This past week Susie Timm of Girl Meats Fork and I were discussing the titans of French cuisine gathered at the Chateau de Versailles for a fund raising event that they hope will spur many donations towards a massive project canonizing French gastronomy. We collaborated to tell you about it.
Apparently, French President Sarkozy originally spun the project back in 2008 as he sought to enshrine French cooking as a UNESCO approved world art after economic and cultural pressures threatened to diminish the appreciation for true gastronomic achievement and replace it with fast food, chain restaurants and oversized grocery stores, even in La Belle France.
The hitch? This proposed “living space,” (neither museum or restaurant) has an estimated $70 million dollar price tag and the French have neither the funding nor an available Paris location for it as of yet.
The art of cooking is paramount in French culture and it is something at which they have excelled and which we can praise them for. They take the consumption of food and drink more seriously than practically anywhere else in a world of cultures each discovering, exploring and enhancing its own cuisine.
Hence the French calls for a “Louvre of Gastronomy.” It seems that this country that has more Michelin starred chefs than anywhere else is facing non-gastronomic challenges with the project that extend beyond merely raising funds.
What will the museum place on a pedestal to revere? Once the discussion was opened, it became evident, from the myriad warring parties, that the classic “French meal” is also not as crystal clear as consommé. Ironically, what is more Gallic than a furious debate between various chefs, in funny hats, as to what recipe of a particularly obscure dish best represents their culinary tradition.
Add the cock fight over the Coq au Vin, the discourse over the main course, to the French economic and budgetary woes and they face long odds of creating a shrine to Carême, Escoffier, and Brillat-Savarin. I wish I knew the French translation for the German word “Shadenfreud,” meaning delight at others’ misfortune because I could use that translated French word to describe my joy at the French squabbling over a pantheon to esteemed cooking, that we all, myself among the first, will want to visit and experience. Shadenfreud = me. Point to the French for getting us all so wrapped up in their story.
The band of chefs (and culinary tourists) pushing for the project are hoping the French government will pony up cash needed for marketing campaigns that will remind Europe of their culinary greatness.
Let’s not ask ourselves if it is the place of any government to finance projects of this scope? What would the fallout be with our average, burger eating folk if our government funded a similar American gastronomic canonization?
P Chef Susie Timm
Smart Kitchen Head Cheese
The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™ Girl Meats Fork