Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local by Clotilde Dusoulier, Clarkson Potter, US $30.00, Pp 256, March 2018, ISBN 978-0451499141
There is something mythic about Paris and Parisian food. For centuries, people from all over the world have yearned to see Paris and, at least for two centuries, they have longed to eat in Paris as well. Parisian art, culture, and street life have inspired the entire world. Some two centuries ago, food was also added to the list of attractions in Paris. The reason was that Paris is the birthplace of restaurants as we know. In Tasting Paris, Clotilde Dusoulier gives a brief and precise culinary history of Paris along with more than one hundred recipes from French restaurants.
As noble families fled the city in the aftermath of the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century, they left their kitchen staff behind. Clotilde Dusoulier says that these highly trained cooks had always practiced their craft in private settings, serving food à la Française. They cast aside their private settings and opened what were the first restaurants – a place where anyone could come in and compose a meal, dish by dish, off a menu. Around the same time, pastry chefs and ‘charcutiers’ opened new shops with large windows displaying spectacular goods to passers-by. This historical change from private to public dining led to the official birth of gastronomy.
In the 1800s, Europeans started to travel more, and outside influences continued to develop the culinary culture of Paris. German-inspired brasseries and bouillons – simple restaurants selling affordable foods to the working class – started springing up. This trend continued until the end of the nineteenth century, as the French left rural provinces to make it in the big city before the great wars. In the decade that followed, migrant populations from Europe, Asia, and Africa followed, each community bringing diversity to the mix and enriching the food scene.
In the 1970s, came what is known as the ‘nouvelle cuisine,’ which did away with heavy dishes and rich sauces. It coincided with new concerns over health, nutrition, and even sustainability, which all play an increasing role in dictating what Parisians, and what restaurants serve. Another historic milestone was the appearance of gastro-bistros in the 1990s when a generation of classically trained young chefs decided to leave fine dining restaurants and luxury hotels to open bistros of their own. There they applied their haute cuisine skills to humbler ingredients, making their food affordable for ordinary diners. The dawn of ‘bistronomie’ was a turning point for Paris chefs. It helped reinvigorate the dining landscape as well as liberate home cooks to explore this new, creative style of cooking.
The Paris food scene is more exciting, more diverse, and more open-minded than it has ever been. In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, chefs and diners alike have reevaluated what it means to live in a gastronomic capital, and their standards are high. Independence, innovation, playfulness and multiculturalism are central values, and evolutions in food trends are embraced just as the city’s deep-rooted history is honored and celebrated. Tasting Paris recipes include ‘Quick Red Onion Pickle’ and ‘Chocolate Bread’ for breakfast. Soups include ‘Lentil Soup with Sausages & Fennel.’ For main meals, you can choose from a number of dishes such as ‘Steak with Peppercorn sauce’ and ‘Cauliflower Brioche’, you have several choices for afternoon snacks like ‘Apple turnover in the afternoon’ and ‘Salted Caramel Flaky Pie.’ Dessert like ‘Choux Pastry’ after every meal will delight you. Don’t forget to have ‘Paris Onion Soup’ before you sleep or in the late night.
With Tasting Paris you will be able to prepare and eat delicious and authentic Parisian food in your kitchen. It is like bringing Paris to your kitchen and dining room instead of going to Paris. The recipes are not fussy and are explained in such an easy way that everyone can prepare these dishes exactly the way they do in Parisian restaurants and with the same great taste. It is a great cookbook for both home and professional cooks. The brief and precise culinary history is an added reason to buy this beautifully-manufactured book just for your coffee table.