Dr. Dorothy Cashman
Published 2012
Draft of paper delivered at Dublin Gastronomy Symposium 2012.
Publisher: Publication Date: Jan 1, 2012

Culinary History+6

Dr. Dorothy Cashman
Culinary History+6

Il est intéressant de comprendre le développement et l’historiographie de la cuisine européenne moderne et la position hégémonique que la cuisine française assume dans cette histoire.


Johnathan Swift’s satirical advice to the cook on soot falling into the soup is areminder that controversary surrounding French culinary expertise and innovation isno recent phenomenon. This paper will explore Irish attitudes to French food with particular reference to Irish culinary manuscripts and the literature of the period. Despite protestations, French culinary methods, recipes and language colonised the Anglo speaking world. In Ireland, the Anglo-Irish gentry had their own ‘rich andvaried cuisine’ (Mac Con Iomaire 2009 p.50) with French chefs travelling to work intheir kitchens. French culture set the standards for much of aristocratic Europe in these centuries and Ireland was no exception. However given the nature of Ireland’s complex relationship with England and thus with France, this paper will examinewhether this complexity is reflected in the culinary discourse in Ireland.

The quotation used in the title of this paper comes from Swift’s unfinished « Directions to Servants » (1731), published after his death in 1745. Not one of Swift’sfiner satirical pieces, it is a rant of pitiless cynicism spoken in the voice of an ex-footman, in format following the instruction manuals to servants of the time andquoted in Samuel and Sarah Adams « The Complete Servant » of 1825 as an exemplar of what not to do. It is however a good point of access for a discussion on French foodand the reaction it provoked.

The field of culinary history has been laid claim to by a myriad of academicdisciplines in recent decades, all illuminating different aspects of the topic accordingto their particular field of expertise. Elias (1969), Douglas (1971), Goody (1982), andMintz (1985) may be viewed as the founding fathers of the field and since the closingyears of the last century the study of gastronomy in all its various manifestations has been actively prospected across all disciplines.

Of interest for the purposes of this discussion is an understanding of the developmentand historiography of modern European cuisine and the hegemonic position that French cuisine assumes in this history. Questions that arise are how, or from what did modern cuisine emerge, how did French cuisine emerge as the pre-eminent cuisineand what is it that makes it a cultural signifier in discourse.

The Emergence of Modern European Cuisine

Medieval cuisine was rooted in several different epistemic systems. Chief amongstthese were the Galenic theory of humors and the religious strictures of Christianity,which included observance of fast days and adherence to the idea of the Great Chainof Being (Scully 1995, Grieco 1999, Flandrin 1999b). Leschinziner (2006, p.424) describes the transition from the medieval world order to the modern period asequating to a seismic shift in the epistemological foundations of culinary knowledge


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