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FRANCE: FRENCH AND BRITISH COOKING

unknown to the public outside the region. Bordeaux, for example, claims to produce some of the finest lamb in all of France (agneau de Pauillac) and every spring the Bor- delais delight in grilling shad, fished in the Gironde es- tuary. Dishes one might encounter when traveling in Champagne often have no specific links to culinary tra- ditions: add a splash of Champagne to virtually any dish and, voilà! you’ve made it champenois! The true special- ties from that region are simple farmhouse food— poached salt pork and cabbage, tripe sausage, dandelion salad—hardly what one might accompany with a glass of vintage bubbly.

Reds at room temperature, whites chilled

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and fre- quently challenged practices in France. What exactly is “room temperature”? Essentially this means that wines should not appear to be cold when served. Too often, “room temperature” is interpreted to mean “warm,” a terrible blunder. Though most of the best reds are still served “at room temperature” (60–63°F/16–17°C for Burgundies and 64–66°F/18°–19°C for Bordeaux) there is a growing tendency to serve young, fruity reds at “cel- lar temperature,” cool but not cold (55°F/12°C). This is specifically the case of Beaujolais and the light reds from the Loire Valley.

Though white wines are generally brought to the table in an ice bucket, wine stewards in better restaurants often advise their clients to chill fine, full-bodied whites like those from Burgundy just long enough to bring them slightly below “cellar temperature” and feel cool to the tongue (about 48–50°F/9–10°C). Only young, very dry white wines, light rosés, or sparkling wines should be drunk truly cold.

One of the most dramatic exceptions to this rule con- cerns the famous “yellow wine” from the Jura. This is the only white wine made in France that is served at room temperature.

Wine and Pleasure

Ideally, a wine should enhance the food it is served with and vice versa. This is why wine is rarely served with sal- ads unless they are made without vinegar because vine- gar ruins the taste of wine. Most people are familiar with a few “perfect marriages” (oysters with muscadet, lamb with Bordeaux, Sauternes with foie gras) though several recent books have encouraged the exploration of more daring combinations like white wines with goat cheeses and pâtés, or light reds with certain fish like fresh grilled tuna or sardines. Nonetheless, the French have conserv- ative tastes generally speaking, and are more likely to re- spect the rules given above then to break them (regional practices aside). Drinking wine is part of life, not an in- tellectual exercise, and what count most of all are the pleasures of the table—many French people could not imagine even a simple meal without a glass of wine.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

Although wine, whatever its origin, is indispensable to a French meal, one should never conclude that the French are wine “experts.” Most people are familiar with only a limited array of wines and do not anguish over making choices. On festive occasions, however, wine takes on central importance and much time might be spent selecting and orchestrating the serving of several wines. Foreign wines are still an oddity; indeed, those who live in wine-producing regions are often perfectly content to drink only wines from their area.

The French are more interested in enjoying their wines than in analyzing them. This is not to say that they do not pay attention when selecting wine, or that they are not attentive when wine is served. But they are more concerned with serving wines to enhance the pleasure of a meal than in anything else. This customarily implies personal discretion and moderation: getting drunk is con- sidered antisocial and severely frowned upon.

See also Dinner; Etiquette and Eating Habits; Meal; Table Talk; Wine.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dumay, Raymond. Guide du vin [Guide to wine]. Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1992.

Senderens, Alain. Le vin et la table. [Wine and the table]. Paris: Le Livre De Poche, 2000

Mary Hyman Philip Hyman

FRENCH AND BRITISH COOKING COMPARED

England and France are two countries which, in world perspective, are actually rather similar. Their pattern of long-term development differs subtly in detail but in broad terms is equally similar, and their cultures and cuisines have been in reciprocal contact ever since the Middle Ages. Moreover, the alimentary raw materials available were broadly the same though not identical. How, then, did their strikingly different culinary cultures take shape?

Caricature is a serious danger in this field. What peo- ple eat is universally a potent ingredient of national and social stereotyping. That applies both to the formation of people’s “we-images” of their own group and of their “they-images” of outsider groups. Food has long played a prominent part in the sense of national identity of both the English and the French, and it is very risky to accept their reciprocal stereotypes of each other’s cuisine at face value. At the very least, one must not fall into the trap of comparing, say, the food of Paul Bocuse with that served at some British transport café, or French professional cui- sine with English domestic cookery. Yet, the conclusion is that such common stereotypes as the rotund and rubi- cund John Bull sitting at a table of roast beef, or the lank and bony French cook smelling of garlic and spearing a frog leg with a fork really do have a kernel of truth in them, particularly in relation to underlying attitudes.

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