Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine

Michael Steinberger

Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine

France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. Twenty-five years ago it was hard to have a bad meal in France; now, in some cities and towns, it is a challenge to find even a decent baguette. For the first time in the annals of modern cuisine, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants are not French. Large segments of the French wine industry are in crisis, cherished artisanal cheeses are threatened with extinction, and bistros and brasseries are disappearing at an alarming rate. But business is brisk at some establishments: astonishingly, France has become the second most-profitable market in the world for McDonald's. How did this happen, and what is being done to reverse France's slide? Michael Steinberger argues that the problem of French cuisine is symptomatic of the broader malaise afflicting France, and his narrative is set in the context of the political, economic and social crisis that besets the nation. 3.2 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Food & Drink
Format Hardback
Pages 256
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication June 2009
ISBN 978-0747591825
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. Twenty-five years ago it was hard to have a bad meal in France; now, in some cities and towns, it is a challenge to find even a decent baguette. For the first time in the annals of modern cuisine, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants are not French. Large segments of the French wine industry are in crisis, cherished artisanal cheeses are threatened with extinction, and bistros and brasseries are disappearing at an alarming rate. But business is brisk at some establishments: astonishingly, France has become the second most-profitable market in the world for McDonald's. How did this happen, and what is being done to reverse France's slide? Michael Steinberger argues that the problem of French cuisine is symptomatic of the broader malaise afflicting France, and his narrative is set in the context of the political, economic and social crisis that besets the nation.

Reviews

The Daily Telegraph

Linda Christmas

...worthy of a place in your hand luggage the next time you board the Eurostar... In general he blames the French for losing their appetite for good food, and he blames women and politics. All the great chefs became fascinated with food in their mothers’ kitchens. Now mothers don’t cook: they throw a pizza in the oven. Or buy a McDonald’s. France is said to be the second most profitable market for McDonald’s in the world.

26/06/2009

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The Sunday Times

Bee Wilson

Steinberger overstates his case. He insists that 25 years ago “it had been virtually impossible to eat poorly in France”, but Elizabeth David was complaining about the mediocre standard of many provincial restaurants as long ago as 1960... But nobody who cares about French food, and where it has gone wrong, could fail to be interested by this book.

24/05/2009

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The Financial Times

Donald Morrison

...Steinberger’s suggestions for reform are disappointingly mild: lowering the 19.6 per cent value-added tax on restaurants (an idea newly enacted by President Nicolas Sarkozy), encouraging France’s minorities to pursue culinary careers, and organising the world’s food lovers to save French cuisine much as aesthetes once did for flooded Italian art treasures. A better strategy would be for French foodies to forget past glories and focus instead on what made their cuisine great to begin with: imitation.

29/06/2009

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The Observer

Jay Rayner

His argument that the decline of French food culture ... mirrors a decline in the standing of France as a whole is convincingly made... The problem is that the gilded end of the food business in France tells only a part of the story. In France, food culture is a bottom-up affair, the gastro palace only its ultimate expression, and Steinberger doesn't quite have the appetite to deal with what lies beneath... That's unfortunate because, while the death throes of the €500 dinner are endlessly entertaining, it is the demise of the quality €15 lunch that is the real story.

07/06/2009

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