HomeThe French culinary model: dissemination, adaptation, transformation and opposition worldwide (17th - 21st centuries)

The French culinary model: dissemination, adaptation, transformation and opposition worldwide (17th - 21st centuries)

Le modèle culinaire français : diffusion, adaptations, transformations, oppositions à travers le monde (XVIIe-XXIe siècle)

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Published on Friday, October 11, 2013 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

In discussing the history of food, to evoke the prestige, reputation and influence that French cuisine has enjoyed for centuries is to state the obvious. However, the ways in which the French culinary model has spread, and the price paid in terms of profound adaptation and transformation, have not been the subject of a comprehensive study. As one author, writing on early modern Europe, put it, "The extent of the influence of French cuisine on the rest of Europe is […] a future area of research, the complex workings of which have yet to be analysed in depth". While isolated, local studies are of course available, the time has come to take a fresh look at the question and construct a global and synthesised picture. This is the aim of the conference.

Announcement

IEHCA Conference, 3 – 5 December 2014, Touraine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Halle aux Draps

Argument

In discussing the history of food, to evoke the prestige, reputation and influence that French cuisine has enjoyed for centuries is to state the obvious. However, the ways in which the French culinary model has spread, and the price paid in terms of profound adaptation and transformation, have not been the subject of a comprehensive study. As one author, writing on early modern Europe, put it, ‘The extent of the influence of French cuisine on the rest of Europe is […] a future area of research, the complex workings of which have yet to be analysed in depth’. While isolated, local studies are of course available, the time has come to take a fresh look at the question and construct a global and synthesised picture. This is the aim of the conference.

Its original approach lies in three fundamental lines of enquiry. Firstly, the term ‘culinary’ should be understood here in a broad sense. Although methods, products and recipes form its core, there is room here for research on gastronomic representations and, besides food, for drink. Wine has a particular part to play, in view of the significant contribution made by oenology to the reputation of the French culinary art. The conference introduces a second innovative trajectory in its global dimension: far from adopting an exclusively francocentric viewpoint, the idea of dissemination should be understood not only in the widest geographical sense, but equally as a process permeating the whole of society. A final new angle to be considered is that of the extended period of time, between the 17th century, when a profoundly altered French cuisine began to be extensively interpreted across Europe (notably through La Varenne’s emblematic Cuisinier français), and the present day, when its ‘hegemonic’ position appears to be under serious threat.

Without claiming to be exhaustive, we might explore a number of avenues. An examination of the means by which the French culinary model has been disseminated seems pertinent. Besides areas that are already familiar to us – the consumption of food products thought of as specifically French, or the rules of service and an art of the table ‘à la française’ – the role of the French language in the culinary arts should also be examined, as much for the taxonomy of dishes and recipes as for the jobs involved (garde-manger, saucier, entremétier). Needless to say, particular attention should be paid to the success of cookery books, whether translated or reaching their public in the original French, not to mention the various guides and prizes, which reflect the importance of the French model in the way food and cookery are assessed.

Those who passed on knowledge, skills and information and who played a leading role in the dissemination of the French culinary model must also be a focus of study. Chefs spring to mind initially: French chefs, of course – whose presence, image and status merit proper comparative enquiry – but also foreign chefs, trained in France, either on the job or in specific institutions. Such chefs might have been in the service of masters, travellers or diplomats whose trips abroad gave them the opportunity to experience at first hand the realities and principles of French cuisine. More recently, journalists and essayists who have spent time in France have communicated their enthusiasm once back in their home countries. For the English-speaking world, we have M.F.K. Fisher, translator of Brillat-Savarin’s La Physiologie du goût,or the writers of books about French regional and family cookery such as Elizabeth David or Julia Child, who fundamentally changed the culinary landscape in their respective countries.

Finally, the actual processes of dissemination of the French culinary model must be investigated. We will be looking closely at major examples of adaptation and appropriation: was the model adopted in an identical form, modified (sometimes to the point of hybridisation), criticised, possibly even rejected? Did it contribute in some cases to the creation of something new? Neither should the competition posed by other models be neglected. France’s role in the dissemination of new products seems limited (compared with American products in early modern Europe, such as sugar and new drinks like tea, chocolate and coffee). The upholding of certain customs and preferences created an increasing gulf – as in the taste for spices in Eastern Europe and Spain – that risked causing a genuine anti-French reaction in matters of cuisine. This is precisely what happened in England where the adoption or rejection of the French culinary model in the 18th century redefined social profiles and political oppositions, illustrating the richness and complexity of this field of research.

The conference is being organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours), which supported the nomination of the ‘Gastronomic meal of the French’ for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, established by UNESCO. The conference falls within the context of IEHCA’s ongoing research in this area.

Submission guidelines

If you would like to present a paper at this conference, please send a proposal including an abstract and a CV (1 page maximum, in total) in French or English to be submitted to Bruno Laurioux bruno.laurioux@uvsq.fr and to IEHCA contact@iehca.eu

by 31 January 2014.

Scientific committee

  • Eva Barlösius,
  • Isabelle Bianquis,
  • Mary Hyman,
  • Bruno Laurioux,
  • Philippe Meyzie,
  • Massimo Montanari,
  • Pascal Ory,
  • Florent Quellier,
  • Françoise Sabban,
  • Peter Scholliers.

Places

  • Tours, France (37)

Date(s)

  • Friday, January 31, 2014

Keywords

  • modèle culinaire français, cuisine, alimentation

Contact(s)

  • Loic Bienassis
    courriel : loic [dot] bienassis [at] iehca [dot] eu

Reference Urls

Information source

  • IEHCA Institut européen d'histoire et des cultures de l'alimentation
    courriel : contact [at] iehca [dot] eu

To cite this announcement

« The French culinary model: dissemination, adaptation, transformation and opposition worldwide (17th - 21st centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, October 11, 2013, https://calenda.org/261654

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