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French Cuisine became the standard for upper-class, expensive dining around the start of the 20th century. Considered high-class because of its foreign and often unusual nature, French cooking quickly spread as the fashionable style in wealthy areas. While French cooking is mechanically much the same as other cooking, it places almost as much emphasis on proper ingredients and presentation as on the food itself.
At the same time that French cuisine started to popularize in the United States, it was mirrored by another type of cooking: Fast Food. The notion of quick, simple, and low-cost food contrasted completely with the slow, complex, expensive French restaurants. Essentially, the two types of dining became polar opposites, with societal class equating to where one ate in everyday life. Only the very rich ate at French restaurants every day, or even every week; poorer folk could indulge once a month, if that. French cooking created a class-separation in out-of-home dining.
Another major effect was cleanliness; since French recipes called for exact standards of ingredient and preparation, kitchens needed to be much cleaner than that of the local diner. These standards became normal and required by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., and as a result, restaurant food is much healthier and safer.
French cuisine sounds fancy, conjuring up images of anniversary date nights, expense-account feasts, and once-in-a-lifetime trips to Paris. But with the right ingredients, techniques, and dining mentality, you can create amazing French meals on an average weeknight in your very own kitchen. It is served as Buffet Food Service in France mostly. French cooking may seem sophisticated, but it’s not rocket science. “It’s ultimately about creating a harmonious dish that elevates the quality of the main ingredient. For example, different regions in France may treat chicken differently—Burgundy makes coq au vin, the Basque region makes Chicken Basque [stewed chicken and vegetables with earthy spices]—but it’s still all about the chicken,” explains Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City and judge on Top Chef. “There’s a lot of tradition involved in all of it.”
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