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French Cuisine History Overview



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    French cuisine is considered an art in France and dining is not just about food and drinks but it is about culture, family and socializing.  Aside from satisfying the gastronomic needs of the body, dining in France is a leisure activity.  It is in no way done hurriedly.  Instead, dining is enjoyed with good company, pleasant conversation and relaxation.  French Cuisine is known for its richness of taste and its elegant presentation.  No matter how simple a dish is, food is always presented elegantly and pleasing to the eyes.  Because of the lavish presentation of dishes, French food is often referred to as complicated, but French cuisine is not all about complex recipes.  Rather, French cuisine consists of simple recipes using fresh ingredients and cooking done from the heart.

    French cuisine is highly diverse with dishes or recipes originating from different regions with various climates and geographies.  Geographies determine the ingredients grown in that region.  Almost all of the popular French dishes were developed in the different regions because of the abundance and quality of the specific ingredients required per particular dish.  French meals range from basic servings like baguette, cheese and inexpensive wine, to more sophisticated meals involving courses of up to a dozen and different kinds of wines (French Food Culture).  Some of the French dishes which became popular nationally and internationally include bouillabaisse which is a seafood soup, quiches, crepes, pâté de foie gras or goose-liver paste, and andouillette sausage (Adams, Jordan–Bychkov, & Kaiser, 2005).

    The diversity of French cuisine as evidenced by the distinct dishes developed in different regions gave way to a variety of ways that French food may be enjoyed.  Dishes from the French Mediterranean use herbs, tomatoes and olive oil, while Northeastern France cuisine mostly contains beer and sauerkraut because of its strong German influence (French Food Culture).

    Good climate in the south allows them dominant use of fruits and vegetables.  Areas near the Atlantic coast use more sea food, while inland areas near rivers use fresh water fish.

      A central component of French culture is traditional food which at Christmas would consist of baked ham, chicken, seafood, fruits, pastries, cakes and French red or white wine.  The French consume 45 pounds of cheese and over 57 liters of wine yearly (Survive a French restaurant in Paris ).  Most of this consumption happens during Christmas time.  Cheese, wine and bread are staples at a French home or restaurant.  Bread and pastries are consumed daily and are readily available at boulangeries, French for local bakeries.  Wine is a staple drink after meals but it is seldom taken by itself or without food.  Wine is not drunk only during celebrations or special occasions, but it is taken after regular everyday meals.  The kind of wine should also match the food because not all kinds wine are complementary to any kind of meal.  The French believe that each dining experience, whether there is an occasion or not should be an enjoyable experience.  Aside from its use in cooking, Cheese is oftentimes served as a separate course after the main meal but before serving dessert (French Food Culture).

    The general traditional meal pattern of the French is to eat a light breakfast comprised of bread or croissants with butter or jam, and hot chocolate or coffee, a hefty lunch and a lighter dinner.  Particularly in Paris, 1 PM is the usual time for lunch and 9 PM or later for dinner.  French people in other areas eat earlier.  Lunches and dinners often last for more than two hours.  This is the reason why lunch breaks of offices in France last for two hours instead of the usual one hour break that companies allot for lunch in other parts of the world.  Lunch and dinner consist of the first course which is the appetizer or the hors d’oeuvre comprised of soup, sausage, pate or raw vegetables, followed by the main course or Le plat principal.  The main course consists of meat or fish with vegetables.  Roast beef and legs of lamb are some of the kinds of meat served with potatoes.  After the main course and before dessert, a cheese platter called Le Fromage is served consisting of a minimum of three or four cheeses (French Cuisine).  Fruits and chocolate cakes are usually served for desserts.  Dessert is then followed by Le café or a strong espresso coffee.  Wines or water are served as beverages that accompany the meals.  Secondary foods which are widely and often eaten, but not on a daily basis, in France therefore include fish and meat, usually beef and lamb.

    A large number of techniques are involved in French cooking.  Though some may be complex, a French cook will never resort to shortcuts in the cooking process.  Recipes remain classic and steady because French culinary arts focus on the mastery of pastry dough and sauces (French Cuisine, 1996).  French cuisine is characterized by meticulous and non-hurried cooking.  Processes may be quite long and complicated, but the aim is always to come up with dishes that will please the palate.  There are three cooking styles in French cuisine.  Classical French cuisine involves rich dishes which use cream-based sauces.  The more sophisticated classical French cuisine is haute cuisine which is characterized by use of heavy creams and elegant presentation.  The second cooking style is the Cuisine Nouvelle which avoids heavy creams and dishes are simpler, lighter and served in smaller portions, as opposed to the Classical style of cooking.  The third style of cooking is Cuisine du terroir which focuses on specialties per region and highlights the use of food traditions and local produce (French Food Culture).

    Meals are enjoyed in the company of friends or colleagues during workday lunches and with the family at home during dinner.  The sharing of a hearty feast of French food is evident in traditional family gatherings during the Sunday mid-day banquet which is lovingly prepared over many hours and leisurely consumed through a large number of appetizers, main courses and wine (Introduction to French Cuisine).  The French treats cooking and dining as part of their personal experience and gratification.  Thus, every moment spent in cooking or dining is an event that they get pleasure from.  Every dining moment is a moment shared with people who are friends or loved ones.  These times are used for bonding and developing closer personal ties.  The French culture is trying very hard to resist the fast food phenomenon that is gripping countries throughout the world.  Although, fast food joints have emerged and have proved to be successful in France, French culture is still maintaining their passion for cooking and dining away from the fast track ways and means of the fast food trend.


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