Have you ever met someone who believes French cuisine is the best in the world? Or lavish endless praise on French restaurants, their chefs, and the cooking techniques they employ? And now that your anticipation is at an all-time high, do you dread the day you finally get to taste it?
Are you skeptical about whether French cuisine is overrated?
French cuisine is overrated in that it is regarded as the best without considering people’s diverse tastes. French food is overpriced, more concerned with pomp and ceremony, tasteless to some people due to a lack of flavor use.
Everyone knows how awful it feels when things don’t turn out the way you hoped. You’ve probably experienced the sinking feeling of disappointment and sadness over unfulfilled emotions. It probably happened while you watched a movie or listened to music last week. It’s even worse with food. Continue reading to find out more.
Why Is French Cuisine Perceived As Overrated?
When Americans were only familiar with burgers and fries, French cuisine was a mystery. French dining was conceived as more than just a meal; it was a carefully planned experience, which made it an object of aspiration in the United States and other parts of the world.
French cuisine redefined food with its poise and elegance. It changed how people thought about what food should be and how it should be cooked and served. It was a true revelation when people like Julia Child made it popular in America.
You can probably picture what it would have been like to try something as new and extravagant as French food at the time.
Almost every renowned chef has gone through the rigors of mastering French cuisine in some way. It is the culinary equivalent of classical music in the performing arts.
However, we live in the 21st century now. A world where France isn’t the only place that has developed a cuisine. There are hundreds of different cuisines, with Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, and African cuisines ranking alongside French cuisine. That is true for individual cuisines, not to mention delectable fusions.
This demonstrates how the human palate has evolved as a result of exposure to an orchestra of flavors in a single dish.
Now, French food has a global reputation, and many people, as creatures of habit, are still stuck in a world where French food was the best thing after free oxygen.
Some people fan the infernal flame of hype that surrounds French cuisine. They are to blame for your unrealistic expectations of French cuisine.
French food is considered “overrated” because a lot of restaurants can’t live up to the unrealistic expectations of people who have never tried it before.
The common misconception that one thing must have the title of “best” is the source of many worldly disagreements. Someone may enjoy the simple flavor of French food drenched in butter or their infamous cheese-wine pairing, but another may find it bland or unappealing.
Similarly, some people are unable to comprehend the explosion of flavors on their tongue following a bite of a fusion dish from a random food truck. To put it simply, people are different.
In order to get the most out of any meal, regardless of its origin, you need to have reasonable expectations because the mind has a way of turning any idea into a sand castle or a pyramid.
French cuisine places a strong emphasis on presentation. It is nearly 80% of an entire dish because the way the food looks is set in motion by the preparation phase rather than the plating phase. Everything in its rightful place—Mise en place.
Fun Fact: Mise en place was one of the foundations of French cuisine as codified by Escoffier.
You have to hand it to French food when it comes to presentation; it takes attention to detail and incredible skill to create art pieces that will be devoured minutes later.
Most of the time, the food looks too good to eat, and it may even break your heart to ruin the design. Talent!
Perhaps this is why the food in French restaurants is so expensive. The customers may be a source of the overrated status of French food, but so are the restaurants in France.
You pay a premium price for food that may or may not live up to your expectations and that has been rumored to have been prepared elsewhere and merely reheated for your consumption.
If you want to truly enjoy French cuisine, you should avoid the big names. You could eat at places popular among locals to avoid spending like a tourist. This is an invaluable travel tip for any destination.
Our world thrives on innovation and originality. Both are considered to be lacking in French cuisine.
Almost all chefs and cooks draw inspiration from the solid foundation of French cuisine, but they do not limit themselves to it. In an effort to stand out, they have stacked many blocks of diverse cultures, experiences, and dietary preferences.
In France, you should expect a standard menu with nothing new on it. Not to say that old and sure is bad, but it all depends on what you’re used to and whether or not you’re willing to limit your food desires while in France.
However, French cuisine serves as the foundation for many other cuisines. One thing that all French cuisines have in common is that food does not have to be complicated to be delicious.
French food, thanks to the fathers of haute cuisine, takes advantage of the natural flavors of food and shows them off in a lot of different ways.
Important Factors That Shaped French Cuisine
For centuries, French chefs have set the standard for best kitchen practices. As a result of constant refinement of their cooking methods and regulations, they have evolved into what is now known as French cuisine.
It appears that the things that made French food popular when it was at its best are the same things that make people think it is overrated now.
You may or may not be aware of this, but the majority of cooking terminology and words used to describe kitchen-related actions are French.
For example, “saute” means “jump” in French and is used to describe cooking food in a pan greased with oil or butter. “Braise” is another word, and it is used to describe when meat is cooked over low heat until tender.
The French defined everything, from fine dining to the way a maitre d’honors guests, to the rules of a high-class kitchen.
In French cuisine, eggs are cooked for a specific amount of time, vegetables are chopped at a specific angle, and food is presented using age-long techniques for its aesthetic appeal.
In the Middle Ages, French cooking was similar to Moorish cuisine, and food was served in a style known as service en confusion, which meant that it was displayed all at once on the banquet table. To get an idea of what this looks like, think about most movies set in the Middle Ages.
In the past, dishes were prepared based on seasonal ingredients and the church calendar. Also, food was mostly picked up by hand, and sauces were thickened with mustard. As with meat, food was preserved with salt or smoked, and vegetables were stored in jars.
Food presentation was important because aristocrats wanted to show off their wealth with elaborate displays of rare or expensive food options.
Natural food coloring was achieved by using spices, herbs, and other condiments such as saffron, spinach, and sunflower, among others.
Guillaume Tirel was one of the most famous chefs of the 1300s. He rendered his culinary services to French kings such as Philip VI, Charles V, and Charles VI, and wrote a cookery book called La Viandier, which has since become a valuable resource for medieval culinary practices.
Following that, during the 15th and 16th centuries, French cuisine was heavily influenced by Italian cooking styles, which were years ahead with their culinary inventions and styles. This resulted from the marriage of a Florentine Princess, Catherine de Medici, and Henry Duc d’Orlenes (King Henry II).
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, there was a period of time referred to as the Ancien Regime.
During this time period, the government of the city of Paris established guilds, which limited the operations of certain food-related businesses to a specific subset of the industry. That is, those who brought the raw ingredients, those who sold prepared food, and those who did both.
Haute Cuisine And The Revolution
What is now known as haute cuisine or high cuisine was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries by a gourmet specialist, Francois Pierre La Varenne, who published what is regarded as the first true French cookbook, titled Le Cuisinier François.
This book contained recipes centered on making lighter meals with a less elaborate presentation, which was well removed from the Middle Ages.
Towards the end of the 19th century, French cuisine evolved as a result of the French Revolution.
While the rest of the country burned, France’s culinary arts flourished as a result of the fall of the guilds that had previously restricted and confined French cooks to a specific mode of operation.
Notable Chefs: Careme And Escoffier
After the Revolution, the concept of the restaurant and the restaurateur emerged, spawning new philosophies such as the chef’s accountability to his customers and his desire to receive positive feedback to attract more customers. As cookbooks became more widely available, culinary practices changed.
Marie Antoine Careme, who was born five years before the revolution, refined haute cuisine even further.
Before Charles Maurice de Tallyrand-Perigord employed him, he was known for his elaborate pastry and sugar architecture, known as pieces montees. He later worked as a cook for Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor.
Caremes’ significant contribution to French cuisine comes from his sauces, called mother sauces or fonds. Bechamel and espagnole, for example, are still prepared today.
He taught that French cuisine to be an elegant form of art that requires specific skill sets and attention to detail. He also published recipes that made this cuisine more accessible.
Around that time, the French began colonizing parts of North America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.
George Auguste Escoffier, who published Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, further modernized haute cuisine from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century by building on the foundations laid by Marie Antoine Careme.
Escoffier transformed the fundamentals of French cuisine from how it is presented and served to the organization and smooth running of a professional kitchen in his brigade de cuisine system, which also outlined the organizational system and hierarchy of a kitchen.
The brigade system divided the kitchen into 5 stations, where instead of one person preparing the entire dish, the responsibility was shared among multiple chefs.
|Entremettier||Prepares soups, vegetables, and desserts.|
|Rotisseur||Cooks roasts, grilled dishes, and fried dishes.|
|Saucier||To prepare the sauces.|
|Patissier||To prepare all of the pastry items.|
|Garde manger||To prepare cold dishes.|
In the 1900s, Nouvelle cuisine took the spotlight, characterized by lighter dishes, fresh ingredients of the highest quality, and a more simple but breathtaking presentation.
This cuisine rejected excessive complexity in food preparation, shortened cooking times for proteins to preserve their natural flavor, and substituted thick mother sauces for simple seasoning with herbs, vinegars, and so on.
Patrons’ dietary restrictions were taken more seriously, and French chefs were swept up in a wave of innovation as they continually came up with new food combinations inspired by regional cuisine rather than haute cuisine.
This era, which may have been influenced by World War II, came to an end when chefs grew tired of it and returned to haute cuisine while retaining the lighter presentation and other new techniques.
French Foods You Will Not Regret Trying
Because of their solid recipes, certain dishes in French cuisine can never go wrong. They taste the same everywhere and should definitely be tried. They include:
- Pain au chocolat
- Souffle au fromage
- Foie gras
- Coq au vin
- Croque monsieur
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Did French Toast Originate In France?
No, it did not. It was invented in America but was dubbed “French toast” because it was popularized by French immigrants.
2. Does French Cuisine Encourage Veganism?
The majority of French dishes contain animal products, making it difficult for vegans to eat.
3. Why Is French Butter Different?
French butter is different because manufacturers use a technique known as culturing, which allows the cream in the milk to ferment before it is churned.
French cuisine, like every other cuisine in the world, has a foundation upon which it is built, and it has remained faithful to this foundation ever since, which is not a negative thing. Other frameworks have emerged that a lot of people now prefer over the traditional method of French cuisine.
French cuisine is excellent in its own right, but it can be overrated by connoisseurs.
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