The Evolution of Gastronomy

Rome and the Middle Ages

Initially, the Romans had no cooks, because food was prepared by bakers.

Conversely, the Gauls already had cooks, who specifically prepared food.

After they immigrated to Gaul, the Franks and the Merovingians couldn't be said to have a fine cuisine, and the same can actually be said of the entire medieval gastronomy.

France

Under King François I (1515-1547), gastronomy became much more extensive in France, and the influence of the Italian Renaissance began to be noticeable. In his castle of Amboise in the Loire Valley, table luxury went to extremes, and the most brilliant banquets were given.

Catharina de Medici

But the royal families of Fontainebleau did just as good.

When Catherine de Medici married the French king Henry II, she brought her Italian cooks , and especially her pastry and ice cream chefs to France. This advanced the art of cooking with giant strides.

In 1570, she offered a banquet to the Polish ambassadors who came to offer the crown of Poland to her son, the Duke of Anjou.

In the middle of the dining room, a silver rock had been placed, above which were sixteen clouds. On these clouds sat the sixteen most beautiful women of the court, and each portrayed a French province.

There was even an internal mechanism in the rock, so that it turned, and everyone could freely admire all of the ladies in detail...

Germany

In 1660, the Elector Ferdinand Maria of Bavaria-Munich offered a dinner to the Bishop of Salzburg.

The food was presented in bowls, made of pure gold and enamel. If the course suggested a fleet, then the bowls would be in the form of a ship. If the course suggested an army, then the bowls would be in the form of tents and an encampment !

The guests were full of admiration for such luxury, but they were far less happy about the bad service and over the food itself, which was cold.

And even though the decoration was brilliant, people still ate with their fingers !

Filippo Strozzi
Filippo Strozzi

Italy

The Italians did just as well as the French and the Burgundians.

In 1483, Cardinal Pietro Riario, the Pope's favorite nephew, gave several famous banquets for the celebration of Princess Eleanor of Aragon.

The first dishes were announced with trumpets. After that appeared fish, capons and pheasants, entire calves and goats, deer, complete with skin and hair, and even a bear !

Select wines were served in golden goblets, and even the bread was covered with gold and silver. The meal concluded with a fantastic theater performance.

Competition against such an extravagant wealth was impossible, and so others sought it in the bizarre.

In 1535, the Florentine banker Filippo Strozzi received his guests in a room, completely lined with black, of which the decoration consisted in skeletons and lit skulls ! The table was also decorated with bones, and the plates consisted of skulls.These were actually intended as a surprise, because they contained the most expensive food !

By now however, the guests had completely lost their appetite by this lugubrious affair.  Great was the astonishment, when the host then opened the doors to another room, with exquisitely laden tables stood under a sparkling sky !

Cutlery

Only around 1588, forks came into use at the royal table, thanks to King Henri III. He actually used the fork to keep his beautifully starched high collar immaculate for longer...  Nearly half a century later, Cardinal Richelieu introduced the table knife with a rounded blade.

Mayonnaise

According to legend, in 1756 Cardinal Richelieu's cook invented the mayonnaise sauce , in the small harbor of Mahon (hence Mayonnaise?) on Minorca.

However, this sauce is much older. Ages ago, the Phoenicians used a cold, thick sauce of sesame oil and egg yolks. Also, in the French Provence and since time immemorial, a sauce exists that is made of eggs and oil.

Probably, the name of mayonnaise stems from the medieval French word for egg yolk, which was le "moyeu " !

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