French Gastronomy: The History and Geography of a Passion [NOOK Book]

Overview

Why did the passion for food -- gastronomy -- originate in France? The key, it turns out, is France itself. In its 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.

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French Gastronomy: The History and Geography of a Passion

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Overview

Why did the passion for food -- gastronomy -- originate in France? The key, it turns out, is France itself. In its 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pitte raises a glass to celebrate France's dynastic cuisine and culture, exploring everything from its earliest recipe books to the 10 commandments of nouvelle cuisine to prove the undeniable influence the country has on world cooking. His charming, concise history reveals the development of the national taste, including Christianity contending with the slippery sin of gluttony, commissioning roads to Paris for shipping cheese, the demands of the export market and the invention of table etiquette including the handy additions of plates and silverware. Importantly, Pitte traces the indelible Parisian reign of haute cuisine from the Sun King through Napoleon, but traces past the ugly years of the Paris Commune like a skipped hors d'oeuvre, before moving onward to a food culture currently at an impasse due to the rise of faster foods and the fall of national taste severe enough to make it worthy of an inquest by the Institut de France. The introduction brashly toots the French horn hubristically declaring victory over the other tables of the world although Pitte balances his hearty dishes with historical realities in this entertaining and probing addition to Columbia's Arts and Traditions of the Table series. Illus. and photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Published in French in 1991; Gladding's translation makes this enjoyable volume available to English readers. Pitte (geography, Sorbonne) explores various current and historical trends in French gastronomy, relating the importance to a cuisine's success of its non-edible aspects, including geographic setting, seasonal traditions, and regional associations. In the process, we learn of French food laws and traditions, the critical contribution of Louis XIV, the development of French restaurants, and the methods of famous chefs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Perhaps the ultimate refutation to anyone claiming there is a single, simple answer to the question of why France invented and continues to set the world standard for haute cuisine. While acknowledging that his native soil does constitute a veritable "garden," Pitte (Geography/Sorbonne) asserts that this is neither unique in Europe nor primarily accountable for French gastronomic predominance. The cultural case he builds, going back to the Roman occupation, touches base with everything from a sensually indulgent brand of medieval Catholicism to a tableau of the definitive gourmand, Louis XIV, dining at Versailles quite alone (except for a daily gallery of gawking citizenry) and an astonishing variety of robust regional cuisines that coalesce over the ages under the cruelly Darwinian dynamics of the Parisian marketplace. While some offhand references to obscure personages or innate ethnic characteristics may be lost on American readers, Pitte easily succeeds in demonstrating that the universal subtleties of the debate, rather than any formal proof, are the point here. Entertaining examples come straight from the historic pulpit in the form of tongue-in-cheek sermons on gluttony, or from the literary mainstream, as when the writer Balzac insists to his guest (perhaps with a wink) that the great wine he has poured must be "lovingly regarded," sniffed, and discussed at length before any drinking takes place. The author's geographical perspective enables him to be both seriously analytic and illuminating: one of several map plots, for example, shows how the taste, properties, and even the typical size of every major cheese variety in France were long ago determined by regional agronomicscombined with distance (during original development) from the principal market. Finally, there's a sobering caution about how modern agribusiness practices could compromise quality standards, homogenizing regional input enough to threaten the essential roots of French gastronomy as public indifference within the country continues to deepen. Surprisingly thought-provoking and original table talk from the academy.
Jacques Pepin
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 potée of Savoy, the quenelles of Lyon, the filet of sole Normande, and the beckenoffe of Alsace. Vive la différence!
France Today

Will satisfy your hunger for knowledge while whetting your appetite for French food.

Booklist

Pitte's remarkable ruminations... offer new insights into the French psyche.

Jacques Pépin

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 potée of Savoy, the quenelles of Lyon, the filet of sole Normande, and the beckenoffe of Alsace. Vive la différence!

Bloomsbury Review

Lively... leavened with humor and graceful translation.

Rain Taxi

Interesting, witty, and erudite.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

Foreword IX
Preface: The Kugelhopf Mold XIII
List of Maps XVII
Introduction: In France's Gastronomic Passion 1
Chapter 1 France: The Land of Milk and Honey or the Old Country of Gourmands? 13
Chapter 2 Is Gourmandism a Sin in France? 33
Chapter 3 Governing at the Table: Birth of a Model 69
Chapter 4 The Gastronomic Restaurant, or Haute Cuisine on the Streets 115
Epilogue: Foods That Have a Soul: A Map of the Future for France 159
Notes 179
Index 199
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