A brief history of French cuisine
Much like everything everywhere, France has experienced a number of changes through the decades but keeping in with the theme of cooking and general cuisine, let me focus on that side of the coin.
Until the day the Bastille was stormed in 1789, the majority of French citizens were poor farmers whose diets were based mainly on grains. In the decades that followed, an upperclass emerged, otherwise know as the “Bourgeoisie” and was one that upheld good food as a mark of social standing. Despite the haute cuisine being served in the private homes of the elite, all was not well in the nation. During this time, seventy percent of French peasants still languished in poverty and malnutrition.
Pre and During War Cuisine
The ingredients of this period varied greatly according to the seasons and the church calendar, and many items were preserved with salt, spices, honey, and other preservatives.
Late spring, summer, and autumn afforded abundance, while winter meals were more sparse. Livestock were slaughtered at the beginning of winter. Beef was often salted, while pork was salted and smoked. Bacon and sausages would be smoked in the chimney, while the tongue and hams were brined and dried.
Cucumbers were brined as well, while greens would be packed in jars with salt. Fruits, nuts and root vegetables would be boiled in honey for preservation.
Whilst unethical in today’s society, food was fuel and whales, dolphins and porpoises were considered fish, so during Lent, the salted meats of these sea mammals were caught and eaten.
Post War Changes
World War I heralded the beginning of modern French cuisine. Improved transportation during the first half of the 20th century spread the wealth and regional cuisine that had previously been segregated. Tourism came into high demand after World War II and furthered the need for grand cuisine at a fair price. Now anyone could saunter into a tavern or restaurant and have a substantial meal.
Anyway, on to some lighter hearted content… Here is what you can expect to find on your plate if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in this beautiful country.
With its flaky pastry crust and nutty Gruyère cheese-enhanced filling, we can see why this recipe has been popular throughout the ages. Quiche is really great because you can pretty much throw anything into it, from left over spinach to freshly diced smokey bacon and its guaranteed the family will go wild!
Throw chicken, mushrooms, and potatoes into your slow cooker, and let it take care of dinner for the night. This recipe is especially great if your short on time.
Coq Au Vin
This shortcut recipe produces a vibrant chicken stew that tastes like it’s been simmering all day. The key to success?
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
And for those of you with more of a sweet tooth… This classic baked custard gets a last-minute broil to create the smooth, crackable sugar crust. Get a head start by completing the custards the day before you serve them; completely cooled custard makes for a better caramelised sugar crust.
So now you can all see what delicious flavours I have been indulging in whilst in France. Try your hand at some of these dishes at home and let us know how they turn out. Happy French week everyone!