Food History in France Term Paper

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Food History of French Cuisine

What is the geographical location of France and why would it have an affect on the French cuisine? (i.e., what is the weather condition in France and does that play an affect as to why they eat the foods they eat and what foods do they eat mostly?).

The geographic location of France makes it an ideal place for agriculture that can affect cuisine. Why? Because France's climate is mild, and the growing season is long. That means farmers can grow more food throughout the year, and that means that more fresh food is available for cooking and eating all year round. It doesn't often get too cold in France, and in the summer it can get quite warm, which helps food ripen and mature.

The countryside is also fairly level and has good soil, and that helps create a good growing situation, too. If you ever watch the Tour de France bicycle race that goes through the French countryside, you will see miles and miles of French farmland, vineyards, dairies, and other agriculture. The French have a good country for growing things, and they also have a variety of geographical features, from coastline to mountains, valleys, and rivers, that all offer different types of food. Because they have abundant food sources, they have more choices when it comes to cooking and cuisine.

C. In addition, France is home to hundreds of "microclimates." Microclimates are small areas of geography that contain a climate different from the climate around it. For example, the Napa Valley is an excellent valley for growing grapes in California, because the valley contains several different microclimates -- just like France. The northern end of the valley is hotter and dryer, while the southern end of the valley is cooler and more coastal, and has more fog. The two areas produce different types of grapes that make different kinds of wine. France is the same, and the microclimates produce different types of food in different areas. One expert says, "First, the microclimate, and the unique characteristics of the land in any given location determines which food products can be cultivated. Second, proximity to certain natural food sources, (oceans, forests, etc.), as well as to the influence of neighboring cultures, will shape a region's culinary destiny" (Vogel). Since there are so many different microclimates in France, it means that there are many more possibilities for growing food and wine, and so, the French have more variety and can use it in their cooking.

2. Historically, which groups had an influence on the French cuisine?

A. Historically, it was the Italians who had the most influence on French cuisine, for a number of reasons. In 15th century Renaissance Europe, food was becoming much more important as more than a simple meal. Art, literature, and education were flourishing, and so was a high interest in good food and drink. Wealthy Italians in Florence raised food to a higher standard, and used fresh ingredients and created amazing dishes, like layered pasta dishes (lasagna, manicotti, etc.), soups, breads, and desserts. They had learned how to keep food fresher, too, so that helped food remain tasty longer. They also started using ingredients like truffles, garlic, and mushrooms in their dishes (Hartman).

B. All of this innovation made its way to France through the famous Medici family. Catherine de Medici married France's King Henry II in the mid-sixteenth century, and brought her food ideas to the French court. A historian writes, "Catherine de Medici, coming from Florence to wed the French king Henry II a century later, is said to have introduced Paris to the culinary wonders for which Italy was then known" (Fromkin 72). As a result, dining in France became increasingly important. Like the Italians, they liked to decorate their tables with fine china, glassware, and serving ware, and dinner, said one critic, and became "theater" in France (Hartman).

C. In 1652, the first French cookbook, "Le Cuisine Francois," written by a famous French chef, La Varenne, that showed how French cuisine had become an important way of cooking and dining in Europe. The book gave many cooking techniques, including making a roux (a mix of flour and butter used for thickening soups and sauces). Another historian notes the importance of roux in cooking around the world. She writes, "The roux was such a convenient, all-purpose solution to so many culinary problems that it gained general popularity very quickly at all levels of society" (Tannahill 238). Before the French, and others, had simply put bread in the soup to thicken it (Hartman). Changes like these would make French cooking the most important type of cooking in Europe, and then the world.

D. That is not to say that other European regions have not had an influence on French cooking. Historian Fromkin continues, "Other countries, too, made their contributions. From the sixteenth century on, France was open to food influences 'from the four corners of Europe'" (Fromkin 72). For example, the Alsace region of France borders Germany, and there are many influences from Germany in cooking of the region, including sauerkraut, sausage, and this is the area where Quiche Lorraine first developed. Each area of France has something unique to offer to the overall cuisine of the country.

3. What are the practical and social rituals associated with the French cuisine?

A. Author Hartman says that dining in France is "theater," and that means that dinner, and food preparations are rituals in France. Eating is to be enjoyed, shared, and most of all, filled with fabulous food. The food must be pleasing to the palate, but pleasing to the eye, too, and so, how food is presented on the plate is very important in French cooking.

B. Wine is an integral part of French dining, and it is paired to match the food that is served. In an elaborate French meal, the wine is paired to each course. A light, bubbly Champagne may enhance the appetizer. A dry white may accompany the soup, and a robust red might accompany the main course. A light, sweet dessert wine might accompany the dessert or cheese plate. The French are master of pairing foods with wine, and it is an essential part of their meals.

C. Another ritual is that salad comes after the main meal, kind of like a light end to the meal before a heavier dessert. In addition, the French invented cleansing the palate with a light sorbet or ice between courses.

4. What are the ingredients, seasoning, styles, and cooking procedures attributable to the French region?

A. There are so many ingredients, seasonings, styles, and procedures associated with French cooking, it is difficult to know where to begin.

B. Wine of course is one of the premier ingredients in French cuisine and cooking, and that is because France is home to some of the premier vineyards in the world. They produce a wide variety of wines, from red to white, Rhine, and even the only true Champagne. France's geography and climate is perfect for growing grapes, so it makes sense that wine is one of the premier ingredients in French cuisine.

C. Cheese and milk are also key French ingredients. France has given the world such cheeses as Roquefort and Brie, and many other types of cheeses and butter. These are also used often in French cooking. In fact, the French roux used in most soups and sauces is a mixture of butter and flour, two staples of French cooking.

D. Truffles are one of the most sought-after and expensive French ingredients. They grow in other areas of Europe, and Italians began using them in their cooking during the Renaissance, but they have come to be known as a classic, exotic, and expensive French cuisine item,…[continue]

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