Flower That Blooms In The Dark Queen Of The South History of French Cooking – Part 2

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History of French Cooking – Part 2

This second article on the history of French cuisine begins with the Renaissance. During the Renaissance, Catherine de Medicis and her Florentine chefs introduced the refinement of cuisine and tableware. That’s how creams and zabaglioni appeared, but also spinach. Contrary to popular belief (which undoubtedly came from the “chicken in every pot” story), Henry IV was not a gourmet, but a voracious eater. Under his reign, the classic French sauces appeared: Bearnaise, Mornay and Florentine. This one was the result of the influence Catherine of Medici and her Florentine cooks.

In the 17th century, the court of the Sun King (Louis XIV) flourished; that’s when gastronomy as we know it today began. It must be said, however, that Louis XIV, like his grandfather Henry IV, was more of a sweet tooth than a gourmand. Don Perignom invented champagne in the 17th century. Ice cream as we know it appeared on the tables. Then in France, cooking began to be considered an art and the reign of the master chef began. Let’s salute in passing the most famous of all, the one who had such a professional conscience that he plunged a sword through his body because the fish did not arrive in time. He was Vatel, chef to the Prince de Condé.

The populace, contrary to what was proclaimed, lived a fairly good life except for a few dark years during the seventy-five year reign of Louis XIV. Let’s not forget that our ancestors had a much bigger appetite than we do. When Bruyère wrote that the peasants ate roots, let’s note that at that time the roots were what we now call carrots, turnips, parsnips and other root plants.

Potatoes first appeared in Europe around 1550, and were brought from South America by the Spanish conquistadors, but no one believed in them, and it was only during the reign of Louis XV. Parmentier developed his culture in France. To promote it, they held a big banquet at the court and served eighty different potato dishes. On Parmentier’s grave, in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, a potato plant has bloomed every year since his death in 1813.

A very small transition in cooking between the 17th and 18th centuries.

During the reign of Louis XV. cooking has become very modern. Nobles, ladies, king, queen, they all tried. The queen, Maria Lecsczynska, imported Polish dishes, rich in cream. Everyone tried to become a chef and many succeeded. For his part, Louis XV became an expert on coffee, which, not long before brought from the colonies, had become a real rage. During court dinners, Louis XV always prepared the coffee himself with great care. From that time, cooking became an art, and it experienced its apogee around 1900.

Louis XVI had a strong appetite that was not even affected by the approach of the guillotine. Immediately after the death sentence was pronounced, he ate: six pork chops, a whole chicken, several eggs and three glasses of wine. At that time, small fresh green peas were in fashion, as well as foie gras scented with cognac and truffles.

At that time there lived in France a young, brilliant and very handsome American who represented his country. He was delighted with French cuisine and French wines – and a certain French young lady with whom he shared a passionate love story. He greatly appreciated the French douceur de vivre (good life) and made many very close friends there. We have to be discreet here, since this young man has become the President of the United States of America. We’re talking about none other than Thomas Jefferson. In 1777, he brought to America a vast knowledge of French wines, French menus and French chefs. Namely, the French chef delighted guests at the White House for eight years. On top of all that, Thomas Jefferson brought an ice cream recipe from France that he wrote down himself and that became the national dish. This recipe in his own handwriting still exists in the White House archives.

This concludes the second part of the History of French cuisine. The third part will begin with the French Revolution. I’ll see you then.

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