French cuisine has been tantalizing palates for centuries, and its popularity is undeniable. From delicate pastries to classic dishes, French food has earned its place as some of history’s most celebrated culinary creations.
So, why is French food popular? In this article, we’ll discover why people around the world fancy French cuisine so that it gets widely known now. Let’s find out!
Why is France Synonymous with Cuisine?
France has a centuries-old culinary culture that continues to influence the rest of the world today. From famed chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants to everyday family meals, French cooking is renowned for its unique combination of exceptional technique and traditional flavors.
This style of French cuisine is based on access to local, fresh ingredients, giving cooks endless possibilities when creating new dishes.
Also, France’s long-standing reputation as a culinary powerhouse has been closely intertwined with the history of its religion and politics.
From the 14th to 18th century, Catholicism inspired French people to indulge in rich food and wine — which wasn’t popular among their Protestant neighbors. This taste for fine dining persevered through many centuries and is still a defining trait in modern French culture.
So, why is French food popular? With its combination of religious tradition and political influence, it’s no wonder why France has been synonymous with cuisine from long ago until now.
How did French Food Become So Well-known?
Medieval French Cooking
Medieval French cooking was renowned for its sophistication and variety, emphasizing fresh vegetables and legumes for peasants and meats, fruits, and cereals for the elites.
Back then, elites’ status symbols were shown through expensive salt and rare spices in their kitchens. Also, access to food was limited, so people had to choose what to use based on what was readily available.
Popular medieval French dishes included cold fish galantine, red mullet espimbèche, or oyster stew, while the desserts often featured custard tartes.
French elite folks throughout history have used the most delicious ingredients to create banquets and feasts that display their wealth. Even today, French cuisine continues to emphasize the presentation of each dish.
Haute cuisine, or high cuisine, is a French cooking style that requires French chefs to use the highest quality ingredients, techniques, and skills. Initially led by Marie-Antoine Carême in the 1800s, this style focuses on creating beautiful, flavorful, and thoughtfully composed dishes.
This cooking style emphasizes presentation and detail, with chefs paying close attention to flavor combinations, texture contrast, and aesthetics. It also emphasizes technique over quantity or speed to create memorable dishes each time.
In 1930, Georges Auguste Escoffier, or the King of Chefs and Chef of Kings, updated haute cuisine with the publication of Le Guide Culinaire.
The Spread of French Cuisine
French cuisine has evolved and spread over time. In the Middle Ages, French cooking became more organized, and dishes began to resemble what we know today. The first French cookbook, Le Cuisinier Francois, was published in 1651 by Francois Pierre La Varenne. This motivated many cooks to document their work.
After that, the French Revolution in 1789 spurred the growth of culinary study, removing restrictions on who could be employed in the kitchen. This led to more people cooking for themselves.
Eventually, French cuisine started to spread worldwide, and cooks worldwide began to learn from French cookbooks. As France colonized various regions — Asia, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean — they shared their culinary wisdom with those they encountered.
French cuisine is a long-standing tradition that has continued to evolve, resulting in the creation of Nouvelle cuisine in the 1900s. It was characterized by high-quality ingredients, lighter dishes, and aesthetically pleasing presentations. These principles are still evident in modern French cooking.
The Basics of French Cuisine
French cuisine stands out in its use of premium ingredients, often transforming simple ingredients into elegant dishes. From locally sourced fresh produce to signature wines and cheeses, the cuisine is renowned for its diverse mix. Seasonal vegetables are also used, accompanied by classic herbs and spices such as Herbs of Provence, tarragon, and nutmeg for a richer flavor.
Braising is perfect for creating tender pieces of meat or vegetables. To start, use high heat to give the ingredients a seared look, and then decrease the temperature. Finally, using fat, stock, or wine will bring out rich flavors and make your food deliciously soft.
Sautéing involves cooking food over medium to high heat in a skillet covered with butter or olive oil. As the ingredients jump around in the heated pan, it creates a unique texture and flavor distinct to this cooking method — which is what the French verb ‘Sauter’ signifies. You can find this method used to cook dishes like lamb sautees.
Mise en Place
Mise en place, or “everything in place”, is a crucial technique used in the kitchen for organization, requiring chefs to be ready, cut and measure all necessary ingredients before cooking. This way, each item required for a dish is within reach and ready when it’s time to start cooking.
Flambéing is an exciting way to serve up delicious dishes. By adding a splash of flammable alcohol and quickly igniting it, chefs can entice diners with the enticing aroma of the liquor’s primary flavor. Not only does it provide visual flair and entertainment, but it also ensures that each bite is bursting with vibrant taste.
An age-old preservation method, confit, is achieved when an ingredient is salted and cooked in fat. Duck confit is a classic French meal, but many other ingredients, such as potatoes or garlic, can also be confited. This technique of preserving food has been used throughout history to maintain the quality and flavor of the ingredients.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do the French eat the most?
French usually eat bread, cheese, pastries, yogurt, butter, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, salads, and desserts.
What is France’s national dish?
France’s national dish is Pot-au-Feu, or slowly boiled vegetables and meats.
What is unique about French food?
French food is unique because of its ingredients and various techniques.
So, why is French food popular? All in all, French food is popular because it has a distinct flavor, various ingredients, and unique techniques. These influenced other countries to adopt their cuisines, especially countries France colonized. It has lasted through centuries of cultural changes and continues to lead the way in modern-day food trends.
French food presents an array of flavors and textures that will surely please any palette — with outstanding presentations! As you embark on your own culinary journey at French restaurants, consider exploring some of the most popular French food or popular French appetizers. Bon appétit!