Not by Bread Alone: America's Culinary Heritage

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Before the 19th century, great cooking was experienced almost exclusively in the private homes of the wealthy. This began to change after the French Revolution, when the fall of the aristocracy left a number of talented chefs unemployed.

Many of these chefs later opened some of the Continent’s first fine restaurants, winning devoted followers among the French bourgeois, who were eager to display their elevated tastes in food and fashion. This phenomenon produced some of the first "star" chefs, many of whom published compendiums of their repertoires and opinions. Their cookbooks not only served as self-advertisement, but also enabled the newly rich to reproduce the professional dining experience in their own private homes.

Some of these French chefs went to work for ambitious restaurateurs in major cities like New York and London, or cities newly flush with wealth, such as post-Gold Rush San Francisco. The influence of these chefs slowly permeated American culture, exposing growing numbers to French cooking techniques and dining manners.

Most important, these 19th century French chefs helped to codify what came to be known as French classical cooking, their books defining by systematic repetition the basic French recipes and technique. Sauces such as vélouté, hollandaise, and mayo-nnaise, for example, were refined and regularized during this period.

continue to The Elegant Table

early cookbooks
american taste
the elegant table
temperance and prohibition
food nutrition and science
corpulency, leanes, and dietary reform
kitchen technology
food processing and manufacture


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