A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 A presentation by Jeselle, Kristine, Natasha, and Spencer
What caused the rise of French cuisine and how and why did it bring about a revolution in taste?
What major changes (relating specifically to French cuisine) occurred and why in the first half of the seventeenth century?
What was involved in providing food to Paris in the first half of the 17 th century?
What changes did the Bourbons bring about in Paris in the first half of the 17 th century?
Imposed taxes on rich merchants, designated primarily for infrastructural reparations
Successive administrations oversaw an architectural renaissance (for example, the completion of the Pont Neuf), ascribable to the creation of favorable conditions, which attracted investors
In the early 17 th century, Paris became France's true capital. This, and the consequent building boom, resulted in an influx of “laborers and skilled artisans,” which, in turn, created a population explosion
What were the sources for Paris's food supply?
There were three primary food-producing areas – called “crowns” – that supplied Paris with dairy, grain, meat, produce, poultry, seafood, and wine
The exodus of members of the aristocracy from suburban Paris to agriculturally prosperous tracts of land led to their becoming the main purveyors of the above foodstuffs
Where and what kinds of foods did Parisians buy?
Les Halles was the biggest and most important wholesale and retail market for fresh foods
Culinary guilds also supplied prepared foods (for instance, breads, cooked and cured poultry and meats, sauces, beverages, etc.)
Such prepared foods were purchased and consumed by both upper- and lower-class Parisians, from full meals to individual dishes
How did cooking techniques change to optimize the flavor of foodstuffs?
With respect to food preparation, what was considered the norm prior to the mid-17th century?
Medieval cooking was characterized by “multi-layered complexity”
Indeed, archetypical medieval recipes called for a gallimaufry of seasonings and spices (for example, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and saffron)
Bonnefons, in fact, inveighed against the homogeneous, indiscriminate treatment of ingredients, which resulted in uniformity of flavor, and promoted le goût naturel
What prompted this shift with respect to the experience of tasting foods?
The 1651 publication of La Varenne's Le Cuisinier françois and the 1654 publication of Bonnefons's Les Délices de la campagne were instrumental in the origination of the haute cuisine
La Varenne's and Bonnefons's target audiences were culinary professionals and aspiring aristocrats, respectively
The desire to emulate the aristocracy by the bourgeois gave rise to momentum of this shift
What were the characteristics of this new style of cooking?
Delicate cuisine promulgated simplicity: its objective was to stimulate the palate by accentuating properties inherent in ingredients, thereby capturing le goût naturel
Of paramount importance to delicate cuisine was the understanding of key properties of ingredients (reactivity to temperature, compatibly with other elements)
The notion that “food should taste like what it is” stood in stark contrast to medieval cooking
What impact did the medical revolution have on French cuisine?
What impact did Hippocratic medicine have on cooking?
Hypothesized since Hippocratic times that food and medicine were intertwined
In medieval times, the notion that foodstuffs possessed restorative properties essential to the preservation of the four humors was essentially axiomatic
Indeed, the composition of the medieval menu, which relied heavily on seasonings and spices, serves as a testament to the prevalence of this subscription
What developments occurred during the medical revolution?
The 1542 publication of Andreas Vesalius's magnum opus, De humani corporis fabrica , shed light on the inaccuracies of Galenic beliefs
William Harvey's 1628 discovery of the circulatory nature of blood jeopardized the partnership between food and medicine, effectively debunking the theory of humorism
Paracelsus, the Swiss polymath, pioneered the field of iatrochemistry, a school of thought that strove to understand physiology via chemistry
What objections have been put forth that counter the aforementioned assumption?
The modern culinary practices of India, Mexico, and the Middle East are cited as counterexamples, for such cuisines are characterized by “spicy complexity”
That the existence of delicate cuisine predates the publication of Le Cuisiner françois potentially renders the preceding argument erroneous
The prevalence of Hippocratic beliefs in the latter half of the 17 th century and the continuation of attributing therapeutic qualities to food testifies to the validity of this view
What contributions were made by Paracelsus and his followers?
The establishment of chemistry as of paramount importance to medical science
The exposition of digestion as a chemical process
The establishment of, most notably, the Jardin des Plantes, which served both as a chemical laboratory and, later, a school of botany
The scientific confirmation of the dietary attributes of various foodstuffs (for example, black pepper)
Le Jardin des Plantes
What brought about a new standard of luxury in French cuisine?
What changes occurred in the availability of foodstuffs in the 17 th century?
The Dutch monopolization of the spice trade and the subsequent importation of spices in large quantities resulted in their becoming ubiquitous. Spices, therefore, were no longer regarded as culinary status symbols
The introduction of such novelties as tobacco, coffee, tea, chocolate, distilled alcohol, and vegetables
Specialty farmers provided an abundance of eggs, dairy products, fattened poultry, fruits, and vegetables
The seasonality of produce resulted in its exclusivity and, consequently, its desirability, particularly by the upper echelons of society
What was the importance of kitchen gardens in meeting the demand for new luxuries?
Kitchen gardens served primarily as centers of cultivation and, in essence, extended the growing season
Via the incorporation of special equipment and the sequential and rotational planting of cultivars, it became possible to harvest cultivars year-round
Specific cultivars include broccoli, cauliflower, “Italian” cabbage, and kohlrabi
The kitchen garden of the Château de Villandry
How did the incorporation of luxury foods change cuisine?
The years proceeding the introduction of cultivars witnessed:
A dramatic increase in the publication of recipes that called for seasonal ingredients, thereby creating a diversification with respect to menus
Culinary innovations of the mid-17 th century stemmed from, in particular, “vegetable cookery”
The emergence of “silky sauces,” which indicated the arrival of delicate cuisine
Consequently, 18 th century haute cuisine , based primarily on produce, became identified with simple “pastoral” life
What societal changes occurred that impacted dining customs?
In the first half of the 17 th century, there was a shift in decorum, which influenced dining etiquette. A table outlining the major changes in dining social customs is presented in the following slide
BEFORE AFTER Nobles were carefree, lacked loyalty, and were known to have bouts of violence Proper gentlemen had manners and personal aspirations A hierarchical seating arrangement was used when people were placed far apart from each other Both men and women sat close together (not only in alternating chairs, but also in a circular pattern Long, narrow trestle tables were common Oval, rectangular, round, square, and triangular tables were introduced Servants stood behind chairs to get food from one end of the table to the other Servants stayed by the perimeter of the room, for they were no longer required to bring the food
When planning a meal, one dish per person, per course was expected to be used. The selection of foods was small because guests would serve themselves only from the dishes closest to them
With the circular seating and smaller tables, guests were able to reach more food and less plates were needed