cooks are respected but chefs are revered. Like soldiers and statesmen they are decorated and glorified, streets are named after them and schoolchildren can recite their names. French chefs do more than cook. They often feel a duty ti improve upon the past, to "advance" the art of cookery be renewing attitudes and exploring new tastes. Indeed the periodic formation of Nouvelle cuisine is the characteristic of French cuisine and one of it's greatest strengths.

More to come, but my fingers are sore
Joined May 26, 2001
Perhaps we don't talk specifically about France and her cuisine because so much is second nature to us; that is, a lot of us don't even realize that the terms and techniques we use everyday are French.

Yes, Poireau (First, take a leek -- sorry, I couldn't resist.), a huge amount of Western cooking is based on what came from France. Not all, but a lot (Okay, Pongi? I haven't forgotten Catherine de Medici and all she brought with her.). I was first going to say "Western cuisine" -- which sort of proves Poireau's point. The French definitely codified more about cooking than any other Western culture. We all owe them a great debt.

HOWEVER: there are so many wonderful foods in the whole world, and ways of cooking them. And so many of the foods and the recipes are so new and exciting to a lot of us. While we know how much of a debt we owe the French and their cuisine, there is such a huge world out there to explore! So much fun!! I doubt anyone means to demean France; we just want to learn about the WHOLE WORLD!
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Suzanne, You have no argument from me, infact, I am in total agreement with you. I am only expressing my love for culinary history in a factual way, No more than that.

back to France.

Since the 17th century, French chefs have been expressing their desire for reform in the cuisine they inherited from the past. As time passed, they became more and more articulate in their criticism of the "ancient cookery"and boastfully dogmatic about the virtues of " modern cookery". In 1733, for example, Vincent La Chapelle wrote: " If a great lord's table were served today as it was twenty years ago, it would not satisfy his guests. His Cuisinier moderne announced the birth of " Nouvelle cuisine" a new way of cooking that would be adopted by several generations of French chefs - until Careme challenged it in the early 19th century. In our own time, French chefs have once again "rebelled" and the " Nouvelle cuisine" that revoluionized cookind during the 1970s has led to a new respect for vegetables, lighter sauces, and the discovery of regional specialities like Foie Gras. Indeed, perhapes more than anything else, it is the French chefs willingness to question and build on there past, to innovate, to revise, that has kept French cuisine pre eminent among western cuisines and one of the great cuisines of the world
Joined Feb 2, 2002
Hi Poireau:

Question for you.

In your opinion what changes have been made in French cooking since the "Nouvelle Cuisine" of the late 60's & 70's?

Chef Nosko
Boston, MA
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Hello Chef Nosko,

You ask a great question that I think deserves allot of thought. I may not be able to respond to this question until 2060 because of the International Agreement of Unesco. Then it will be considered history ;)

With your permission I will continue my thoughts on France.

Not only does French cuisine have it's heroes (the innovative chef) and it's great men ( the gastronomes who encourage and criticize the chefs.) but it's martyrs as well. The best known is Vatel, who preferred death in 1671 to the shame of serving a flawed meal ( he promptly committed suicide when he learned that the fish he had ordered for a banquet had not arrived.) Vatel's gesture is symptomatic of the physical and mental distress chefs endure. Today the pressures stem from their annual re- evaluation by the authers of a reputedly neutral, and anonymous, authority:The Michelin Guide. In order to maintain their coveted Michelin "Stars", chefs have been known to go into debt and toil gruelling hours at the expense of their health, these days, however, they generally prefer early retirement to the self- sacrificing gesture of Vatel.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Today, as in the past, chefs are grouped into “ schools” with debates raging between the partisans of one supporter or another.

French cooking is a monument in a permanent state of renovation.
French cuisine remains dynamic, integrating new products, thriving on trends, and rejuvenating itself through periodic purges and, at least once in each century, a “ nouvelle cuisine” is born. If French cuisine “belongs” to the chefs and is a professional cuisine par excellence, it can also boast a score or more of distinctly regional cuisines whose names are generally derived from the old pre-Revolutionary division of the country into provinces.

Although these regional cuisines are now a source of pride, the distinctive cooking of the provinces did not attract the attention of the French gastronomes until a relativly late date.

Indeed, no regional cookbooks appear in France until the 1830s when Nimes gave us it’s Cuisinier Durand and Mulhouse its cuisinier du haut-Rhin. Grimod De La Reyniere did much to whet the appetite of his fellow gastronomes for regional produce and regional recipes.

In his Almannach des gourmonds ( 1803 to 1812) which was, among other things, a veritable catalogue of regional specialities. He never tired of praising artisans who shipped the finest duck liver pates to Paris or excelled in the preparation of regional mustard.

He was constantly calling attention to the gastronomic wealth of the provinces, which inspired the anonymous auther of the Cours gastronomique to go one step further and publish the first Gastronomic map of France in 1808.

As never before, one could now visualize the wealth and diversity of the regions


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Fascinating. Are you saying here that French regional cuisine was never really accepted until the 1830's? What was the standard of French cuisine then and did the emergence of regional cookery influence the more aristocratic side?

I'm very intrigued by your characterization of French cooking as being dynamic and constanly changing. Even so, if there is one thing, or a group of traits, which are inherent in French cuisine, what would they be? Do you think that there any which have endured over the ages?

Joined Feb 22, 2002

Thought provoking questions.
I hope within my posts you will be able to answer your own questions.

Like most cooks and chefs, I will be in my kitchen for the next 70 hours being paid for what I love.

So to continue.

Though drawn in an extremely stylized manner, one can recognize the inlets of the Atlantic seaboard
Where the famous sel de Guerande is made, and the oysters from Cancale are clearly visable along the
Normandy coast, as are the large white beans from Soissons, northeast of Paris.

Hundreds of other delicacies figure on the map, which leaves virtually no region barren.
There is no captian, but the reader is invited to imagine his own: “This is the land of milk and Honey, with turkeys as big as cows and strings of sausages as long as rivers, where pates are the size of wine barrels and every meal will be a feast. This is La France Gastromique”

Despite the enthusiasm of writers like Grimond and the publication of the Cours gastronomique, the century’s most famous food writer, Brillat-Savarin, has literally nothing at all to say about regional cuisins
In his Physiologie du gout published in 1826.

Perhaps his attitude accounts for the mid-century silence that can be observed when it comes to French regional cookery.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Poireau, you bring up a good point about regional cuisine, but I don't think that that situation was unique to France. Regional cuisines are often associated with peasant foods, whereas, in the urban areas the foods were created that were more refined and cosmipolitan. It was these foods, created by the important chefs of the times that anyone "in the know" whould right about. to extoll the virtues of Regional foods was to label yourself as a country "bumpkin" as opposed to an urban sophiticate.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Interesting insights Pete,

I agree that regional cuisines are not owned by France, infact all countries and their history extoles a unique and wonderful expression of their culinany pedagree.

At this point, I am focusing on France.
I would love for you to start a thread on another country and it’s culinary lifeline.

To Continue with France.

By the end of the century, there is a new manifestation of interest in the cooking of at least a selected number of regions, particularly in the south and east.
Regionalists become active in places like Provence (Reboul publishes his famous Cuisiniere provencal just before the turn of the century), Lorraine (the cuisine of metz is documented in 1890 by E. Auricoste de Lazaque), in Alsace (Charles Gerard writes the first history of a regional cuisine in 1877, L’ Ancienne Alsace a table), Bordeaux (in 1898 Alcide Bontou publishes the first book claiming to be about the cuisine of Bordeaux)

Not to mention Marcel Herbet in Dax, south of Bordeaux, who already in 1858 had published a small Cuisinier gascon, reviving a title from the 18th century that, unlike its predecessor, actually contained recipes from the region! In short, when the 20th century begins, there seems to be a new-found interest in the foods of the provinces.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
This thread is wonderfully rich.

I'm curious: when you say "regional", would you consider the food of, say Lille, as Flemish or French regional? Several home-cooked dishes I ate there seemed Flemish rather than French. For instance, my hostess served me potjefletch (sp?) and carbonnades a la flammande, as well as steak frites and poulet roti, which I'd consider more mainline French.
Joined Apr 3, 2012
Living in French Catalonia in the Languedoc - where the local food is heavily Spanish influenced and sadly largely ignored by historical writers you need to know where to go. However, there is a clear and distinct and of course rustic context to the dishes. What is interesting is to find increasing refinement where local regional dishes are given a refined context such as in the Michelin one starred La Gallinette in Perpignan. This is juxtaposed with the famous Creme Catalan - think Creme Brulee with nutmeg and Orange. It is said that this is the origin of Creme Brulee but, the heavy spicing and orange (available in abundance regionally) were at the time replaced with the more (regarded at the time) refined (expensive) flavouring of vanilla in the metropolis version of the dish.

I think each region can point to this hijacking of certain of it's dishes in the past and many daily re-affirm this of their drinks such as Blanquette De Limoux - the superb sparkling wine of the Languedoc claimed to be the fore-runner of Champagne. What is exciting now, is to see the elevation of regional French food for example in Raymand Blanc's recent series for the BBC. Lyon has a noted culinary heritage of it's own and of Provence little needs to be said in this respect. Let me tell you, you haven't eaten an onion until you've eaten a Toulouges (not Toulouse) onion and down here is the only place you can get them in season.  

What's coming next - is the discovery of Basque flavours and cuisine and - in wine the fabulous wines of here where I am the Languedoc - the world's largest vineyard. They have worked hard over the last 20 years to deliver quality with the world leading quality they have always had. If anyone is interested I will write an article about the wine down here in the Roussillon and tell you about my life as it develops as a Truffiere.

Bon Chance!
Joined Jan 5, 2007
That recent Raymond Blanc series was a joy to watch!

I think the Languedoc is a really interesting area of France and I have a couple of friends who have homes there. I love the wines! 

I, for one, would be very interested to read anything you care to write re the food and drink of the area.
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