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 French Food

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Fieldthistle

  • Total Posts: 1948
  • Joined: 7/30/2005
  • Location: Hinton, VA
French Food Sun, 02/19/06 4:19 PM (permalink)
Hello All,
I am ignorant on what French Cuisine truly is.
What makes it different? Texture, sauces, herbs,
cooking methods, etc.?
I am interested in learning about French Food.
Take Care,
Fieldthistle
 
#1
    BT

    • Total Posts: 3589
    • Joined: 7/3/2004
    • Location: San Francisco, CA
    RE: French Food Sun, 02/19/06 6:02 PM (permalink)
    The French, of whom I am generally no fan, have to be given credit for inventing modern European cooking. When dinner practically everywhere else in Europe meant a hunk of roasted meat (if you were rich, maybe some turnips or cabbage if you weren't) and some beer or ale, the French began getting creative with the cooking process: using herbs and spices for more than covering up the taste of rotten meat, combining food, sauces and so on. To be fair, though, I have read that much of the real credit for this belongs to cooks brought with her from Italy by Marie de Medici ( http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/marie_de_medici.htm ) when she was married to Henri IV of France.

    All of this progressed to the French classics common to American "French" restaurants up until maybe the '50's: heavy with sauces that often incorporated wine,brandy or cream, complex in preparation, frequently involving ingredients less commonly eaten in the America like duck, (famously) frogs and snails, veal and so forth. And a lot of it was formalized over the years by the French cooking schools and books written by the likes of Escoffier (see http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/6454/escoffier.html ). But starting in the 60's, well known French chefs began devoping what they called "nouvelle cuisine" which also resembles so-called "California cuisine". Both involve use of the finest and freshest obtainable natural ingredients and cooking them simply (in France, this was revolutionary), sometimes with a sauce that is just a reduction of the cooking liquid or using a simple stock. The idea is to produce food that is a distillation of the perfect taste of the ingredients.

    What may make French food a bit hard to discern from other European food is that French techniques spread so widely in Europe over the centuries after 1600. Some hallmarks of the original, though: (1) The French don't seem to make much use of tomatoes (I don't know why; and this doesn't apply to the Mediterranean coast near Italy)), (2) they rarely use "hot" flavors or peppers, (3) they use a lot of "variety meats", (4) they seem to love thyme, (5) near the coast, they get really creative with seafood.

    Obviously, it's not easy to summarize a cuisine as varied and complex as the French in a few sentences and I have greatly over-simplified, summarized, etc. But hopefully, this'll help.
     
    #2
      lleechef

      • Total Posts: 6223
      • Joined: 3/22/2003
      • Location: Gahanna, OH
      RE: French Food Sun, 02/19/06 10:55 PM (permalink)
      Leaving all politics aside, French cuisine is definately classic. They created "the mother sauces" like bechamel, bordelaise, hollandaise, glace de viande, etc. Every province represents a different style of cuisine. In Nord it's generally cuisine cooked in beer....as in Carbonnade de Boeuf. Normandy and Brittany are all about seafood........and crepes. Alsace is duck and saeurkraut, sausages, great charcuterie. Perigord and the Massif Central is home of foie gras. Provance is beautiful fragrances of lavander, garlic, tomatoes, onions and some of the best pied et paquet on the planet. Let's not forget Lyon, capitol of cuisine in Bourgogne. Basque country in the Pyrenees has some pretty awesome food too........piperade basquaise! And there's Paris. Well......it's Paris! Great restaurants, cafes, Montmartre, Latin Quarter. Bistros like Au Chien Que Fume,L'Ami Louis and Roger a la Grenouille, just to mention a few.

      Yes, in France we love to eat snails, frog's legs, veal kidneys, pike quenelles, quail, pheasant, guinea hen, rabbit, boar, venison, beef tongue and on and on.

      I'm not calling it the best cuisine on the earth. I personally prefer Italian. But it's classic.
       
      #3
        tacchino

        • Total Posts: 560
        • Joined: 11/13/2004
        • Location: New York City, NY
        RE: French Food Sun, 02/19/06 11:17 PM (permalink)
        And let's not forget the variety of cheeses in France...plentiful, and also specific to every region. While I can appreciate and enjoy the cheeses of Spain, Italy, and those that we have here in the States, the richness and variety of the cheeses of France beat just about anything else I have tasted. Even the "raw milk" cheeses, which we don't see in the US due to agricultural regulations.

        In terms of rich food, the province of Alsace really is a gastronomic gem. Besides "choucroute" and charcuterie, which lleechef has mentioned, it also produces fantastic foie gras, onion tarts, "kugelhopf" cakes, and superb wines, renowned around the world.
         
        #4
          BT

          • Total Posts: 3589
          • Joined: 7/3/2004
          • Location: San Francisco, CA
          RE: French Food Sun, 02/19/06 11:52 PM (permalink)
          While I personally love the Alsatian food, I think you have to credit the German influence as much as the French. It's the German part of the mix--cooking with beer, lots of use of sausages and kraut--that makes it different from the rest of France.

          By the way, I've a question for Ileechef. Fascinating (to me, anyway) article in the current National Geographic about the Celtic culture including that of Brittany (see http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0603/sights_n_sounds/index.html ). They argue it's a living and even expanding culture. Any evidence of this in the food of Brittany? Anything you could call "Celtic" or reflecting a commonality with the food of the other Celtic regions: Gallicia, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and the Scottish Isles?

          PS: Check out the Breton "call and response" singers, Les Frères Morvan: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0603/feature3/multimedia.html
           
          #5
            Fieldthistle

            • Total Posts: 1948
            • Joined: 7/30/2005
            • Location: Hinton, VA
            RE: French Food Mon, 02/20/06 5:07 AM (permalink)
            Hello All,
            Thanks folks. I'm still listening.
            Just wanted you to know I appreciate what's been said so far
            and will continue to learn from this thread.
            Take Care,
            Fieldthistle
             
            #6
              lleechef

              • Total Posts: 6223
              • Joined: 3/22/2003
              • Location: Gahanna, OH
              RE: French Food Mon, 02/20/06 10:37 PM (permalink)
              Yes, the variety of cheeses is spectacular. One of my local favorites is Maroilles, made in the town of Maroilles, in the North.

              The region of Alsace is unique, located between the Vosges mountains in France and the Black Forest in Germany. Depending on the year, it was either in France or in Germany. I used to make kugelhopf for (old!) nuns that lived across the street from me.

              To answer BT, yes the Celts have been in Brittany since about 600 BC........they were later called Gauls by the Romans who also invaded this area and the North of France, amongst other areas. The Romans inhabitated a town called Bavay for years (I lived there). The Celtic culture has always been very alive in Brittany, with their traditional Celtic garb, the exquisite porcelain from Quimper,(I have a collection of it) the lace, their coastal cuisine, fish, scallops, shrimp, oysters. Also old recipes like a Far Breton, and of course crepes. The Cotriade Bretonne is a good regional dish, a fish soup with sorrel and spinach.





               
              #7
                EliseT

                • Total Posts: 2849
                • Joined: 7/11/2001
                • Location: L.A, CA
                RE: French Food Thu, 02/23/06 6:40 AM (permalink)
                I still don't know the difference between a bistro and a brasserie???

                 
                #8
                  zataar

                  • Total Posts: 1440
                  • Joined: 4/5/2004
                  • Location: kansas city, MO
                  RE: French Food Thu, 02/23/06 7:43 AM (permalink)
                  Drink wine in a bistro, beer in a brasserie
                   
                  #9
                    Sundancer7

                    RE: French Food Thu, 02/23/06 9:01 AM (permalink)
                    quote:
                    Originally posted by lleechef

                    Leaving all politics aside, French cuisine is definately classic. They created "the mother sauces" like bechamel, bordelaise, hollandaise, glace de viande, etc. Every province represents a different style of cuisine. In Nord it's generally cuisine cooked in beer....as in Carbonnade de Boeuf. Normandy and Brittany are all about seafood........and crepes. Alsace is duck and saeurkraut, sausages, great charcuterie. Perigord and the Massif Central is home of foie gras. Provance is beautiful fragrances of lavander, garlic, tomatoes, onions and some of the best pied et paquet on the planet. Let's not forget Lyon, capitol of cuisine in Bourgogne. Basque country in the Pyrenees has some pretty awesome food too........piperade basquaise! And there's Paris. Well......it's Paris! Great restaurants, cafes, Montmartre, Latin Quarter. Bistros like Au Chien Que Fume,L'Ami Louis and Roger a la Grenouille, just to mention a few.

                    Yes, in France we love to eat snails, frog's legs, veal kidneys, pike quenelles, quail, pheasant, guinea hen, rabbit, boar, venison, beef tongue and on and on.

                    I'm not calling it the best cuisine on the earth. I personally prefer Italian. But it's classic.


                    I guarantee that Lleechef knows food from France. I trust her judgement. We in Knoxville have no good French restaurants.

                    The one I liked best was in Cincinati and it is no longer in existance.

                    Paul E. Smith
                    Knoxville, TN
                     
                    #10
                      tonemonster2

                      • Total Posts: 187
                      • Joined: 5/21/2003
                      • Location: NORWALK, CT
                      RE: French Food Thu, 02/23/06 10:38 AM (permalink)
                      The BT post above is about the most concise desciption of a cuisine I have ever read. I don't think I could have ever summed up cuisine francais in so few words. Brillant. Thank you, BT.
                       
                      #11
                        EliseT

                        • Total Posts: 2849
                        • Joined: 7/11/2001
                        • Location: L.A, CA
                        RE: French Food Thu, 03/2/06 10:54 AM (permalink)
                        So if a person were to find themselves in Paris sometime soon, what should they bring back? Any special spices or seasonings unavailable here, any mustards and salts? The Calvados and absinthe go without saying...

                         
                        #12
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