Perhaps one of the most famous, and celebrated styles of cooking, in the world is the French. Also known as “French Cuisine”, it has evolved over century of century of political and social change – and while of course the dishes, ingredients and flavors vary by region there are many significant similarities too
Let’s start with a quick course on the history of French cooking. Back in the middle ages, the French cooked very ornate and lavish food that was often also heavily spiced. During the French Revolution, cooking seemed to become less about spices and more about refined techniques. During the 20th century, the modern version of haute cuisine developed and of course the Guide Michelin and increased Gastro-tourism helped make countryside food an important element in French kitchens.
Now, you may wonder why we are talking about ‘old’ French cooking. But it is in fact so that a lot of what is defined as ‘French cooking’ happens in an old French kitchen too. That warmth that only crackled wood or a marble counter bleached by years in the sun can bring about, that great finish that only age can offer. Tradition or just life, call it what you want but the French like their kitchen looking like people lived there, that stories have been told and memories created by the stove – where love and passion for food meets practicality of preparation.
Some French cooking is elegant, some is rustic – but be sure it is always delicate and tasteful. Many find the French cuisine intimidating, maybe because of this exquisite reputation. Maybe because it is often said that mastering French cuisine equals mastering a few basic cooking methods, signature ingredients and executing these with style.
Taking a closer look at French cuisine, you’ll soon notice that the components of cooking and the dishes themselves can vary quite a lot from region to region. Some regions however have been more influential than others – for example, many French people would likely tell you that the Basque cuisine has since long been seen as an important influence in the French kitchen.
One thing for sure though is that cheese and wine both play a major part in French cuisine. But even this varies from region to region – because French use different Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) or “controlled term of origin” for wine, cheese and butter and other agricultural products.
Looking at French cuisine from a cultural standpoint, its place in society has always been held high and chefs are often very respected members of the arts and cultural scene. The national French cuisine developed in Paris by chefs who cooked for the French royal family. Later of course, their tradition and skill spread throughout the country – and lucky for all of us – to the rest of the world.