French cuisine: it’s loved, it’s praised, it’s unrivalled (this is what the French tell us anyhow) and now it has Unesco status


This week the UN’s cultural body enshrined the “gastronomic meal of the French” as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” OK, great. But what does it mean (if anything )? Since 2003, Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — has honoured 212 “intangible” human traditions – including the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. Its aim is to protect cultural practices in the same way as it protects sites of cultural value or great natural beauty. In reality it probably means nothing at all. In this case it’s not actually particular French dishes, it’s the whole shebang (first use of this word in print). How wines are paired with dishes, how the table is dressed, the precise placing of glasses, for water, red and white wine, knife blade pointing in and fork tines down, are all seen as part of the rite. But my question is – in the year 2010 – is this really what it’s all about? Does anyone really care about the ritual? For the risk of sounding like a philistine, it’s about time we rumbled the fact that eating out and having fun can go hand in hand?


I’m not the only one who thinks this by the way. For the French food group ‘Le Fooding’ it’s their philosophy. Cordon bleu and coq au vin, silverware and rude waiters, who think us the punters should be grateful for their service, are all on the descent. This year Le Fooding is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It did that with an outdoor party this week in Paris’ best park – Le Butte Chaumont with well known chefs cooking al fresco. With Carpaccio de Cheval (horse which I couldn’t eat sorry) and oysters (delicious) It was created in 2000 by the food journalist Alexandre Cammas. It organises events, writes articles and produces an unpretentious restaurant guide - the latest version is just out. What gets a mention can shock some, especially the patriots. It’s not the etiquette, the ritual, and sometimes not even the culinary result that counts. The test is if the restaurant is ‘somewhere you want to go back to’ – it’s about the whole experience. Their approach is anti-pretentious. It’s all about having fun. With the decline and closure of many a Parisian restaurant it’s clear a revolution of a different sort is on its way.


Le Fooding rated Restos.

Aux Deux Amis (6th) – for being a bit ‘luxy’
Rino (6th)
Breizh Café (3rd)
Cancale (Ile-et-Vilaine)
Le Dauphin (11th) - Best Decor
La Tête dans les Olives (10th)
Spring (1st)

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