The death of French Cuisine?

In short yes. Unless…

Marcel Shamshoum
1st December 2021
French flag with a plate, knife and a fork on top./ Image: pixabay, pxfuel, look and learn.
Dining: the activity of eating a meal. Simple and straight forward. Not to the French! French food culture is almost as sacred as a catholic mass, a ritual if you will. The French have redefined our perception of food, their cuisine has been dominating the world food arena since the mid 1800s. From classic dishes to basic techniques that form the basis, of most of the foods we eat in our daily lives. Today, when we think French food our minds ultimately go to dimmed dining rooms, circular tables, with freshly pressed white table cloths, god knows how many sets of cutlery and a night full of heavy meals, rich with butter and butter and more butter. And being the greedy man I am, I do like myself some butter and more butter kind of dishes. However, I don’t think this kind of cuisine will be able to hold itself any longer for a number of reasons which I will be discussing in this article. 

For reference I thought I’ll go to the bible of fine dining and restaurants, that of course being the Michelin guide. So I did a quick search to see what type of restaurants are there in Paris and their subsequent cuisines. To my shock, one out of 422 restaurants that have a Michelin star in Paris was French contemporary and another one that was cuisine from south west France, and the cuisine that had the majority of restaurants was referred to as Modern cuisine, which coming from Michelin, is a ludicrous category. Modern cuisine can be literary anything, you just need to use a few fancy names and a chemistry set and you are good to go. So my first argument is, if French people themselves are abandoning their own cuisine, what’s left for us to say?

Since its popularisation, French cuisine has been heavily associated with fine dining; making it a luxury cuisine rather than a day to day food. For that matter alone, I believe the cuisine could be losing popularity. Furthermore, one could argue that our modern lifestyle doesn’t allow us to sit 45 minutes on one meal, and half way through that meal you remember, oh, there are still six more meals to go! The nature of the meals also is an integral factor; today people are self-aware of their diet, healthy and balanced meals are now stealing the spotlight. So I’m sorry to break it for you, but traditional French cuisine and healthy foods are like water and oil, they don’t mix! A dish like foie gras today, is a weapon of self-destruction in my view. A greasy, fatty goose liver, put on a plate that raises ethical concerns the size of France. Do we continue to eat it?

Chilled foie gras mousse piped into a thin pastry shell topped with yoghurt, apple blossom, and bircher museli/ Image: flickr

I’ve mentioned before that the French are abandoning their own cuisine, a bold statement, I know. However, despite what the Michelin guide says I’d like to think otherwise. French people are proud people, abandoning their cuisine is never going to happen. But here is the catch, pride equals exclusivity, and a city like Paris where  you’ll see all kinds of immigrants, form Moroccan to Lebanese to Chinese and so on and so forth, yet with all that, we see a city struggling to compete with its sister cities such as London and New York when it comes to food diversity and inclusivity. At this point I may sound conflicting, but I’m not; sometimes integrating other cultures to your own will enhance it make it stand out even! Adaptation is key, that is why I give you the ‘unless’ at the beginning. The methods used in traditional French cuisine are so old to the point I can smell the dust off them from miles. Technology is improving, gastronomy is advancing and we’re hungry for the new.

So, what now? Well it’s three words: integrate, adapt and… fat (every once in a while) – bon appetite.

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