France never had any doubts about the quality of its food. Recently, however, it got elevated to the status of a world wonder. Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) named “the gastronomic meal of the French” an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” Others to have won the honour were Azerbaijani carpet weaving, an annual Belgian bread and fire feast, and Turkey’s Kirkpinar oil wrestling festival.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently visited India, had backed the push for the Unesco honour two years ago. “We have the best gastronomy in the world—at least from our point of view,” he said.
A full French meal has around seven courses. These are appetiser, soup, main course, salad course, cheese plate, dessert and coffee (followed by a Gauloises, of course, but smoking is not a course). The number of courses can vary, depending on how much time you have to kill before a rendezvous with a secret lover. Each course is complemented by a wine.
French cuisine is a huge subject, divided into categories according to region. It will be impossible to name every French dish of renown. Some of them, in the general sequence of courses, are Salad Nicoise, French onion soup, coq-au-vin (chicken in wine), and ratatouille, a vegetable stew and a couple of years ago, a successful movie. There are hundreds of famous cheeses, like Camembert and Roquefort. Universally-loved French desserts include the crème brulee, crème caramel and crepes suzette.
While no one doubts the merits of French cooking, people are often put off by the seriousness with which it takes itself. The global trend is towards uninhibited eating experiences. This accounts for the success of Italian food. As a Madonna T-shirt from the 80s proclaimed, Italians do it better.