French cuisine was prepared by ill tempered French chefs, who were very picky about their food, and these French chefs incorporated overly rich sauces to accompany the food, plus the preparation of food dishes had to be perfect. However, today’s preference is more about the taste and texture of the food. French chefs of today produce cuisine that is artistically arranged on the plate, and contains a wonderful mix of smells, textures, and flavors. France’s rich cuisine and their constant love affair with food is one of modern France’s greatest treasures.
French cuisine has evolved from many centuries of political change and social events. In the Middle Ages chefs like Guillaume Tirel, alias Taillevent was a cook to the Court of France at the time of the first Valois kings. Guillaume Tirel was head chef or queux to Philip VI and later to the Dauphin de Viennois, who prepared lavish banquets for the upper class with ornate and heavily seasoned food. Le Viandier is a famous cookery book which Guillaume Tirel wrote which was influential on French cuisine and medieval cuisine in northern France.
In the year 1789, “The French Revolution” era, and lasting over 10 years was a period of political and social upheaval in the history of France. French cusine evolved towards fewer spices and increased usage of many types of herbs. These refined techniques in French cooking beginning with François Pierre La Varenne, author of “Le cuisinier françois”, the founding text of modern French cuisine, and which established the foundation for what would become one of the basics of French cooking. French cusine developed further with the famous chef and personality of Napoleon Bonaparte, which influenced the culinary future of France, plus other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême.
Antoine Careme well known as the “King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings,” and in Paris, in the 19th century, Careme became the father of “haute cuisine” which is the high art of French cooking. French statesman and Diplomat Talleyrand-Perigord, the future King George IV, Czar Alexander I, and James Rothschild a powerful banker, Careme was the Chef to these world leaders and aristocrats. Careme is well known for his famous writings on the art of cooking, included in the writings is the famed “The Art of French Cooking” or L’Art de la Cuisine Francaise. The masterpiece contains volumes of information and knowledge on the history of French cooking.
French cuisine was codified by George Auguste Escoffier, who in the late 19th and early 20th century modernized Careme’s elaborate style of cuisine by his ingenious simplification of the food, and Escoffier became the modern version of haute cuisine. Haute cuisine meaning “high cooking” in French or grande cuisine. In North America, haute cuisine refers to the cooking of the grand restaurants and hotels, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations. Until the 1970s, this cuisine was defined by the French phrase cuisine classique, and was supplanted by nouvelle cuisine. Today, haute cuisine is not defined by any particular style.
However, George Auguste Escoffier’s culinary work was missing a lot of the regional character of foods and cooking that was found in the provinces of France. Gastro Tourism and the Guide Michelin or Le Guide Michelin, which is a series of annual guide books published by Michelin for over a dozen countries, helped bring people of France and the world to the countryside of France during the 20th century and beyond, to experience the taste and smells of this rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of France.
In the southwestern part of France, Basque cuisine, referring to the typical food dishes and cooking ingredients of the cuisine of the Basque people, and has been a large influence over this type of French cuisine. The food dishes and ingredients various from region to region, but many significant regional dishes have become both regional and national. Today, various dishes that once were regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across France. Wine and cheese are also HUGH parts of the French cuisine, regionally and nationally, playing different roles both with their many variations and the “Vins d’Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”, or AOC wines, officially recognized. (regulated appellation)
Around the world centuries later, among connoisseurs of French cuisine, gourmet innovations which have been brought forth by both the French Revolution and the glorious conquests of “Empereur des Francais Napoléon I”, have not lost their appeal and popularity, and Napoléon Pastries as an example, Napoléons are served today.
By: James M Murray