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The Cooking of France

by Matthew Locricchio

The Regions of France and How They Taste

What do you think of when someone mentions French cooking? If you are like most people, you probably think of elaborate cuisine with rich sauces, complex preparation, and precise recipes. But there are two traditions in French cuisine. The unique flavors and cooking styles of each of the country's regions are just as much a part of the food of France as the classic, elegant recipes of centuries past. Regional cooking is many things. It is the cooking of farmers and fishermen, of grandmothers passing on recipes to the younger generation, as well as the recipes of new young chefs. In this book, we will explore the regional side of French cooking, with a few detours along the way.

France, located at the center of western Europe, is the Continent's third largest country. It is a land of impressive natural surroundings, complete with the dramatic towering Alps in the east, ancient white chalk cliffs along the coastline of Normandy, and hillsides covered with grapevines and olive trees along the shores of the Mediterranean. As you travel through its unique countryside, the many different accents of the people remind you of France's great cultural diversity. In Alsace, you hear French spoken with a German accent; in Brittany, Celtic; and in Provence, Italian. But in spite of the cultural influences in the different regions, the people and the food are definitely all French.

The French consider food one of life's greatest pleasures. Regional recipes, their ingredients, and the origins of these ingredients, including how vegetables and herbs were grown, are an essential part of French life. So is sharing food with family and friends. Most important, however, is the simple question, "How does it taste?" Because it is the sumptuous taste of French cooking that sets it apart from the rest of the world's cuisine. Many people consider the cooking of France to be the finest in the world. Words like "spectacular," "elegant," "outrageous," and "richly delicious" are all used to describe the experience of eating the food of France. It seems the whole world loves what comes out of the French kitchen.

The idea that the French eat nothing but rich food, high in fat and loaded with calories, is simply not true. Not every dish served at a typical French meal isvery rich. That is important to keep in mind when you plan a menu from this book. Some rich foods are meant to be eaten on special occasions, while other, lighter dishes are better suited to everyday dining.

Traditionally, French cooking is divided into at least eleven culinary regions, and the food of each of these regions is as different and distinctive as its people. For the purposes of this book, however, we have divided the food of France into three regions - the north, the central region, and the south. The cooking of each of these larger regions has special characteristics that reflect its unique landscape, climate, flavors, and traditions.

 

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