Did you know that “gastronomic meal of the French” is on the list of the World Cultural Heritage of Unesco since 2010 ?
Yes, French gastronomy is not just a recipe book, it is an integral part of History : indeed, French meals play their part in French History:
- During the Middle Ages, the meat was a strong social marker which, at the table, separated the rich from the poor people.
- The French Revolution gathered rich and poor around the “repas républicains”.
- The fine diplomatic suppers sometimes contributed to peace agreements between Heads of States.
French Cuisine owes its evolution and reputation to a few great names :
- In the 1600′ century, François Vatel introduced elegance and refinement into French Cuisine. The notion of “gourmand” (glutton) gives its place to the one of “gourmet”.
- In the 1800′, Carême upgrades French cuisine to the level of “Art”, “Art of French Cuisine”‘ and invents the (Chef’s hat). He conquers Europe.
- At the end of 1800′, Auguste Escoffier’s cuisine acquires an international reputation.
- Around 1900′, with the rise of “les Mères Lyonnaises” (“Lyon Mothers”), Lyon becomes the Capital of French Gastronomy.
But, who are these “Mères Lyonnaises” (“Lyon Mothers”)?
Starting in the late 1800′, young peasant womens came to the city. They were hired as cooks for wel-to-do families.
Because they knew all about locally grown produces, they soon became great “cordons bleus” (in French, very good cooks are called “cordons bleus”). Some of them opened eating places, mostly for working people. Those inns became popular in meeting places and well known as “Bouchons Lyonnais” with “Mère” Brazier as an emblematic figure.
Thus was born Lyon’s reputation as capital of French Gastronomy.
Paul Bocuse got experience with “la Mère Brazier”. He is a direct descendent from “the Mothers”. He went on to become the greatest ambassador of French Cuisine with his restaurants and his school of Cuisine in Lyon : The Paul Bocuse Institute which teaches to students from all around the world.
The international success of French Cuisine is due, in great part, to its being recorded and preserved since middle ages in recipe books.
As time went, cuisine became lighter and more refined. The old medieval banquets gave place to a freer cuisine, more inventive, elegant, overflowing with flavors and colors for the greatest pleasure of our eyes and taste buds.
The history of the cuisine is not just a cookbook, each chef creates something new in adding to his dishes something unexpected, a dash of improvisation, innovation, and creation.
The French cuisine is defined by its region (“terroir”), each one offering different specialties according to their products and customs.
The “Gastronomic meal of the French” is listed to the world heritage as a cultural practice gathering around the meal : farmers, guests, the cook and his knowhow, the service, the Arts of the table, the ambiance and the conviviality.
Lyon, Capital of French Gastronomy
Every second year, in Lyon, the future great world “chefs” compete at the SIRHA, the International Salon of “Restauration”, Hostellerie and Alimentation.The « Bocuse d’Or » rewards the best among them.
For pastry, the World Championship of pastry lifts pastry to the level of “Art”. Lyon and its region are full of great « tables étoilées ». Besides the renowned Paul Bocuse Inn, other great “Chefs” radiate: George’s Blanc***, Régis Marcon***, anne-Sophie Pic***, Guy Lassausaie**, and many other starry Chefs.
This reputation is related to this immense high quality produce basket offered by the Lyonnaise region. The Halles (inside market) Paul Bocuse attests of this diversity of high class produce, a true Hall of Gastronomy : the Bresse Poultry, the Lyonnaise Quenelles, the Lyonnaise delicatessen, well aged cheeses, the wines from Côtes du Rhone and Beaujolais region. Lyon is also the Bernachon Pastry (Paul Bocuse’s daughter) with its unbelievable chocolates. It’s one of the rare pastryshop in France which imports its own cocoa beans before processing them.
Besides the great Chefs, Lyon has many « bouchons lyonnais » which keep the heritage of Mères Lyonaisses and which, for some, have been able to preserve their authentic ambiance.
Provence, land of light, charm, colors and flavors
The Provence is a vast and prodigious vegetable land : the “truffe” (truffle) gets the golden Palm, followed by the olives which improve the quality of the meals under different forms (oil, tapenade, etc.), the vegetables and the aromatic herbs also have a place of choice, not to mention the Carpentras strawberries and the Cavaillon melons.
Sunny cuisine, Light cuisine full of vegetables, the Provencal cuisine is now part of a colorful Legend. Everything begins on the markets: a true feast of colors and fragrances. The truffe (truffle) market is in full swing in winter. The truffle is negotiated directly with the producer. Ménerbes has even created the House of Truffe and Gastronomy.
From Provence, with its golden sun, come many good wines full of color and sweetness : Côtes du Luberon, Côtes du Ventoux, and Beaumes de Venise.
Provence also has a lot of good tables: Edouard Loubet** at Domain of Capelongue, Eric Sapet* “the small house, Reine Sammut”, l’Auberge de la Fénière (Inn of the Fénière)*, Xavier Mathieu* “Le Phébus”. The « Michelin Guide » can help you to find a good table on your next trip.
Beyond the gastronomy, there is a lot to see in Lyon and the Provence.
Enjoy a cooking class with us and take time to discover the many cultural and touristic attractions all around.