At a time when the “gastronomic meal of the French” has just been inscribed in the intangible heritage of Unesco, and referring to the principle of the Pharaoh Kheti four thousand years ago “we calm a rebellious crowd with food”, it is interesting to look at the culinary habits of our elders and the origin of their food, thanks to the beautiful work of Eric Bourliez “history of cooking and food”.

History of cooking and food

Two and a half million years ago, the individual, after feeding on plants, learns to hunt and control the fire to cook the meat. His food was balanced. However, no calcium deficiency is demonstrated on teeth fossils that are rarely decayed.

A little later, three thousand six hundred years ago, food is a source of symbols (milk representing life, fish the Christian), the individual was already writing recipes on clay tablets.

In the time of the Greeks and Romans, and contrary to popular belief, did you know that feasts and orgies were only exceptional? That the French service appeared in the Middle Ages with the preparation of extravagant dishes like the “coq heaume”? It was the time of the madness of spices, then of sugar, until the 17th century, when we tried to rediscover the natural taste of food: French cuisine became a model for other countries!

Thanks to M. Parmentier, the people will be able to feed themselves, and the famines will disappear between 1800 and 1900 with agricultural production. It was also at this time that the French became accustomed to “going to eat at the restaurant” in these establishments opened around 1860 for modest income! The guides and almanacs are born, the cuisine is preserved, becomes regional and is transported, the new products appear to simplify the life.

Over time, even if the cuisine is modernized, the meals remain tasty until the appearance of the new Cuisine in the 1960s, which will not last twenty years! New flavors are coming from the Orient or Asia, new methods are being tried out, including molecular cooking with the use of algae or the use of nitrogen to propose novelties such as “chocolate béarnaise”!

Our opinion

Repas_RenaissanceEric Birlouez, who teaches the history of food and the Sociology of eating habits, and who has published (among other things) “festins printers ET repas peasant à la Renaissance”, invites us to become aware of what we absorb. Thanks to many surprising and amusing anecdotes, beautiful photos, reproductions of works of art from museums as well as specific menus from certain periods of history, the author make us travel in time and puts “water in our mouth” with this beautiful book.

And now, all these elements in hand, do not do like Napoleon, who swallowed his meal in less than five minutes but take the time to look at and admire what is before you. Enjoy these dishes, remembering their origins.