Why France is a culinary Holy Grail
Tell me something… What is the first thing that pops into your mind when I say richly delicious gourmet cuisine? If your answer was French food, you are certainly not alone. France truly is the Holy Grail of beautiful, tasty food! Starting with François Pierre La Varenne, author of Le Cuisinier François, one of the most influential cookbooks in early modern French cuisine, to the very famous Auguste Escoffier to Jacques Pepin and Guy Savoy, to Alain Ducasse and Alain Passard, and, of course, the incomparable and unmatched Julia Child, who perhaps influenced the latter three chefs just as much as the former two did, French chefs have been delighting our culinary pallets for generations.
That is not to say that other countries do not have delicious food. But, there is something about French food that everybody recognizes and everybody adores. French food is popular everywhere, it is liked everywhere and it is, perhaps, matched only by Italian food in number of restaurants! French cuisine gave us delicious sauces to tweak and mix and match and use with everything. Just about everybody in any country and in any cuisine uses the very famous béchamel sauce, a delicious mixture of flour and butter (roux) made creamy and luxurious by adding milk, a sauce which first appeared in Varenne’s book. Likewise, ask anyone if they’ve ever heard of Coq au vin or Bœuf bourguignon, both famous French stews, both made with red wine and they will probably answer “yes”. And who can ever forget Pain Perdu, more largely known as French toast or that delightfully dreamy and creamy concoction known as Crème brûlée. Then there are the cheeses, like Brie and Comté and Gruyère and the bread such as Brioche and Baguette and Croissant.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention that most famous of French soups who’s deeply savory and comforting taste makes anyone want to be in a cabin in the French Alps, watching the snow fall outside, with a steaming bowl in their hands, the French Onion Soup. Dark and rich, topped with soft bread and melted, golden brown cheese, this soup is enough to make anyone fall in love with French food! Originating from the 18th century France, it is made with beef broth and caramelized onions and topped with either cubed or sliced baguette and melted Comté or Gruyère. Before I came to America, I spent 3 months in Paris and I had the pleasure of eating a bowl of authentic French onion soup in a cozy café, tucked away on a Champs-Élysées corner. Unfortunately, as much as I love to cook, I have never quite captured that taste since, nor have I found it anywhere else. This has led me to conclude that you have never truly eaten French Onion Soup until you eat it in Paris.
But, whatever it is, from the fancy five star gourmet offerings of the most expensive Restaurants in Paris, to the comforting one pot meals of bistros and cafés, to the lovingly prepared family style dishes in the kitchens of the French country side, French food will always tantalize and delight us and will, I have no doubt, endure the test of time, remaining perhaps the most diverse and most delicious of all famous cuisines!