French gastronomy is the envy of people all over the world. A true art of living, it fully contributes to France's international influence, and has always done so. Gastronomy has its origins in the Magdalenian period, the last phase of the Paleolithic, to then evolve and see its functions take on new dimensions.
Gastronomy: a family, social and institutional function
The kitchen had first of all a vital function but which was also marked by a value of pleasure and sharing. It then evolved to be truly staged and to respond to established codes.
Indeed, as Hugues Lallemand points out in a very interesting article in Luxe Infinity, French gastronomy has become “a very powerful political tool, a symbol of hospitality and welcome. The French table was a diplomatic means very often used to help strategies and facilitate the achievement of targeted objectives. The royal power, but also the different republics have made it a demonstrative tool to underline and affirm their power”.
Gastronomy thus developed and manuscripts began to appear, including the first cookbook written around 1380 by Guillaume Tirel, better known under the name of Taillevent and for being the cook of Kings Charles V and Charles VI, with his book “The Viandier”. We can also cite other writings that have subsequently marked gastronomy, such as the "Physiology of taste" by Brillat Savarin or the "Granddictionnaire de cuisine" by Alexandre Dumas. In 1803, a new section of gastronomic literature made its debut with "L'almanach des gourmands" by Grimod de la Reynière, a century before the Michelin Guide.
The codes have also undergone many changes, such as the introduction of the two-pronged fork by Catherine de Medici around 1533. During the 17th century, gastronomy became a full-fledged instrument of royal influence thanks to great figures, like François Vatel, renowned butler and pastry chef. During the 19th century, the appearance of menus, embellished with engravings or paintings, marked a new turning point in the art of living, as did the "Russian" service, which was based on a small number of dishes presented from leaving the kitchen.
Haute gastronomy, the symbol of the French way of life
Culinary gastronomy continues to renew itself with cooks like Antonin Carême, Jules Gouffé or Joseph Favre, who is the founder of the Culinary Academy of France.
Its evolution continues and great chefs mark their era, like Joël Robuchon who was the most starred chef in the world or Thierry Marx renowned for his creativity and his deep values.
For Hugues Lallemand, there is no doubt that “savoir-vivre and the French way of life find their quintessence in gastronomy. France is the number 1 country for all its starred chefs or noticed by the guides, haloed by the major institutions. Their virtuosity, talent and creativity are well established. They contribute to the reputation of France”.