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Alain Ducasse and "Foude France"


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#1 paul o' vendange

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:02 AM

Any one see the attached article discussing "Foude France," Alain Ducasse's program to bolster the work of French cooks (outside Paris), and bring more renewed attention to French gastronomy?


http://www.cnn.com/2...d.ap/index.html

Comments?
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#2 Bux

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:24 AM

France's most celebrated restaurateur says the French are less interested in gastronomy these days and local chefs face stiff competition from young cooks in Italy, Spain and even -- gasp! -- America.

Ducasse is no dummy, or at least he's not got his head in the French sand. He gets around and sees what's happening. Hes also smart enough to understand that part of the problem is not just the loss of gastro-tourism, but the fact that the French caring less about good food.

What I find somewhat questionable is to feature the cooking of young unknown chefs in his three star restaurant. Sure he can invite "invite Paris-based food critics among paying diners to sample the guest chefs' work." French food critics love a free meal, but will there be diners willing to pay three star prices for the work of unknown chefs? And will Michelin recognize the talent as three star cooking? If the restaurant doesn't lose a star featuring this food, will the country restaurants to which these chefs return at the end of their two week period, get more stars?
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#3 paul o' vendange

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 10:06 AM

Bux, I agree with you, tend to think the "problem" is more the second of the two you posed...the French simply caring less about good food.

Indeed, I think this is a problem everywhere - the "mother country" which spawned anything of global import (power, economic influence of England at its height in the 19th Century; the Pax Americana of the last century, France's gastronomy) has a hard time hanging on to that hegemony, by two, possibly ineluctable forces: the "export colonies" taking the wave with enthusiasm, and making it one's own (in this case, "New American" cuisine resting solidly on classic, and 'good' nouvelle technique, but with 'American' energy, ingredients, and outlook), and 'spiritual' lassitude at home.

It seems the French have lost much of their taste for their own food, as the English have for their ale (Bud, yes Bud, is big in England, as are lagers generally) or the Germans for their lager ('alco-pops' are taking over; brewing is dying, rapidly).

I just hope the same trends towards consolidation/standardization we see everywhere else do not sink their teeth too deeply into French soil - I think French gastronomy, including regional cuisine, is still something we can learn from...as they from us.
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#4 Bux

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 07:15 PM

I enjoy a good lager beer, but to hear that Bud is big in England means that the English are losing both their style and taste.

For a while now, I have thought French food is healthiest at the top -- haute cuisine -- but these are the very places that are kept busy by tourism. The French often feel they are born with a gene for discriminating taste, but so few of them go out of their way for good food these days. A generation of parents content to treat their kids to McDonald's hasn't done anything to raise a new generation of connoisseurs. I'm being cynical and it's not universally bleak, but the decline is quite evident to someone with over 40 years of intermittent experience watching the French eat and cook. Reading Waverly Root and A.J. Liebling is almost painful for the when you think of the changes. I think of John Whiting, a sometime contributor here and lover of bistro food, has spoken of the number of charming little restaurants around France that are run by ex-pats from showhere else. They are run by people with a love of the past that was France and while they may keep that part of France's past alive, it's a sort of unnatural life that no longer has organic ties to the culture.

Ducasse can import young chefs to the provinces and have them feed his guests and paying customers, but can he get the provincial population to support his picks back home? I wonder if he's even addressing the problem or just attending to a symptom.
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#5 John Whiting

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 11:01 PM

John Whiting, a sometime contributor here and lover of bistro food, has spoken of the number of charming little restaurants around France that are run by ex-pats from showhere else. They are run by people with a love of the past that was France and while they may keep that part of France's past alive, it's a sort of unnatural life that no longer has organic ties to the culture.

More "sometimes" than "sometime". :biggrin:

Traditions may be disappearing, but I continue to be delighted with what I find in Paris, particularly in those arrondisements the tourists rarely visit. There I keep stumbling onto bistros where loyal locals keep the tables full. Often there is nothing to write home about -- just a carte of familiar foods properly prepared and reasonably priced.

Michael Raffael, one of my favourite food/travel writers, wrote of Saorge, a remote, inaccessible village perché just off the old salt road from Nice to Torino: “It is a totally unspoiled, rock-solid throwback to the Middle Ages, with no special places of interest worth visiting except for the place itself.” Substitute "dishes" for "places", and that's the way I feel about certain bistros.
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#6 paul o' vendange

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 11:22 PM

I'm heartened by what John writes, and saddened by what Bux writes, respecting Waverly Root. But then, I wonder if I myself was conjuring up something which couldn't possibly be; Root's writing, spinning a dream, but bespeaking another, now lost, time?

If bistros exist which continue to do justice to authentic cuisine bourgeois, then maybe we are simply witnessing a necessary cycle - the waning of haute cuisine (if indeed it is), does it merely herald the birth of something new, more profound, just as regional fare, once passe, found its rightful place again over the course of the last century?
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#7 John Whiting

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 03:53 AM

I become increasingly convinced that, if there was a Golden Age of French cuisine, at least at the "peasant" level, it was within living memory. I have three favorite books about life in particular French villages. (I'm sure there are others that would also be favorites if I were to read them.)

James Bentley: Life and Food in the Dordogne
Peter Graham: Moujou
Michael S. Sanders: From here, you can't see Paris

All three go to great lengths to document that, up to about WW Two, peasant diet was extremely curtailed and monotonous. Near-starvation levels were the rule. We have it on good authority that, when cuisine du terroir became fashionable, many recipes were approximations of how peasants might have made local bourgeois dishes if they could have afforded the ingredients.

I suspect that it is a common phenomenon that, when moderate prosperity spreads downward, one of its most valued byproducts is the leisure that can come from fewer hours in the field and in the kitchen.
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#8 bushey

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:18 AM

The Bud in England is a totally different animal than the Bud here -- it's the original Budvar from Czechoslovakia, marketed here under the name Czechvar. Ranks up there with Pilsner Urquell.

#9 Jonathan Day

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:31 AM

I continue to come across pleasant and reasonably priced restaurants, outside of Paris, serving traditional food with love and care. But they are by no means as thick on the ground as they were; they are hard to find, and locals are often less than forthcoming about the truly "good addresses". And, moderate price does not mean good: in fact, nowadays it often means the opposite.

This is why I wish the guides would focus less on the palaces of gastronomy (we know, as Bux says, that French cuisine is still good at the top) and more on smaller, harder-to-find establishments. Michelin made a start, a few years ago, with the Bib Gourmand (a symbol for a restaurant providing good food at moderate prices). This is a service where eGullet could have a real advantage, since we have members who travel throughout France. But we would need to make people aware that this forum is not just for those who race from one 3-star meal to another.
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#10 paul o' vendange

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 05:48 AM

Bushey, I am aware of the Budvar in England (and of the recent court decision which stripped them of the right to carry the name here, forcing the "czechvar" name - although the name in the U.S. goes back to a 1939 trade agreement in the U.S. -

see:

http://www.cnsnews.c...R20030304c.html

I am speaking of Budweiser, the AB company. It is sold side by side with Budvar, and other lagers, and Carlsberg-Tetley is a giant among many, sadly dying, independent ale breweries. The broader thing I speak of is that lagers of any ilk (and as regards A.B's rice-water, I use the term "lager" very loosely) are overcoming ales as the national beer of choice in England.

Whereas in 1980, Ale and Stout accounted for 70% of total beer consumption, and lager 30%, the situation is now largely reversed (lager, 60%, ale/stout 40%). And the trend is continuing. Source:

http://www.canmakers...makers_report_3

So, back to the thread, John, very interesting, and thank you for the book cites. I hadn't thought of the "prosperity" phenomenon.
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#11 Bux

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 06:37 AM

I'm heartened by what John writes, and saddened by what Bux writes, respecting Waverly Root.  But then, I wonder if I myself was conjuring up something which couldn't possibly be; Root's writing, spinning a dream, but bespeaking another, now lost, time? 

If bistros exist which continue to do justice to authentic cuisine bourgeois, then maybe we are simply witnessing a necessary cycle - the waning of haute cuisine (if indeed it is), does it merely herald the birth of something new, more profound, just as regional fare, once passe, found its rightful place again over the course of the last century?

To be reasonable, although it doesn't seem to occur to anyone that god invented message boards for that purpose, it's not a black and while thing. It's always possible to find something somewhere that is better today than it ever was in spite of any downward trend and every plunge seems to acquire some grassroots movement that brings hope.

I think Root was a realist and a reporter. When we traveled in France in the sixties, we looked for, and found, the regional dishes Root mentions in restaurants. Today, you are likely to have a much harder time finding many of the dishes that once typified a region's cuisine. On the other had, you will have no trouble finding crèpes and pizza all over France. In Brittany, every second crèperie seems to have put in a pizza oven. Of course as I bemoan the loss of provincial character in rural France, with some hypocrisy as a New Yorker who prizes the number of different ethic cuisines to which I have access at home, gastronomic choice may well be something the provincials have always longed for and deserve no less than I do.

Good food and traditional food are two different things. John may continue to be delighted with what he finds in Paris, and so do I mostly, but my guess is that both of us do a lot more research these days than we might have done in 1963, two generations ago.
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#12 paul o' vendange

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 07:16 AM

Bux - thank you. I freely admit my naivete, as I have never spent time in France (though I have been fluent, more or less, since 12-13, and had a Fleur de Lis hanging above my nightstand - j'ai seulement le sang, et une certaine sensibilite, Francais). My journeys are therefore vicarious ones, through Root, and others (like you and John). But at the heart of it for me is that I would hope the marriage, or re-marriage, of good food and traditional food would be the norm.

So, two you two, what do you think would be a solution, if indeed you are having to research harder?
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#13 inventolux

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 07:29 AM

Any one see the attached article discussing "Foude France," Alain Ducasse's program to bolster the work of French cooks (outside Paris), and bring more renewed attention to French gastronomy?


http://www.cnn.com/2...d.ap/index.html

Comments?

Its evolution. Its inevitable. Its the best thing we can possibly do for ourselves as gastronomers. The alternative is far more costly........not evolving........that as we can guess from our history on planet earth is just not an option. I foresee the dissipation of most classical techniques by the time our kids are old and gray.

There is no good reason why we all should continue dining and living according to the rules of the past. Im not saying what Ducasee is doing is wrong, im just saying if you want to season your bechamel tomorrow with some miso instead of fleur de sel, why wouldnt you give it a try? What/who will it hurt? Someones dead ancestors that lived 100 years ago that preferred to use rigid guidelines that constrict creativity?

If that is the case then perhaps we should all go back to using the pony express for mail delivery. At one point that was very important to our culture. Everything has to change at some point.
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#14 paul o' vendange

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 07:47 AM

I agree wholeheartedly, that things must necessarily evolve. I do not agree that necessarily means the outright abandonment or dissipation, for the most part, of classical technique.

I will give an analogy. I am a trained martial artist, having lived as a direct disciple of an Aikido Master (I was an "uchi-deshi", literally "inside" student - a live-in, full time student). The view in that world is to soak up everything the master imparts, by getting onself out of the way, as this is the only way to then create something of real worth, something truly learned, to make an original creation of the "true self." In other words, learn classical technique, then use it to create something truly original.

It is not out of homage to "dead ancestors" that I use, and seek to perfect, classical technique; it is because I think that within that world there is an endless, constantly deepening culinary experience. I would rather perfect my classical technique than seek to improve on it by tossing it out. Another analogy. Tired of "dead ancestors," American Shakespeare has relegated itself to "modernizing" the verse, and throwing in "conceptual art" (think motorcyles for horses, Great Gatsby or Capone Gangland milieu for warring states) in an attempt to make it "understandable" to modern audiences.

I think we have got it wrong. American Audiences don't "get" Shakespeare because American actors are afraid of text, how to own it, how to make it a corporal, sensual experience, and not a dead uttering of a dead Englishmen. The problem is not the verse, or its "classicism," rather what we do with it. We don't truly, wholly own it.

In other words, I think we are looking in the wrong place when we look to abandon classical technique without first seeking to perfect and make it our own. I believe there is enough there to keep us occupied for a long, long time.

Andre Soltner said something to the effect of "there is no new food," by which I take him to mean we are not dealing with molecular reconstruction here, we are talking an essentially finite substance, nourishment (forgive me, if I have misquoted him, I saw it somewhere).

Edited by paul o' vendange, 27 June 2003 - 12:40 PM.

[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#15 AdamLawrence

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 08:11 AM

The Bud in England is a totally different animal than the Bud here -- it's the original Budvar from Czechoslovakia, marketed here under the name Czechvar.  Ranks up there with Pilsner Urquell.

Non. Both are available here; those who choose to drink Czech will make sure they differentiate between the two (most of us have had a bottle of A-B's finest presented when requesting 'Budvar').

cheers

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#16 John Whiting

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 12:37 AM

When we traveled in France in the sixties, we looked for, and found, the regional dishes Root mentions in restaurants. Today, you are likely to have a much harder time finding many of the dishes that once typified a region's cuisine.

. . . my guess is that both of us do a lot more research these days than we might have done in 1963, two generations ago.

Bux is spot-on. It does indeed take more time and research. I've just acquired a classic VW Westfalia camper van, vintage 1981, to enable me to explore the byways of France for longer periods without eating up my assets in hotel bills (although rural hotels are much cheaper than in most "civilized" countries).

As a single source of information, the Logis hotel guide continues to turn up admirable rural cuisine. This is an association of independent hotels, and one of the requirements for membership is that these hotels offer a menu du terroir. Not all are equally successful, but they are required to try and some succeed admirably. They won't be in the standard tourist guide books, either because they are in unfashionable areas or because the hotels themselves are modest and unexciting. But it's an area where serendipity can still come up trumps.

The arguments about how we must move on are entirely valid, but I choose not to join the inevitable march of progress. Having spend my youth in the avant-garde, I am now happy to have dropped back into the derrier-garde. Sure is comfortable back here! :biggrin:
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#17 Bux

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 02:38 AM

Change is inevitable. Change and progress are not synonymous. It's not quite reasonable for any of us to expect the same food or the the same restaurants we knew two generations ago. We are nevertheless disappointed when we don't find the relative quality. Sometimes the relative quality is absolutely not as good. Haute cuisine aside for the moment, even if it means following John Whiting rather than Alain Ducasse, there's little that's more satisfying than excellent provisions that are simply, but well, prepared. I don't have the exact figures at hand, but I recall the impact it had on me to read of the phenomenal decline in the percentage of Frenchmen involved in agriculture of any sort. In remarkably short time, France has gone from being an agricultural country living off the land to an industrial country with its population living in cities. France imports snails and frog's legs. The food stuffs available to the proprietors of little country restaurants may not come from local farms as often as they did. That the farmer's sons and daughters are lured to offices and factories where the work is easier and the pay is better should not be much of a surprise, but it's disappointing to see how well the general population has taken the results in stride. Cars, TVs and washing machines compete for the Frenchman's earnings and those cheaper foods start to have their appeal. Sadly from a gastronomic point, other activities compete for the Frenchman's, or maybe the French housewife's, time as well and the convenience foods start to have an appeal as well. Meals have begun to take a back seat in France and I'm not sure Ducasse is addressing that aspect when he focuses on chefs, but he's a restauranteur. Perhaps any focus on better food will payoff across the line. I don't know. France has a great history in regard to food. It's a shame to see it falter to the point where "where serendipity can still come up trumps," when we can remember a time when good meals were expected ubiquitously.
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#18 paul o' vendange

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:35 AM

Bux, and John, thank you, the both of you. I really appreciate your comments. I remember reading somewhere that "inside the heart of every Frenchman beats a peasant," but seems this is quickly becoming memory.

You have both given much to think about.
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#19 Ruth

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:51 AM

I have read and chewed over every post here and the subject is truly fascinating, on some points depressing but sometimes inspiring. I shall never forget returning to Paris in the mid-eighties after a long hiatus. New York had been a gastronomic desert when I first arrived in '62. Not only was there a dearth of decent restaurants at any price, but it was impossible to find good bread, butter, fish, poultry or vegetables. Only the beef was respectable. By the mid-eighties New York was well on its way to becoming the "food capital" of the world. None the less I had always been a francophile, Escoffier was still my god and I was looking forward to being in Paris again. We spent the first day walking around the city and examining the menus posted in the windows of the starred restaurants. It took me a few hours to realize that not only were the menus of the three star restaurants all almost identical but that they had not changed in twenty years. After a few days I came to the conclusion that while execution was invariably exemplary (I cannot remember a single dish that was not perfectly prepared), the concepts were totally unexciting and I was looking forward to being back in New York where even Chinatown and already taken its own great leap forward.
The French think of themselves as very conservative diners and may not want to admit even to themselves that they are getting a little bored with their own cuisine. Chefs are reluctant to experiment (except for the likes of Pierre Gagnaire and Marc Veyrat who rely mainly on a tourist clientele). Claude Troisgros felt that he would never be successful in Lyons because he likes to include a few Brazilian spices in his otherwise traditional haute cuisine. To the best of my knowledge no-one has had the courage to "deconstruct" French cuisine in the manner of so many of the successful young Spanish chefs. That could be really exciting and inspiring and might possibly help to create a rebirth. :wub:
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#20 robert brown

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:59 AM

The causes are really simple. Twenty years ago, a talented chef would finish a rigorous six-or-so years' apprenticeship at three great restaurants, each different from the other. The chef would return to his home region and open a good, if not ambitious, restaurant that offered a varied menu and a decent carte des vins. (I can also recall going into almost any decent-sized village or town and finding a heart-warming regional restaurant serving meals that I have never forgotten). This activity has come to a grinding halt. Any new restaurant that opens around Nice is run on a shoestring with fixed menus and literally a few people in the kitchen and dining room. The wine lists are paltry, besides. So what Ducasse is doing is putting a band-aid over the problem since he can't repair the economic and bureaucratic problems that have decimated dining in France the past eight to ten years.

#21 Jonathan Day

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 09:27 AM

Robert, the three "old time religion" restaurants I cited in recent posts (La Merenda, Nice; Les Arcades, Biot; Au Rendez-vous des Amis, Nice/Falicon) had menus of similar length: 6-8 starters, 8-10 mains. La Cave in Cannes and La Petite Maison had perhaps 10 starters, 12 mains.

How would these menus compare with those you recall from regional restaurants from a decade or so ago? In the Escoffier museum in Villeneuve Loubet there are some astonishing menus, e.g. one from the Rocher de Cancale in Paris that must have offered 200 different dishes.
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#22 Bux

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 11:15 AM

To the best of my knowledge no-one has had the courage to "deconstruct" French cuisine in the manner of so many of the successful young Spanish chefs. That could be really exciting and inspiring and might possibly help to create a rebirth. :wub:

The purpose of this forum is to talk about the food of France and not just to praise it. Ruth's point is well taken. For years food in America has been limited by the rush to chefdom and one's own restaurant by American culinary school graduates. Few of them were willing to pay their dues as the French did and consequently many American chefs build a repetoire of creative dishes based on far less than perfect technique and discipline. The French, on the other hand, had all the technique one could use, but their training was so stiffling that they couldn't use it creatively. The Spanish are proving to be naturals -- incredibly disciplined but ready to be inspired by what they know rather than hemmed it by it. Dining in Spain can be spotty, but it can also be rewarding in a way that can't be beat in France or the US. I don't write off either France or the US however, food is becoming universal and the talented chefs will always surprise us wherever they are. It's as easy for a Californian to travel to Barcelona to develop his skills as it was a half century ago for a young man from Lyon to go to Paris. Meanwhile little of the classical French training has lost its value if applied creatively.
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#23 Katherine

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 02:49 PM

I agree wholeheartedly, that things must necessarily evolve...

Another analogy.  Tired of "dead ancestors," American Shakespeare has relegated itself to "modernizing" the verse, and throwing in "conceptual art" (think motorcyles for horses, Great Gatsby or Capone Gangland milieu for warring states) in an attempt to make it "understandable" to modern audiences. 

I think we have got it wrong.  American Audiences don't "get" Shakespeare because American actors are afraid of text, how to own it, how to make it a corporal, sensual experience, and not a dead uttering of a dead Englishmen. The problem is not the verse, or its "classicism," rather what we do with it.  We don't truly, wholly own it.

Actually, the reason why Americans don't "get" Shakespeare is because the language and culture have evolved so much in the intervening 400 years that much of it now means either something completely different than what it was intended to mean, or nothing at all to our ears. Meanwhile, much of the incredible poeticism we perceive in Shakespeare's writings was at that time just a normal manner of expression, i.e., a refection of the contemporary grammar of the times.

Shakespeare's works were not intended to be overacted by actors with a special feel for them. Nor did they need special theatrical devices thrown in to make them comprehensible. At that time they were just pure entertainment for their audiences.

The fact that we now need to study them intensively to get much out of them means that they have lost their entertainment factor, and are now just high art.

Which is ok, if you're into theater as high art, but a bit much to expect of the general population, which is still struggling to interpret the section in the VCR owner's manual on how to set the clock.

#24 paul o' vendange

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:56 PM

This is off thread, and if others would prefer, I can carry this on privately. Please let me know.

For the moment:

At the outset, let me admit my prejudice in this area - I was trained as a Shakespearean actor at Shakespeare & Company, in Massachusetts (Tina Packer, Artistic Director, formerly of the Royal Shakespeare Company). What follows is largely informed by my training there, to include that of Kristin Linklater, their Director of Voice.

Firstly.

Katherine, to the extent that Shakespeare was pure entertainment for the masses, and that it was not meant to be overacted by actors with a special feel for the text, I think we are in agreement. Shakespearean English was Elizabethan English, simply the everyday language of the time. The problem is, language itself was a different experience then that it is now.

Language has largely become a utility, and largely one of commerce (as food has become the brief break in between things that matter - there, back to thread!). It is no longer the principal means we express our true selves. Witness two guys hashing out a business deal at lunch. Listen and literally watch the throat tighten, because regardless of what words are used, god forbid the "true" self is revealed, it is the antithesis of business negotiation; and were the voice free, open and responsive, god knows what would come roiling up from below.

So, when words like:

'tis now the very witching hour of night,
when churchyards yawn, and hell itself
breathes out contagion to this world'

were spoken, felt, and made sense of, by actors who saw language as "stuff," a physical link from the deepest self to the gods (I am thinking of Irving, here), throughout the Globe, there was a kinetic rush of "got it" (and "dive for cover, here comes Satan!") in the stands. "Yawn" is made sense of differently than "open," and hell is a physical, sensual thing - it literally breathes, it moves, it infects.

The same thing happened at Epidaurus, from what we can tell. There, a primitive amplication system of amphorae with varying levels of water were placed throughout the stands, to resonate with, and amplify the actor's voices. At the heart of it is vibration, and not some new age concept of it, but literally a physical reality of sound waves bouncing through the actors out to the stands, which were felt, in a very real, kinetic sense.

My lament for most of American Shakespeare is that it therefore falls into 2 camps.

The "method" camp, which says screw the language, screw the verse, it must be "felt." Watching it, I feel I am watching a sea of emotion (not mine, the actor's), but don't know what the hell they are saying, because they themselves haven't made sense of the word (these are largely the "motorcycle and Gatsby" concepts I have seen); and

The "sacred" camp, which fears language so much that it treats the verse as sacrosanct unto itself, an academic exercise, a pristine, wrathful idol, and definitely foreign. I feel then like I am watching talking heads, and do not feel anything (nor do the actors) (these are the hopelessly overwhelmed stiffs worshipping some dead English guy with a bad 'do - maybe the "overactors" you were speaking of).

On the other hand, when the language is trusted (and the cadence of the verse honored), the physical instrument is open, and all engines are flying, then I witness art. 100%, shakespearean verse, spoken as such; and 100% alive, even, in Peter Brooks' sense, dangerous.

Secondly, I can't agree that Shakespearean verse was a normal manner of expression, any more than opera is everyday Italian. Verse matters. It means something else is going on besides "everyday speech," even as an aria means more is going on than singing a jingle. Stanislavsky, the Founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, said it himself when he said that good Opera happens when the player sees the song as the titanic "next step," demanding that the player can no longer rest with words but must sail with song. In other words, the size demands an aria. Shakespearean verse should be approached similarly.

Bad opera is bad acting is bad art - disconnected, forced, false. The problem for the Shakespearean actor, as for the Opera performer, is to fill the size the poetry or aria demands, and make it clear on all levels - intellectually, emotionally, I would say corporally (I mean that literally - how to open up the body such that the whole "corpus" becomes an instrument of the "voice," and vibrations are not limited to the larynx but the whole being literally "springs" sound), even spiritually, all with ease and without forcing. To do this, the words have to move beyond an intellectual understanding of the head to a kinetic experience of the whole body, framed and made sense of by the actor's intelligence.

I am not talking, too, only about the "highborn" speeches in Shakespeare. The counterpoint thoughout the man's text of good, guttural, anglo saxon (think "f**k") with highborn Norman ("Ascension") meant all inhabited this universe. I think of Dame Judi Dench, playing the lowliest of wenches in Branagh's Henry V. Lamenting the death of Falstaff, her lifelong friend, she describes the touch of cold as it moved along the old, broken man's body. Her performance was brilliant because it was simple, because it was one with her body and mind - "cold," and the "O" in cold, rested in her, the feeling of the word in her body shook her to the core, and therefore moved me in understanding. Or the actor playing Pistol, erstwhile friend of Henry, and, by the war's end, disgusted with life, his role in it, himself - he will return to his former profession, a cutpurse. His verse describes the "quick hand," and "there [England] I'll steal." The actor seized on "quick," and the word itself became not a bludgeon but a scalpel, a short, sharp blade - it percolated out his mouth like this, because it was felt like this. Imagine the same thing if the word were "fast." "qk" cuts the throat more keenly.

Again, sorry for the length. I hope I haven't offended with this use of bandwidth and I will gladly continue privately if anyone wishes.

Oh, and here's my suggestion.

Growing up, no American kid should ever be required to read Shakespeare.

Every American kid should be required to speak it.

Edited by paul o' vendange, 28 June 2003 - 08:47 PM.

[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#25 John Whiting

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 11:30 PM

Both Bux and Paul touch on the changing fortunes of skill. Modern commerce requires that we be taught from an early age that we can have whatever we want, including competance, for little or no effort, providing we are able and willing to pay for it. "Performance art" of all sorts requires merely a clever idea which is sketchily expressed with whatever comes to hand. The essential human ability to postpone the lesser pleasure for the sake of the greater has been devalued, just as wine is now made to be drinkable as quickly as possible. In the words of Ezra Pound, "Nothing is made but to sell, and to sell quickly."

The result is that skill is now valued only in those areas in which its lack is obviously, even disasterously apparent, such as medicine, law and competitive sport. Even business itself now gives the failing executive a golden handshake far beyond what was once the reward for success. In such a climate, those chefs or actors who spend a lifetime honing their skills do so, not because it is a prerequisite for recognition and prosperity, but because of an inner compulsion towards integrity and self-respect, together with the joy that comes from the very process of doing something well -- getting there is indeed half the fun.
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#26 pirate

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 06:58 AM

Since Ducasse's interview in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago, in which his strictly business approach is
highlighted, and the ensuing development of his empire, I've stayed away from his restaurants. Is this latest scheme a way to get publicity as a saviour of French cuisine while also finding talent for his empire?

I was fortunate enough to eat twice at Aux Lyonnais at its height, difficult as it was to book. Let me quote in part from Waverley Root's Paris Dining Guide (1969)
"The Lyonnais is (1) the best Lyonnais restaurant in Paris;(2) one of the three best bistros in Paris;and (3) one of the dozen best restaurants of any category in Paris. You will understand here why Lyons is considered agastronomic capital, although all of M. Violet's fellow Lyonnais do not take as many pains as he does to demonstrate it. For instance, rebelling against the insipid taste of artificially bred trout - which is all that ordinarily can be had, since the government forbids selling brook trout commercially -he imports from Guilvinec, in Brittany, the sea trout which can be legally taken in the river mouths during a very short season in the fall.
M.Violet's menu is a model document. It describes exactly the dishes he presents, and from time to time tosses in a bit of extra information. Under the name of that typical Lyonnais dish, hot sausage, you read 'In Lyonnais families, hot sausage is eaten with butter and boiled potatoes'. ......"
You can understand why I termed Ducasse's Aux Lyonnais a Disneyland version.

Edited to make correction noted by Pirate in a later post.

Edited by Bux, 29 June 2003 - 01:32 PM.


#27 John Whiting

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 10:53 AM

It's a joy to see Waverley Root's Paris Dining Guide quoted. It was the vademecum of our first serious eating in Paris in 1973. Our budget was not open-ended, but we still have happy memories of the beurre blanc at Chez la Mère Michel, the grilled tuna at Auberge Basque, and lièvre à la loyale at Bistro 121, together with my first experience of Cahors, a robust wine which would become a lasting favorite. Bistro 121 still survives, with much the same decor, although no longer distinctively redolent of the Quercy, and respectably catering for a conservative French clientèle undiluted by tourists. We'll be going back in a couple of weeks to honor old memories.
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#28 pirate

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 12:38 PM

In the earlier post it should be "mouths" not "months" for the quote from Root.
Among the restaurants mentioned by John Whiting I've only eaten at Chez la Mere Michel. It was in 1982. The turbot with beurre blanc and the omelette souflee au rhum were superb. A return in 1983 or 1884 was a disappointment. I believe the restaurant closed soon thereafter, not surviving the original owners. There was a restaurant specializing in Cahors wine in the 11th called A Sousceyrac. I've ate there several times in the 80's. The food was classic and correct. The one memory I retain is the time I liked two main dishes on the menu and ordered both (in sequence). The patron came over and warned me it was too much He was right.

#29 Bux

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 02:01 PM

The Beaux Arts, a restaurant across the street from the Ecole des Beaux Arts was a restaurant that formed my idea of French food as much as any other. Both Liebling and Root were known to have eaten there and it seemed to play a role in the formation of their tastes as well as mine. My first visit was in '59 or '60 and I returned a few times with my wife in the mid and late sixties to enjoy the food and selections of house wines in carafe. I don't recall when we first returned to a disappointing meal, but we were surprised to see it mentioned not so long ago in the NY Times, even with the admonition that it was not what it once was. It's one thing to drink in a bar once frequented by famous poets, or a cafe where the philosophers met, but it seems quite pointless to eat in a restaurant that was once frequented by connoisseurs if the food is longer recommendable.
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#30 Louisa Chu

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 02:04 AM

The guest chefs will be cooking at the Relais - not ADPA!