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Dissing Italy on The French Board

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#1 Busboy

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 06:32 AM

Those partisans on the "French Cooking..." thread are dismissing Italian cooking as overrated and insignificant. You're not going to take that, are you?

[start about half-way through the second page]

As a general rule I believe that, delicious as it is, Italian cuisine is a bit overestimated the world over...


it it not true that Catherine de Medici has brought enlightenment to barbarian French cooks


Therein lies the French Epiphany: each dish, no matter the cuisine, has a soul, a platonic essence that can be revealed to the world. Whether you're making an ommelette, or stir-frying some greens, or baking some enchiladas, or grilling a burger -- if you honor the soul of what you are cooking, then you are cooking French.


Edited by Busboy, 17 March 2005 - 06:33 AM.

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#2 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 06:55 AM

It's been said before and it has also been said recently that the best food destination in the moment is London.

I would think that is comes down to a matter of perspective. Many people see a food experience as a dining experience and there is some cause for the opinion that Italian* food does not shoe-horn well into the most popular extant model of fine dining. Not something that I can comment on in an informed way.

Possibly, there exists people that can see a food experience outwith the context of a dining experience or at least outwith the the small percentage of dining experiences at the very top. For these people Italian food may have something to offer. However, I think that this may be quite rare as it is much more common for people to ask "What are the best restuarants in X?", rather then "What are the interesting food related things to do in X?".

*Not sure what is ment by "Italian food", seems a bit of a broad brush to using for a country that is noted for its regionality in food (when anybody has anything good to say about it).

#3 Busboy

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:30 AM

It's been said before and it has also been said recently that the best food destination in the moment is London...

London is known as a great international food destination at the high end. "English cuisine" is known as a contradiction in terms.

Possibly, there exists people that can see a food experience outwith the context of a dining experience or at least outwith the the small percentage of dining experiences at the very top. For these people Italian food may have something to offer. However, I think that this may be quite rare as it is much more common for people to ask "What are the best restuarants in X?", rather then "What are the interesting food related things to do in X?".


Au contraire, mon ami. On the French cooking thread, much bandwith has been used to praise France's non-haute cuisine -- as it should be. I think a far better indicator of the strength of a country's cooking is the performance of their mid-level restaurants and the quality of what grandmas, aunts and moms lay out on feast days. I think that's a pretty common idea, here on eGullet and with some of the great food writers, like A.J. Liebling and MFK Fisher. What a bunch of swells are eating at a Micheline 3-star is no more indicative of the overall quality of a nation's food than what a bunch of corporate CEOs are earning is of a nation's economy.

*Not sure what is ment by "Italian food", seems a bit of a broad brush to using for a country that is noted for its regionality in food (when anybody has anything good to say about it).

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Didn't we just decide on another thread that France is pretty regional, too? Because I have a hard time getting crepes in Nice and spaghetti Caen.

Edited by Busboy, 24 October 2005 - 01:38 PM.

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#4 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:32 AM

No, I decided that and what do I know. I think that everybody else is talking about tomatos, forks and epithany.

People take food very seriously don't they?

#5 Kevin72

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:44 AM

It's onnnnnnn!

#6 docsconz

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:46 AM

French cooking is wonderful, but then so is Italian. to dismiss Italian cooking as over-rated is patently absurd and most likely made by someone who has never experienced the real thing or cannot appreciate it by way of cultural bias. To risk over-generalizing, the best Italian food is all about the purity of the ingredients, while most French cooking is about technique. That is neither to say that Italian technique is bad nor French ingredients good. The empases are different, but equally valid.
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#7 Busboy

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:01 AM

No, I decided that and what do I know. I think that everybody else is talking about tomatos, forks and epithany.

People take food very seriously don't they?

View Post


Well, Bleudauvergne agreed with you (as do I) and she's got total cred, so you must have been right. :wink:

And, to your second comment, a little too seriously. I threw the fork comment in as a jest aimed at the metastacizing French chauvanism (apt word, non?) emerging on that thread and was a little amused at how seriously it was taken.
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#8 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:04 AM

Possibly, there exists people that can see a food experience outwith the context of a dining experience or at least outwith the the small percentage of dining experiences at the very top. For these people Italian food may have something to offer. However, I think that this may be quite rare as it is much more common for people to ask "What are the best restuarants in X?", rather then "What are the interesting food related things to do in X?".


Au contraire, mon ami. On the French cooking thread, much bandwith has been used to praise France's non-haute cuisine -- as it should be. I think a far better indicator of the strength of a country's cooking is the performance of their mid-level restaurants and the quality of what grandmas, aunts and moms lay out on feast days. I think that's a pretty common idea, hear on eGullet and with some of the great food sriters, like A.J. Liebling and MFK Fisher. what a bunch of swells are eating at a Micheline 3-star is no more indicative of the overall quality of a nation's food than what a bunch of corporate CEO's is of a nations economy.


My personal view would be that the strength of a countrys cooking can be based on the amount of interest shown in food by the inhabitants of that country. This is not to say that I can nessarily agree with or appreciate what they are talking about.

The problem with French cuisine is that this 'epithany' event seems to turn some people into poor-mans verions of Waverly Root or MFK Fisher. What should be a humble acknowledgment of the abolute joys of developing passion for food, somehow ends up as another form of self protective egotism.

Edited by Adam Balic, 17 March 2005 - 08:04 AM.


#9 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:08 AM

No, I decided that and what do I know. I think that everybody else is talking about tomatos, forks and epithany.

People take food very seriously don't they?

View Post


Well, Bleudauvergne agreed with you (as do I) and she's got total cred, so you must have been right. :wink:

And, to your second comment, a little too seriously. I threw the fork comment in as a jest aimed at the metastacizing French chauvanism (apt word, non?) emerging on that thread and was a little amused at how seriously it was taken.

View Post


Sorry I must use more emoticons. For the record, please mentally insert "ironic 30-something post-modern cynical self-absorbtion" emoticon after any comment that I make. :wink:

#10 FaustianBargain

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:15 AM

"English cuisine" is known as a contradiction in terms.


Should I report this to the UK forum as you reported the French thread here in the Italian corner of egullet?

The true tragedy is that they'd probably agree with you. They'd be wrong, but they'd still agree with you.

#11 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:17 AM

"English cuisine" is known as a contradiction in terms.


Should I report this to the UK forum as you reported the French thread here in the Italian corner of egullet?

The true tragedy is that they'd probably agree with you. They'd be wrong, but they'd still agree with you.

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Actually, I don't agree with this. I think that British cuisine and especially the produce can be brilliant. It's just a pity that so few people cook it.

#12 Busboy

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:26 AM

No, I decided that and what do I know. I think that everybody else is talking about tomatos, forks and epithany.

People take food very seriously don't they?

View Post


Well, Bleudauvergne agreed with you (as do I) and she's got total cred, so you must have been right. :wink:

And, to your second comment, a little too seriously. I threw the fork comment in as a jest aimed at the metastacizing French chauvanism (apt word, non?) emerging on that thread and was a little amused at how seriously it was taken.

View Post


Sorry I must use more emoticons. For the record, please mentally insert "ironic 30-something post-modern cynical self-absorbtion" emoticon after any comment that I make. :wink:

View Post


My coffee hadn't kicked in yet, or I would have noticed. I promise never to take you (too) seriously again. (Should I insert an emoticon here?)

FB -- if the Brits will show a little more fight than the Italians have, throw me into the lions' den, just for the hell of it.

Edited by Busboy, 17 March 2005 - 08:26 AM.

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#13 FaustianBargain

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:34 AM

FB -- if the Brits will show a little more fight than the Italians have, throw me into the lions' den, just for the hell of it.

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I can play British if you want... :hmmm:

Altho'...for the rest of this week..I have decided, I'm Irish.

#14 Bux

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 09:10 AM

"English cuisine" is known as a contradiction in terms.


Should I report this to the UK forum as you reported the French thread here in the Italian corner of egullet?

The true tragedy is that they'd probably agree with you. They'd be wrong, but they'd still agree with you.

View Post


Actually, I don't agree with this. I think that British cuisine and especially the produce can be brilliant. It's just a pity that so few people cook it.

View Post

But Adam, you don't even qualify as a local, nor does FaustianBargain unless I'm mistaken. What does it say about perception if the local food is best appreciated by expats and visiting students? This thread will quickly take on an international general flavor in spite of Busboy's best attempts to start a local food fight between EU neighbors. (Okay, against my resolutions not to rely on smilies, consider one inserted here.)

The perception of both Italian and French food in English speaking countries, particularly in the US, is a fascinating subject. There are more people with a perception than there are people who actually have any experience with the real thing. Indeed, there are perceptions held by those who haven't even had imitations of the real thing any closer than canned pasta and sauce. Worse yet, some of those who eat that think it's French food. :biggrin:

I'm not too sure how a diner in London would react to a question about his impression of either French or Italian food, although I might venture a guess, which is something I wouldn't even dare to do about the same question to a guy in Nebraska. Here in NYC, where we are well known for our cosmopolitan provincialism, I'd lay odds (assuming betting were permitted on the site) that most reactions would be based on food available in NY. Everyone in NY grew up with at least a few friends who were of Italian-American extraction and we all had local Italian restaurants in the neighborhood. We had some idea of Italian food very early in our childhood and no truths learned from visits as an adult to the real Italy, or perhaps to one of the real Italian regions, are ever going to totally change those perceptions.

French food was a cypher. In high school, your French teacher might take a group of the better students to eat snails and frog's legs in some really tacky place. My first question would be to ask why Italian tacky restaurants were really okay places in which to eat and why the same level of French cooking was not nealy as acceptable. I have my opinions on the subject and think some of them are obvious. We may have even covered them from the French perspective in the France forum. Of course the Italians discovered perspective.

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#15 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 09:31 AM

But Adam, you don't even qualify as a local, nor does FaustianBargain unless I'm mistaken. What does it say about perception if the local food is best appreciated by expats and visiting students? This thread will quickly take on an international general flavor in spite of Busboy's best attempts to start a local food fight between EU neighbors. (Okay, against my resolutions not to rely on smilies, consider one inserted here.)

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Does 'indefinate leave to stay' count?

I get the impression with British food that like an iceberg it is present and powerful, but the interesting bits are mostly unseen.

A good place to start maybe this book. British Food

#16 FaustianBargain

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 09:59 AM

If the English can hijack Indian food with their invention of 'curry', why cannot I comment upon British cuisine. (is there an emoticon for sulking?)

It is interesting tho' that British cuisine needs non-Brits to sing its praises. They simply gave up after the war rationing. Or something. Havent you heard? 'hanging on in quite desperation is the English way.' So said the Pink seers.

#17 ivan

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:20 AM

Hey, I'd like some attribution here! I"M THE ONE who came up with "The French Epiphany"! I made it up out of my own head just yesterday, and I want some credit!

Here is my post in full: click.

By the way, I had a similar epiphany some time later when eating tapas-like platelets of indescribably wonderful bits of veg and such at a wine bar in Venice, rubbing elbows with world-weary Venecians taking what appeared to be a habitual wine-break at 10 o'clock in the morning. That's the "Itallian Epiphany", to coin yet another ego-fortifying catchphrase -- the realization that "yes, life is just... life. Another glass of flinty wine as clear as spring water, if you please my good sir... And another plate of that chard. Grazi."

Of the two epiphanies, I hope some day to repeat the French one, but endeavor to live on a daily basis the Italian one.
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#18 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:33 AM

Ivan - only two? I have always considered you a two epiphanies before breakfast type of guy. I have had an English epiphany - my first Kings Pork Pie. Dude - it occurs to me that we should rank these epiphanies.

#19 ivan

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:41 AM

Ivan - only two? I have always considered you a two epiphanies before breakfast type of guy. I have had an English epiphany - my first Kings Pork Pie. Dude - it occurs to me that we should rank these epiphanies.

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I've been holding back. I don't want to overwhelm the board with my epiphanies. And I did try ranking my epiphanies, but they all went to 11. At least at the time.

But Kings Pork Pie...

I see I have yet uncharted epiphanies to conquer!
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#20 Adam Balic

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:49 AM

See your problem is scale. 11.1 compared to 11.2 is really quite significant you know.

#21 ivan

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:56 AM

See your problem is scale. 11.1 compared to 11.2 is really quite significant you know.

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I like how you think. Very scientific.

You wouldn't happen to have a spare Kings Pork Pie, would you? I'd like to test your scale theory.
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#22 cinghiale

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 11:45 AM

Oooooh. I'm reminded of an epic battle waged on this board a few years back. The unyielding French advocate has since packed his lunch box and moved elsewhere.

#23 ivan

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 11:46 AM

Unyielding French advocates are for tourists.
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#24 cinghiale

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 01:12 PM

By all means not the case in this instance. Click ici

Edited to underscore the bona fides of the French advocate

Edited by cinghiale, 17 March 2005 - 01:20 PM.


#25 FistFullaRoux

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 01:31 PM

When it comes to great food destinations, New Orleans has to be at least near the top on anyone's list.

And guess what? It's French. It's Italian. It's Spanish. It's Asian. It's African. It's a little of everything, showing that some good can be taken from anywhere.

The French (and those of us with French names) have taken a beating (figuratevely, at least) in the US because of the French government's policies and decisions. I wonder if some of that may factor in to this...

Oddly enough, it seems that the way France is viewed by the States is the same that the US is seen throughout most of the rest of the world.

I'm going back to my pasta now. It's got tasso and French olive oil in it.

edited becuase Fance does not equal France.

Edited by FistFullaRoux, 17 March 2005 - 01:33 PM.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.

#26 chefzadi

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 06:39 PM

Although I appreciate Mr Busboy's sense of humour. I have to add that most French people really like Italian food. It's one the most popular "ethnic" foods is France and of course there is the part of France that borders Italy. In fact I think that Italian food is second only to couscous in popularity. But then again Algerian couscous is so common in France that in a poll a few years backs when French citizens what there favorite dish is they replied, "couscous." So it's not even a foreign food anymore. Neither is Italian, we enjoy it immensely. I ate my way through Milan years ago.
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#27 emmapeel

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 10:32 PM

I find this thread very interesting because it has not only taught me so much about food and cuisine, but has also helped my gain insight into the society at eGullet. I found the thread Osterie d'Italia by Slow Food, or escaping from the Michelin man fascinating, and enjoyed reading it because there was so much great writing, especially by Bill Klapp, Craig Camp and others, but I don't see them writing much anymore. I don't want to stick my foot in my mouth, so if this subject is taboo, just say so.

Otherwise, I love Italian cuisine, and I love French cuisine and don't understand how they can be compared. I admit, I didn't like it when ideas were posed such as Italian food will never evolve. It may be true, but I've wept over food in both Italy and France, and would probably weep over some dish in India and Indonesia. As long as chefs can keep me sobbing, they are artists.

So, is the question really about which cuisine is better, or who is creating something new? In the recent Oats thread Jensen just made oatmeal a side dish and named it Avenotto, so does North America finally make it to the temple table? (Just joking, but I think you get my drift.)

Ivan's French Epiphany is also interesting. I'm not a food historian so I will not attempt to discount it, but are you telling me before the French, people only ate to survive? I doubt it. They had tastebuds. But the post is so good that I made Oeufs dur Mayonnaise for dinner and it was fantastic. The Italians also model simplicity in their dishes, and with equally astonishing results. The first time I had Ravioli in Butter & Sage in Firenze, I thought I'd die. If honoring the soul of the dish is a French invention, let them have it and thank them. But if honoring the soul of a dish was only discovered by the French (much like Columbus discovering America with the Natives living here), then let's not attribute elevation of cuisine to them. If that is the case, they get a salute.
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#28 Boris_A

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 11:12 PM

One problems with the perception of Italian cuisine could be a cognitive dissonance: why on earth can so simply pepared homestyle food be so good, even great and delicious? (at least, for a western palate).
The perception of French cuisine poses no such challenge: Haute cuisine, chi-chi, complicated techniques, great results.

And whenever you find a cognitive dissonance, you don't need to wait a long time until impressive lines of arguments are built up to talk it away.

Edited by Boris_A, 18 March 2005 - 11:25 PM.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

#29 fiftydollars

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 01:42 AM

This argument is just plain ridiculous... everybody knows Mexican food is the world's undisputed king of all cuisines.

#30 origamicrane

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 02:29 AM

This argument is just plain ridiculous... everybody knows Mexican food is the world's undisputed king of all cuisines.

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nah the world cusine is chinese
more people on the world eating it chinese then any other cusine :wink:
followed closely by indian. hahaha
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