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The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine

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fine article.


thank you for posting the link.


for a long time , in the France / Spain / Italy triangle


all agrarian based 


France had one advantage over Spain and Italy :


it had three types of fat to work with 


Butter , Olive oil , Lard.  and these fats made French cooking strand out.


ref:  Waverly Root :  The Food of France.   WR extremely fond of Italian Food , " the Food of Italy "  but pointed out that the three fats made French food overall more complex.


times change .   food becomes processes and mass produced.  and cheaper


“But isn’t the point to taste the chicken?” Furious and foreign, I replied: “No! It’s just the opposite! Cooking is about messing with the chicken! Cooking is about adding flavour!” Here was the rub between French culinary conservatism and the way we in Britain and America have magpied ingredients from all over the world and made national favourites out of hybrid curries and Tex-Mex.  


if the chicken is from Bresse , Id say taste the chicken.


if the chicken is from Perdue or Tyson


go Tex-Mex

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So does Spain, actually ...

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the points were made by Waverly Root , not by me.;  The books 






the books are well worth redoing , but very dated on local food recommendations etc as i think they were initially published in the very late or early '60


I lived in Spain for two years , and in France for two years.  some travel in Italy but not much


I can tell you in the '60's in Spain you would rarely see butter , as it was expensive.


and in France in a sillier time frame , butter in a finished sauce was common , as were various types of rillettes , pork , duck , goose in many parts of the country


although its my impression that rillettes originated in Tours.  and olive oil was used all over France for vinanigrette's


did not mean to annoy anyone by my comments.   I still feel  France , back when , gained a breadth of flavor by making more use of these fats


than other mediterranean countries .

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I guess much had to do with political issues.

France had 2 advantages: the fall of aristocracy happened way before than in Italy and Spain; there were / are much less internal wars in France than in Spain and Italy (to be precise Italy did not exist as a country, there were many states instead of one country).

Good chefs back in the day worked for aristocracy, so it was a closed circle. French revolution had the effect that great chefs opened the first restaurants, so middle class people had much easier access to top dishes, this knowledge arrived to the homes of most people. Italy saw this effect more than a century later, after WWII: Nino Bergese, considered the best Italian chef in the 1950's and 1960's, worked for aristocracy up to WWII, after the war he opened what is considered the first real fine dining restaurant in this country. If we look at what happened in noble courts before the French Revolution then there wasn't a leading country about food: noble courts in Prussia, Austro-Hungarian kingdom, Russia and so on had nothing less than the French.

Being a united country helps spreading top produce from across all the regions. One of the reasons why there was a big butter / olive oil wall here (butter in the north, olive oil in the south) is that because all regions / states were battling against each other, that rivalry is still deep rooted nowadays. Envy and feuds are huge enemies of the spreading of culture.






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Re home cooking, I believe that regionality had a great impact.    Even today in parts of France and Italy and with some people, suggesting using butter in a dish traditionally made with olive oil is a travesty.     I have one French friend whom I drive crazy by my casual and to her irreverent use of substitute ingredients and tweaked recipes.    The three fats are not interchangeable in regional cuisine.     Even the use of butter or olive oil as a bread topping or sop.

eGullet member #80.

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On 7/16/2019 at 12:37 PM, Margaret Pilgrim said:

   Even today in parts of France and Italy and with some people, suggesting using butter in a dish traditionally made with olive oil is a travesty.  .

I have friends who, good-naturedly,  like to say "Who is Alfredo?" if I mention Fettuccine Alfredo. 

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook


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