French cuisine in cookbooks

The construction of “cuisine” in French, Belgian and Dutch cookbooks, 2nd half 19th-century – 1914 (preliminary title).

Nathalie Parys

Since the 1970s cookery books have received increasing amount of attention within the field of food studies. Initially the focus was on the presence of certain ingredients and dishes in cookbooks from the Middle Ages and Modern Times. As of the late 1990s and especially after 2000 focal point shifted to cookery books as social and cultural spaces (Gvion, 2009), as places of construction of identity and cuisine. It is within this context that the current research is located. Which cuisine or cuisines are being constructed in French, Belgian and Dutch cookbooks? Do the findings tally with the prevailing image that exists on the Belgian ‘Burgundian cuisine’, that supposedly leans on the French cuisine, on the one hand and on the rational, frugal Dutch cuisine on the other (Scholliers, 1999)? Which identities, in terms of nationality, regionality and social classes, are evident in these cookbooks and what are the differences and/or similarities between the cuisines being presented in the French, Belgian and Dutch cookery books? The concept of “cuisine” has multiple interpretations within secondary literature (Goody, 1982; Mintz, 1996; Ferguson, 2004). Within this current research cuisine will be examined based on the titles of dishes (international, national, regional), de division and share of the different types of dishes (soups, meat, pastry, …) and the comments that accompany every recipes (on taste, health, manner of serving, ways of conservation,…). The starting point of this study lies in the second half of the 19th-century, seeing as the first cookbook originating on Belgian soil, was only published in 1861. The beginning of World War I constitutes the end, since as of this moment a whole different type of cookery books appeared, namely wartime cookery books. These constituted a rupture with the preceding period, seeing that the origin, the goal and the cuisine being constructed in these cookbooks, were from an entirely different kind.