French dining has always had a certain charm about it. The notion and idea of eating a certain menu item from France, with all of its beauty and variety and depth with every recipe, is one to behold.
With in-depth varieties that vary from area to area of France, it’s a wonder that they can always be improved on. Some of these dishes date back to the olden days when bread was seen as a commodity only for the rich. There are some that still are used more for the wealthy. Yet, there are even some old school cooking techniques that can be for the modern woman as well. Through all of these, though, it is quite difficult to say which is the best, or most prevalent, cuisine in France.
To understand where many of these styles come from, it is best to look at the culture, as well as the history, of the food in France. The food had been notorious for having extremely high standards while still being affordable for the common man. This dates to the original changes of culinary instructions. Originally, many types of food were only given to the extremely wealthy. This is due to a crop failure during the 1788 and 1789 period.
As most of the French citizens tended to be peasants and farmers, meaning that their main source of nutrition ended up being their own crops. Mainly, bread. But, when the grain crops failed, the bread that they relied on became too expensive to buy for the common man. This ended up meaning that the grain crops ended up being primarily for the executives, royalty, and rich. Having bread on the table meant that you were extremely well off.
After their main nutrition was taken away, it became another portion as to why the French Revolution came about. Once the overthrow came about, and many wealthy families were taken down, the chefs and cooks that were employed by the wealthy scattered. This resulted in many of the cooks starting up their own restaurants and cafes.
This caused the different formulas and information to spread across the land, allowing for regular folks to taste what was previously only for the rich. Flamboyant and diverse combinations of ingredients became known by the normal tongue. And, finally, it became the norm to taste such refined works of art.
Once restaurants and cafes opened across France, different methods of creation came under question. Since chefs and cooks were allowed to trade information quite easily, methods were also discussed and improved. This led to several different cuisines styles being present in the French culinary scene. This is actually due to how heating had originally been done before the French revolution.
The introduction of bringing in fresh ingredients had only really been used to mask problems in terms of freshness. Originally, ingredients that were used by cooks and chefs tended to rot and go bad quickly. This is because preservation of ingredients had not made much headway. But, with the introduction of cooking with fresh ingredients and the like by even Italian influences, it became apparent that there was another way to cook.
One style that became prominent was the Haute style. Although the Haute style of cooking had been around as early as the 1880s, it became much more prominent after the Revolution, as it's influenced could be spread much faster. The man behind the style, Georges Auguste Escoffier, was an extremely proficient cook and leader. During his tour with many different hotels in America and Europe, he came to instigate what is known now as the Brigade system. This system allowed the kitchen to be separated into five or so different workstations, each having their own specific jobs. This facilitated an increase in productivity in a fully revolving kitchen.
With a position for different items, such as cold entrees, vegetables, roasts, soups, and desserts, it ensured that there would be no mix-ups with who was working on which dish. Facilitating an increase in productivity led to an increase in food being expedited, and an increase in turnover of tables. This system was made to help out with certain restaurants to increase revenue for a restaurant. In essence, the faster it comes out of the kitchen, the faster the customers would be able to eat and finish up, and the faster the tables could be cleaned, swapped, and rotated for the next available wallet.
But, the true Haute style came from creating a lighter style of sauces to enhance meals. Originally, many recipes called for heavy, laden sauces and seasonings. Many will learn from culinary classes that he was supposed to help with combining the French food with the proper wine to drink. Not only that, it was meant to be a compliment to different types of cheese, as the blueprint and combinations primarily called for appetizers beforehand.
But, with the Haute style, lighter sauces and such were used to enhance flavoring, while allowing it all to feel more fulfilling and not losing the filling feeling of heavy dishes that would generally mask the taste. The style also took part in changing fundamental peasant platters and transforming them into exquisite delicacies. Enhancing the unique style of freshness and originality became a staple within the culinary arts.
Soon after the Haute Style became modern, a new group came about. The Nouvelle style came from many chefs and cooks feeling like the overly complicated formulas and instructions hampered how a meal could be made and combined with wine. Instead, the Nouvelle style emphasized clean-cut and neat. Instead of constantly roasting or grilling a chicken to death, Nouvelle focused more on things like steaming. The emphasis, once again, was on “Clean” creations, and not on heavy battering of ingredients. But, they went about it in a fundamentally different way. Instead of focusing on certain ingredients and properties used, they focused on the root of the creations: the blueprints of the dish.
This importance is stressed in culinary classes, as the Haute style still kept the intricate primary recipes, and the Nouvelle focused more on making things easy to create. For instance, many ways to create a fish platter were known, but the Nouvelle style emphasized ease of creation. As such, simple flouring and sauces were used, which would soon birth the different modern techniques used to present these Aquarian animals to hungry customers. By stressing simplicity, the complicated formulas and processes and techniques were revamped and properly treated as exactly that: ingredients combined to create a masterpiece. With such influences drawn from the surrounding areas, certain techniques were refined, improved, and refined again until they became second-hand in nature.
Now, many techniques used within the kitchen use a combination of both the Haute and Nouvelle styles. Taking a little from both sides, creations are meant to emphasize healthy ingredients but enhance all of the natural flavorings. For instance, many modern ones increase the substitution of heavy, saturated sauces, and instead go for the simple things, like butter, lemon, and fresh herbs. Substituting these brought out new combinations and varieties, meaning restaurants could have full reign in how they styled their menus.
The primary line drawn between the two styles is to still keep the basic principle of freshness and cleanliness at the heart of it all. Improving on different combinations is great and all, but to ensure that it comes out looking fresh and proper is the only way to present a spread. Utilizing ingredients such as fresh herbs and butter enhances the natural ingredients’ charms on a platter.
On the other side, making sure that fresh ingredients are still not overpowered even when presented in sauces covered in roux. To not tarnish a plate’s original flavoring, while simultaneously increasing the senses when they are assaulted by the freshness. To also simplify combinations down to the bare minimum needed to actually bring the recipe to life and fruition.
To decide the proper style, and which is the best, it has to be stated: there is no best style. There is no one best way, currently. With the line being ridden between both the Haute and Nouvelle styles, as well as banquets made from peasant meals, it comes to the fact that a combination of both styles makes it that much more important. What has come about in the current scene of edible art is due to influences from both sides.
From before the French Revolution, to after, as well as before World War 2. All of these had so much influence in making the current style balance so unique that one cannot be known as more important than the other. One can say the fusion of the Nouvelle and Haute has no name, but, is considered to be the modern and current reigning style in the current French culinary arts. Many of the techniques that have been molded and shaped by these two styles can be what you expect when taking a culinary class to craft your next monthly or weekly dinner.
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