Succulent foie gras and light as air soufflés haven’t always been the fare of choice in France. Financial and political hardships have plagued the nation’s citizens on their centuries-old, uphill battle to prosperity.
Until the day the Bastille was stormed in 1789, the majority of French citizens were poor farmers whose diets were based mainly on grains. In the decades that followed, an upper class emerged – one that upheld good food as a mark of social standing. Despite the haute cuisine being served in the private homes of the elite, all was not well in the nation. During this time, seventy percent of French peasants still languished in poverty and malnutrition.
20th Century Changes
World War I heralded the beginning of modern French cuisine. Improved transportation during the first half of the 20th century spread the wealth and regional cuisine that had previously been segregated. Tourism came into high demand after World War II and furthered the need for grand cuisine at a fair price. Now anyone could saunter into a tavern or restaurant and have a substantial meal.
Today’s French Kitchen
Ubiquitous bistros and cafes now dot the land and the French have their pick of Pain au Chocolat or Brioche daily. In France there is an eatery for everyone. Attention is paid to the quality, flavor, and appearance of food. It is a pure, nearly religious, sensory experience. What once was subsistence is now an object of daily, living art.