When I tell my French colleagues that their Haute Cuisine was really created by Italians, they get this trembling about the cheeks I find so very amusing, they will never truly come to terms with the fact that French cooking can be defined before and after Caterina di Medici married king Henry II of Orleans. In fact, the bride when inspecting her future husband’s royal kitchens qualified the cooks as “barbaric pigs”, and only came back four years later with an army of Florentine and Genovese chefs.
They introduced the omelet, a roman creation called Ova Melita back in imperial times using the eggs of geese laced with honey, today's Omelette. Bain Marie was invented by Maria di Ferona, an Italian alchemist, who developed the double boiler, sick of watching her lead churn to coal at the bottom of the cauldron in search of the transmutation of matter, she called it of course ‘Bagno de Maria”, the same applying to béchamel sauce formerly “becchia melia“, chantilly, puffed pastry and other couple of hundred items brought in by the Queen’s vassals, last but not least, the fork was introduced into France by her, who made it an edict all should learn its use.
All this said and done and before I am guillotined here, I point out that in my opinion the best of France lies not behind complicated courtesan concoctions, but in its simple, hearty provincial cooking I have dearly come to call “Bas Cuisine”
From the satisfying potages of Auvergne, to the bouillabaisse and fresh herbs of Provence, the velvety texture of boeuf bourguignon in Dijon and the fresh aroma of the cassoulets in Languedoc characterize the true spirit of French cooking. The crispy and delicate "Bresse Poulet" in Savoy, simply offered at the pit, the rich palate of the quiches from Lorraine, Bretagne with its crêpes, Normandie with its world-famous Camembert cheese, rich meat dishes washed down with cider and Calvados, Champagne and Bordeaux, with its wines and cheeses, Châteaux country trout, roast pork, and the fruits and vegetables from Touraine and the Loire valley, French country cooking displays an array of flavors colors and textures as varied and honest as the people who make it, and I would never trade a wooden bench at a country dining table for anything else when eating French food.
Vive la France!