Michael Ruhlman, The Soul of a Chef

Somewhere in the midst of this celebration of French cuisine in all its glory, I found the most plausible explanation for why I do not and have never particularly cared for French food. The majority of French cooking, even the highest of Escoffier-and-descendants haute cuisine, comes from a variety of methods to compensate for using undesirable parts of animals and dealing with less-than-fresh foods. One cooks vegetables to mush in order to make them palatable; one cooks terrines and galantines in order to disguise undesirable cuts or the last remnants of something; one adds butter and salt for the same reason fast food restaurants do (they taste good), and every dish needs a sauce so you taste the sauce and not so much the food underneath.

Well, there you go: people who have cooked for long enough know that Asian or Mexican markets (or whichever markets are favored by recent immigrants from Asia or Latin America) will have the best, and cheapest, produce because their clientele demands it; lightly cooked dishes of fresh ingredients feature prominently in each. Italian food centers around so few ingredients that "fresh" and "highest possible quality" are understood as starting points for everything. All of these are compatible with 21st century globalized American life in a way French simply is not, so it's not surprising that tastes have shifted in the direction of these options. They may undergo changes in method and technique, but don't require nouvelle as French did in order to learn not to overcook a carrot.

An incidental question that discussions of culinary history always bring up: most places have cows, pigs, chickens. Almost all of these cuisines will talk about how a preference developed for sweetbreads and tougher pieces of meat because they were cheaper and more readily available. This always makes me wonder: where did the good cuts go? Who exactly is eating them? (Presumably they're not being wasted) Why do regional cuisines, presumably composed by farmers and town-dwellers, not feature them? I could understand omitting meat entirely, if animals need to work or provide other things, but once you're killing the cow anyway, it still has a tenderloin, which presumably is still a muscle that never gets worked, right?

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