Frog legs in aspic?

Posted by Carolyn on June 23, 2008 at 4:46 pm

News that the French have applied to have their cuisine protected by Unesco ‘heritage’ status raises some fascinating issues. Apart from the inevitable ‘mine’s better than yours’ sniping it is likely to cause in certain circles, there is no question that French Cuisine is unique in Europe for its ‘verticality’ – that is, its range from the very highest culinary refinement to the local tradition of ‘terroir’ and provincial cookery.

But whatever its merits, the question of how to protect French cuisine from the creeping influence of industrialised commercialism is already dividing the nation, with some arguing that gastronomy, like language, must be allowed to evolve naturally, otherwise it risks becoming petrified, resulting in the very opposite of what those arguing for its protection want to achieve.

This dilemma goes to the heart of every food culture, including our own. How does one set about preserving local food identity and tradition without turning them into artificial museum pieces? I would argue that the answer lies, not in preservation per se, but in renewed cultural recognition of the true value of local food – a value that we so often only recognise when we have lost it. Only if such cultures are truly popular (that is to say, alive and evolving) do they stand any chance of survival in the modern world.

French Cuisine Unesco Bid

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.