10 January 2009

Haute Cuisine

THE BIG DEBATE yesterday among some of my French (and non-French) colleagues was this: is French food the best in the world? The discussion was cordial and civil until I suggested that French food might be a bit over-rated. That unleashed the fury.

I didn't push the point, but I did my best to explain that what you don't often find in French cuisine is spices. You find lots and herbs, with wonderful aromatic flavors, but you don't get much spice -- something I crave in foods. I know French cuisine went through a transformation during the Revolution -- a noticable move toward a more liberal use of herbs and less reliance on spices -- and it is this tradition that remains today. And, ultimately, French food is delicious and special and remains true to the ideas of it's modern 'founder' François Pierre de la Varenne.

But the point I did try to push is that by largely ignoring strong spices French food can, to a foreigner like me, come across as...dare I say it...boring! Ouch. I know that's probably too strong a term and believe me I didn't use that term in my discussion yesterday (partly because I have no idea how to say boring in French). And I know that these kinds of discussions ultimately come down to little more than personal preference. I love spicy foods. The French, in general, don't. Fair enough.


Jonathan et Kari said...

I completely agree.

Jennie said...

It is definitely over-rated. I hate French food.

Ksam said...

I agree too - while I think French food is okay, it's also often lacking in flavor. I think the French used to be the best in the world, but that ever since, they have lacked innovation and have just been content to rest on their laurels. (in the same way that many Frenchies still think that French is the language of the business world, lol).

stephan said...

You all must be Americans. Only boring American's could think French food was under-rated.

J Perry Stone said...

Try not to insult, Stephan. Everyone is allowed their preferences and if they don't agree with yours, that doesn't mean they're wrong.

As an American, I'd say in general, American food is boring. If we're talking burgers and some kind of potato ... ho hum.

Give me Indian, Thai, Ethiopian and Mexican any day of the week.

Charlotte K said...

If I had to limit myself to two cuisines for the rest of my life, I would choose Vietnamese and Mexican. Having said that, the best food I have ever eaten was in Belgium.

Franck said...

Look at Restaurant Magazine's list of best restaurant's in the world. Most of the top 10 are FRENCH restaurants. Why do you think that is?

poppy fields said...

My favorite type of food usually depends on my mood of the moment. But lately, I can't get enough sushi with extra wasabi please :)
Some of my best eating in France has been in some reknown gastronomic restaurants where the chefs have combined some daringingly different tastes in an entrée or plat principal, you've got a couple of good French rest. in Mougins...
Have you tried the Armenian resto in Cannes? One of my all time favorites.

Leesa said...

I'm with you on that one!! Can you imagine--- I was a vegan until I moved to France... Now, I'm just a plain ol' vegetarian... But, can you even imagine what an oddball I am to a French person? !!!
My fav. cuisines are Indian and Thai BECAUSE of the wonderful spices! Italian food IN Italia comes third!! Then Lebonese... Yummm. I'm getting hungry!

Leesa said...

Oh gosh.... I read the rest of the comments... I forgot--- Mexican and Eithopian, too... Maybe it's safe to say that every culture has a fine cuisine to offer--- maybe not American (and I'm American... but we do have some great baked goods). If you check out some foodie bloggers- you'll find all kinds of wonderful dishes and recipes... Don't forget there's also middle eastern, Turkish, Greek, and Armenian... Iranian..
I haven't even tasted all the different European cuisines out there, too!!

dianne is for paris said...

I, too, love ethnic foods, but if have a choice to go out for ONE great meal with my husband, I'm going to a very nice French restaurant. Nothing beats it -- especially when you consider it's more than the food, it's the experience as well.

Anonymous said...

Is french food the food you find in France ?

Or may be it's typical french dishes

or is it 500 € a dish chefs ?

From the "I hate french food" ( could that be the smartest post of the year?) to "american food is boring and americans are dimwitted" response of equal value and eloquence , that debate is flying high methinks.

Is Couscous served in France french ?
Isn't it spicy ?

Ksam said...

No, the couscous is not spicy in France. I just ate some in Tunisia right before Christmas though and it almost blew me away!

PS. I'm traveling for work and thus have been eating in only French restaurants for lunch and dinner all week....yet again, I have to say I'm not impressed. We're eating with clients too, so they're decent restaurants (menus à 20/25€), and not truck stops. The food is always beautifully presented but just bland.

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