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240 × 160 × 22 mm
344 pages
98 illustrations, 72 in colour
12 Oct 2020
Foods and Nations

Savoir-Faire A History of Food in France Maryann Tebben

This is a comprehensive account of France’s rich culinary history, not only full of tales of haute cuisine, but seasoned with myths and stories from a wide variety of times and places; from snail hunting in Burgundy to female chefs in Lyon, and from cheese appreciation in Roman Gaul to bread debates from the Middle Ages to the present. It examines the use of less familiar ingredients such as chestnuts, couscous and oysters, French food in literature and film, the influence of France’s overseas territories on the shape of French cuisine today, and includes historical recipes for readers to try at home.

‘This is a chronicle of how French cuisine reflects its cultural traditions, with delightful meanderings about what workers ate, the influence of female chefs in the provinces, scientific and agricultural innovations, and how colonial products and dishes have been allotted space in the classical food pantheon. From the robust, pig-centric meals of the Franks, which set the table for “the embrace of pleasure over moderation,” Tebben charts the influential development of courtly Renaissance feasts and the first printed cookbooks, which staked out French gastronomic dominance with terminology, recipes, and cooking techniques that endure today.’ — Foreword Magazine

‘The book is admirably ambitious, crisply written and lively . . . It brims with an abundance of varied information . . . A very readable, wide-ranging and original synthesis on the subject.’ — Michael D. Garval, Associate Professor of French Studies, North Carolina State University

Savoir-Faire is a superbly researched and extremely comprehensive history of the complex food of France. Maryann Tebben's exhaustive documentation takes us from the salted pork of the Gauls to the bread of the middle ages, the 19th-century opulence of Carème’s buffet to the cuisine bourgeoise and les méres de Lyon. An all-encompassing work for anyone interested in the importance of cuisine in French culture.’ — Chef Jacques Pépin

‘So much has been said—and written—on the subject of French food that the author wisely does not set out to accomplish such an impossible task. Instead, she gives the reader a guided tour to select highlights. The journey begins with the remote and quasi mythical, culinary habits of Gaul at the time of the Franks (and Romans), and ends with the soul-searching of a 21st century that questions the definition/nature of an ever-evolving “French” cuisine. Both producers and consumers—in Metropolitan France as well as in the far-flung colonies—hold center stage in an unfolding story told with verve. And, throughout this narrative, emerges the centuries-long ability of French culture to write about and represent food, turning it into one of the most easily recognized cuisines in the world.’ — Allen J. Grieco, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence (Emeritus), co-editor-in-chief of 'Food & History' (IEHCA)

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Maryann Tebben is Professor of French and head of the Center for Food Studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Massachusetts. She is the author of Sauces: A Global History (Reaktion, 2014).


One: Gallic Origins
Annotated Literary Interlude (Gaul)
Two: Medieval and Renaissance France: The Age of Bread
Annotated Literary Interlude (Medieval and Renaissance)
Three: French Innovations: Cookbooks, Champagne, Canning and Cheese
Annotated Literary Interlude (French Innovations)
Four: The Revolution and Its Results: Butchers, Bakers, Winemakers
Annotated Literary Interlude (Revolution)
Five: The Nineteenth Century and Carême: French Food Conquers the World
Literary Interludes (Nineteenth Century: Paris and not-Paris)
Six: Literary Touchstones
Seven: Outside the Hexagon: Terroir Across the Sea
Annotated Literary Interlude (Outside the Hexagon)
Eight: The Modern Era: Peasants Forever
Annotated Literary Interlude (Modern Era)

Historical Recipes
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements