At a time when the "gastronomic meal of the French" has just been registered in the intangible heritage of Unesco, and referring to the principle of Pharaoh Khéti four thousand years ago "we calm a crowd that rebels with food ”, it is interesting to look at the culinary habits of our elders and the origin of their foods, thanks to the beautiful book by Eric Bourliez“ History of Cooking and Food ”.
A history of cooking and food
Two and a half million years ago, the individual, after feeding on plants, learns to hunt and to control fire to cook meat. Despite everything, his food was balanced, no calcium deficiency has been demonstrated on the fossils of teeth which are rarely decayed.
A little later, three thousand six hundred years ago, food being a source of symbols (milk representing life, fish the Christian), the individual was already writing recipes on clay tablets.
In the days of the Greeks and Romans, and contrary to popular belief, did you know that feasts and orgies were only exceptional? That French service appeared in the Middle Ages with the preparation of extravagant dishes such as "coq heaumez"? It was the time of the madness of spices, then sugar ... until the 17th century when we tried to find the natural taste of food: French cuisine then becoming a model for other countries!
Thanks to Mr. Parmentier, the people will be able to feed themselves and famines will disappear between 1800 and 1900 with agricultural production. It was also during this period that the French took the habit of "going to a restaurant" in these establishments opened around 1860 for modest incomes! Guides and almanacs are born, cuisine is preserved, becomes regional and can be transported, new products appear to simplify life.
Over time, even if the cuisine modernized, the meals remained tasty until the emergence of Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1960s, which would not last twenty years! New flavors are arriving from the East or Asia, new methods are being tested, including molecular cooking with the use of algae or the use of nitrogen to offer new products such as ... "chocolate béarnaise"!
Eric Birlouez, who teaches the History of Food and the Sociology of Eating Behavior and having published (among other things) "Princely feasts and peasant meals in the Renaissance" therefore invites us to become aware of what we eat. Thanks to multiple surprising and amusing anecdotes, beautiful photos, reproductions of works of art from museums as well as specific menus from certain periods of history, the author takes us back in time and puts us “l 'mouth watering' with this beautiful book.
And now, with all of these things in hand, don't do like Napoleon who swallowed his meal in less than five minutes, but take the time to watch and admire what is in front of you. Savor these dishes while remembering their origins ...
History of cuisine and food: From the cave menu to molecular gastronomy, by Eric Birlouez. Editions Ouest-France, October 2011.