French Gastronomy

French Gastronomy : The History and Geography of a Passion

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This we can be sure of: when a restaurant in the western world is famous for its cooking, it is the tricolor flag that hangs above the stove, opined one French magazine, and this is by no means an isolated example of such crowing. Indeed, both linguistically and conceptually, the restaurant itself is a French creation. Why are the French recognized by themselves and others the world over as the most enlightened of eaters, as the great gourmets? Why did the passion for food--gastronomy--originate in France? In French Gastronomy, geographer and food lover Jean-Robert Pitte uncovers a novel answer. The key, it turns out, is France herself. In her climate, diversity of soils, abundant resources, and varied topography lie the roots of France's food fame. Pitte masterfully reveals the ways in which cultural phenomena surrounding food and eating in France relate to space and place. He points out that France has some six hundred regions, or microclimates, that allow different agricultures, to flourish, and fully navigable river systems leading from peripheral farmlands directly to markets in the great gastronomic centers of Paris and Lyon. With an eye to this landscape, Pitte wonders: Would the great French burgundies enjoy such prestige if the coast they came from were not situated close to the ancient capital for the dukes and a major travel route for medieval Europe? Yet for all the shaping influence of earth and climate, Pitte demonstrates that haute cuisine, like so much that is great about France, can be traced back to the court of Louis XIV. It was the Sun King's regal gourmandise--he enacted a nightly theater of eating, dining alone but in full view of the court--that made food and fine dining a central affair of state. The Catholic Church figures prominently as well: gluttony was regarded as a "benign sin" in France, and eating well was associated with praising God, fraternal conviviality, and a respect for the body. These cultural ingredients, in combination with the bounties of the land, contributed to the full flowering of French foodways. This is a time of paradox for French gourmandism. Never has there been so much literature published on the subject of culinary creativity, never has there been so much talk about good food, and never has so little cooking been done at home. Each day new fast-food places open. Will French cuisine lose its charm and its soul? Will discourse become a substitute for reality? French Gastronomy is a delightful celebration of what makes France unique, and a call to everyone who loves French food to rediscover its full flavor.

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  • Hardback | 176 pages
  • 144.78 x 218.44 x 10.16mm | 90.72g
  • Columbia University Press
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • 33 photos, 8 maps
  • 0231124163
  • 9780231124164
  • 712,331

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Will satisfy your hunger for knowledge while whetting your appetite for French food. France Today [Pitte's] charming, concise history reveals the development of the national taste... Pitte balances his hearty dishes with historical realities in this entertaining and probing addition to Columbia's Arts and Traditions of the Table series. Publishers Weekly Pitte's remarkable ruminations... offer new insights into the French psyche. Booklist To study the gastronomy of France, or any country's gastronomy, through the geographer's palate and eyes, makes perfect sense. Topography and climatic conditions, more than any other factors, define the lifestyle of people as well as their mood and eating habits. Furthermore, it's these differences in soils and climate which give us the Basque piperade, the pot e of Savoy, the quenelles of Lyon, the filet of sole Normande, and the beckenoffe of Alsace. Vive la diff rence! -- Jacques P pin Thought-provoking and original table talk from the academy. Kirkus Reviews Lively... leavened with humor and graceful translation. Bloomsbury Review Interesting, witty, and erudite. Rain Taxi

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About Jean-Robert Pitte

Jean-Robert Pitte is professor of geography at the Sorbonne and has lectured at a variety of universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. He lives in France.

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