French kitchen

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Coq au Vin  - one of the French national dishes

The French cuisine ( French cuisine française ) is the national cuisine of France . It has been considered a very influential national cuisine in Europe since early modern times . The so-called haute cuisine originated in the 19th century and developed into French national cuisine . In France, too, there are various regional cuisines based on different ingredients, combinations and methods of preparation. French cuisine is world famous for both its quality and its versatility.

Eating is an important part of everyday life in France and taking care of the kitchen is an indispensable part of the national culture. In 2010, the “French gastronomic meal” was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO .


A national symbol of France since the 19th century: the croissant

Early modern age

The view that modern French fine dining can be traced back to Italian influences during the Renaissance , in particular to the Italian cooks that Catherine de Medici brought to the French court on the occasion of her marriage to the later Henry II in 1547, is widespread. In their time, the table manners that are common in Europe today and the fork also found their way into France. However, some cultural historians now believe that this representation is a modern legend .

“This theory is wrong on two counts: French haute cuisine did not appear until a century later and then showed little Italian influence; and there is no evidence that Catherine's cooks had any impact on French cooking in the early sixteenth century. Indeed, French sixteenth-century cooking was very conservative and in general continued the medieval traditions. "

“This theory is wrong for two reasons: French haute cuisine didn't appear until a century later and showed little Italian influence; and there is no evidence that Katharina's chefs had any influence on French cuisine in the early 16th century. Indeed, 16th century French cuisine was very conservative and generally carried on medieval traditions. "

- Barbara Ketcham Wheaton : Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789

As early as the 17th and 18th centuries, French cuisine was decisive for the kitchens of many noble houses in Europe, as the French court was considered to be culturally leading at this time. The classic western sequence of dishes with soup, main course and dessert as well as the increase in the courses of a menu with five, seven, nine or even more courses was "invented" in France and began its triumphant advance into all western kitchens from here.

Haute cuisine

The upscale national cuisine that was established in France at the beginning of the 19th century is known as haute cuisine . Today, in many countries, it is considered to be the most culturally developed way of preparing food. It was founded by influential chefs such as Marie-Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier as well as the gastrosophist and author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin with his work La Physiologie du Goût .

Grande Cuisine

With the establishment of restaurants at the time of the French Revolution and with it the access of the French bourgeoisie to sophisticated culinary art , this style of cooking and its institutionalization spread. The restaurant chefs established a certain level of preparation and food quality; this tendency was reinforced by the gastronomy criticism. The upscale restaurant cuisine was referred to as grande cuisine . In addition, there was a consensus among the French upper classes on the style of eating with the emphasis on enjoyment .

Historically significant cookbooks

The first printed cookbook in French ( Le Viandier ) appeared around 1490 and was long ascribed to Guillaume Tirel . It appeared in numerous editions for over 100 years. Other books were the Ménagier de Paris from the end of the 14th century, and the Du fait de cuisine written by Chiquart from 1420 . It is typical of French cookbook literature well into the 19th century that it was written exclusively by male authors - mostly professional chefs. 1651 appeared Le Cuisinier françois of La Varenne , considered the first recipe collection of a new cooking style. The dishes are now much less seasoned and over-seasoned than in the Middle Ages and still in the Renaissance period . The first French kitchen encyclopaedias appeared after 1660, mostly with the addition of Ecole (school) in the title. The book Cuisinier royal et bourgeois , published in 1691 and by Massialot , had a great influence .

The first important cookbook of the 18th century was Le Cuisinier moderne by Vincent de La Chapelle (1742), which comprised five volumes and contained several fold-out plates. One of them, which shows how a table for 100 people should be set, is over a meter long. The era of nouvelle cuisine began in France during this period . The most successful cookbook of the 18th century, however, was La Cuisinière bourgeoise (1746), which was the first work specifically aimed at women. In around 150 years it has seen over 120 editions and has been copied several times by other authors. The first woman to publish a small cookbook was Mme. Mérigot, who wrote a 42-page brochure with potato recipes for La Cuisinière républicaine after the French Revolution in 1795 .

Multiple was launched L'Art du confiseur of a Mme. Utrecht dating back to 1801. The first complete cookbook by an author was Manuel de la ménagère à la ville et à la campagne et la femme de la basse-cour in 1805 by Mme Gacon-Dufour. The most influential male cookbook author at the beginning of the 19th century was Marie-Antoine Carême , a trained pastry chef whose books contained excellent drawings. His pupil Jules Gouffé in his book Livre de cuisine in 1867 differentiated the recipes according to grande cuisine and simple cuisine. It was published for around 50 years and was reissued unchanged in 2009. La Cuisine classique by Urbain Dubois and Émile Bernard (1856) was also in Carême's tradition .

The early 20th century was the era of Auguste Escoffier . His guide culinaire (1903) not only shaped French cuisine, but also influenced fine dining throughout Europe and the United States. Less known, but also very influential, was Le grand livre de la Cuisine by Prosper Montagné / Prosper Salles, which was first published in 1900. However, Montagné's main work, together with Alfred Gottschalk, was the publication of Larousse gastronomique in 1938, a lexicon with over 1000 pages that is still a standard work today. La bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange (French, the good cuisine of Madame E. Saint-Ange) is a well-known bourgeois cookbook and was published in 1927 by Larousse . The classic compilation is at the same time a historical representation of the kitchen equipment at that time and was also translated into English (see Mastering the Art of French Cooking ) and translated into American in 2015.


Red wine , cheese and baguette in a street cafe in Paris

France is considered a country of wine and cheese, of which there are more than 400 types. The French sauce types bechamel sauce , sauce bearnaise , hollandaise sauce , mayonnaise and tartar sauce were adopted, among other of the city of international cuisine. The white bread has become a national symbol of the French abroad. It is offered in various sizes as a “ficelle”, a “ baguette ” and a thick “flûte”. The standard breads had a state-fixed price until 1986, the numerous special breads were excluded.

Regional kitchens

A serving of cassoulet

The Normandy in north-west is a region of the dairy industry and the apple orchards. The use of veal, thick cream sauces , the copious use of butter and the drink calvados are typical here. For dessert, there are often flat apple cakes and strong cheeses from the region such as Camembert , Livarot or Pont-l'Évêque .

In neighboring Brittany, strong sea winds make the pastures too salty. On the salt marshes of the departments of Côtes d'Armor and Ille-et-Vilaine , lambs are raised whose meat has a typical salty taste , known as pré-salé . Seafood , especially belon oysters , various types of crayfish ( tourteau, araignée de mer, crabes ) and lobster are specialties of Brittany, as well as crepes and galettes . The Breton artichokes have a special reputation among vegetables .

Further south is the Périgord , the geese and truffle area . Foie gras (duck or goose liver) and “confit d'oie” (goose parts cooked in their own fat and preserved in this way) are produced here.

In the south of France there is a Mediterranean cuisine, but in the inland it is more hearty. One of the specialties of Languedoc is cassoulet , a hearty stew made from white beans, herbs, bacon and meat.

The cuisine of Provence is characterized by the use of many aromatic herbs , tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplant and the generous use of garlic and olive oil ; a Provencal dish that is now known worldwide is the ratatouille . The famous bouillabaisse , a fish stew from Marseille , is believed to be based on a Greek recipe (Marseille was founded by Greeks) and is eaten with rouille , a spicy reddish garlic mayonnaise.

In the region in and around Lyon , mainly chicken, which preferably comes from the nearby Bresse , and pork are processed.

Further north is the Bourgogne , home to famous white and red wines. Charolais cattle and Bresse chickens come from here. In addition to snails, the menus contain many meat, fish and poultry dishes, mostly with wine sauces.

The onion soup comes from Paris .

In Alsace , finally, hearty specialties are cooked: sauerkraut ( choucroute garnie ) Baeckeoffe (a strong Schmoreintopf with potatoes and meat), Tarte and flambé fruit tarts.


Pot-au-feu with beef

In France, too, there are famous stews such as pot-au-feu , coq au vin , poule au pot or cassoulet ; they are dishes of rural cuisine. In haute cuisine, a multi-course menu is mandatory, in the simplest case consisting of a starter , main course and dessert , for which wine and water are drunk and in the north also beer. There are no side dishes , potatoes are considered a vegetable , but a bread basket is always on the table.

A typical dessert: crème brûlée

In a bistro or one of the now rare " bouillons ", that is, the inexpensive restaurants where office workers usually take their meals, you can expect a three- course menu at lunchtime, made up of lukewarm leek with sauce vinaigrette , an onglet à l ' échalote  - a briefly fried steak with shallots and red wine sauce - and a crème au caramel or just a coffee. Usually you have a choice of two to three dishes for each course for the daily menu. Large restaurants eat à la carte .


Web links

Commons : Food from France  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Baedeker, Allianz Travel Guide, France, 2007, p. 113
  2. UNESCO: The gastronomic meal of the French : Inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (English)
  3. French cuisine named a World Heritage Site , Zeit Online from November 16, 2010.
  4. Barbara Ketcham Wheaton: Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789 , p. 43
  5. ^ Eva Barlösius, Sociology of Food, Weinheim 1999, p. 150
  6. ^ Eva Barlösius, p. 151
  7. ^ A b c d Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, 2nd. ed. Oxford 2006, article French cookbooks , p. 319 f.
  8. ^ University of California Press: La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking . In: Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies . tape 6 , no. 3 , August 2006, ISSN  1529-3262 , p. 99–100 , doi : 10.1525 / gfc.2006.6.3.99 ( [accessed September 19, 2015]).
  9. Un sacré goût de vieux. Liberation, 2010, accessed September 19, 2015 .