And the soap box:
- I thoroughly enjoyed this read about La Varenne’s cookbook Le Cuisinier François, published in 1651. “Through his work, La Varenne proved that food and cooking could be the topic of serious debate, and that food instruction didn’t have to be learned in kitchens of the Aristocracy—it was something that could also be learned through writing.”
His work was much more than this. A few years ago I attended a talk on 17th Century French food. The discussion turned to the French economic dependence on the spice route in the 16/17th centuries and the ways the French sought to tackle this; essentially they made a decision to turn their cuisine back inwards, promoting the ingredients and culinary heritage of France. The result was not just to loosen the grip of the spice trade, but to create an identity that became France, a defining part of French nationhood that endured for centuries to follow.
Culinary identity as tourist driver is now a familiar concept. Redzepi is almost solely responsible for turning Copenhagen's culinary glance inwards, a move that eventually led to the world glancing (glaring) in their direction. Alex Atala of D.O.M. in Brazil has done likewise, with his use of native Brazilian ingredients seeing the 50 Best adding a third geographic region in their 'hood due to increased demand, while Magnus Nilsson, as mentioned last week, has written the book on it for Sweden.
Of course, we are seeing it here too. It's a big deal, not just because I think it will bring the people, but because I think it has potential to put a positive spotlight on the culinary culture of indigenous Australia. An opportunity to celebrate knowledge and build respect. About time.
- If you have similar food history nerd tendencies, you will also want to read this article about an 84 year-old librarian who has spent half her life cataloguing cookbooks throughout history.
- Finally, to my favourite article this week, Who’s to Judge, published in the New Yorker, it's a cracking article looking at the highs and lows of the World’s 50 Best. There is so much in here for you …
The article looks the Euro-centricity of the cooking, the male domination, the San-Pell corporate greed, the anti-movement (Occupy 50 Best, hilariously run by the Frenchies who have it in for the English run scheme), the judges (one interviewee claiming "They blow-jobbed their way through this. Pseudo critics— are they allowed to judge?”) and some of the tactics restaurants have used to garner votes. All this leads them to Australia and our invite the world to dinner campaign, which saw us doubling our presence on the list (Tourism Australia did invite a quarter of the regional chairs to the party).
Some may think this flash of Aussie cash is extreme, but not the Frenchies who, as per La Varenne's book above, practically invented the concept of gastro-identity. They will not let the beefeaters have it alone. The government have elected a “gastrodiplomat”, who has in turn published a committee report “20 Measures for 2020” (with the help of chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy). “The paper was technically a blueprint for helping French food and wine to “re-enchant the world.”
The article suggests the report is actually a “war plan plan for combatting the World’s 50 Best” and that Faure is working on La Liste: “a ‘serious and honest’ international restaurant guide, compiled according to a complicated-sounding algorithm that he likened to tennis’s A.T.P. rankings.” It’s due to launch around Christmas this year. I love this stuff.
And the soap box: