A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800

Susan Pinkard, Author
Susan Pinkard, Author Cambridge University Press $32 (317p) ISBN 978-0-521-82199-5
Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
Paperback - 317 pages - 978-0-521-13996-0
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The French have been inextricably tied with fine cuisine, and Pinkard's accessible and often fascinating examination of the country's culinary evolution gives foodies a rich, savory treat. Beginning with medieval cooking, characterized by strong seasonings that gave food a singular flavor, Pinkard explains how cooking was greatly influenced by early medicine, which insisted that the body's ""humours"" could be regulated by spices. As more fruits and vegetables made their way onto French tables, preparation methods evolved. By the mid 1600s, cooks began to emphasize tastes and textures, first incorporating the sauces now associated with classic French cooking. By the mid 1700s there was a drive toward lightness and simplicity called nouvelle cuisine, ""a style that could be just as expensive, subtle and exacting to execute as its twentieth-century namesake."" Though she rarely points out similarities to current trends like ""slow food"" and organic ingredients, the parallels are clear and relevant. Digressions on eating patterns, typical meals, the evolution of the dinner party and classic recipes (reproduced in an appendix) add interest and depth. Despite occasional ventures into academic minutiae, anyone interested in the evolution of modern cooking and entertaining is sure to find Pinkard's history a wealth of lore and trivia.
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