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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

21. The Riches of European Cuisine

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1Louis-Antoine Caraccioli, maintains in Paris, the Model of Foreign Nations, or French Europe that French cuisine has contributed to a general enrichment of culinary habits in Europe. Thus, he offers a glimpse of the future importance of French gastronomy.

On Dining

2Nobody will contest that it is most certainly to the French that Europe owes both the inestimable honour of no longer drowning all good reason in wine, and the virtue of delicate dining. I know that the Italians never indulged in the excesses of drunkenness; but since they do not host grand dinners, and one of the principal virtues of Italian nobility is sobriety, we cannot attribute to them the glory of having banished drunkenness from banquets.

3In years gone by, a foreigner who travelled to Germany and to Poland, and who found himself invited to dine with society’s elite, would offend those present if he did not drink. He would be forced to follow the example of his companions, and to drink to the health of the living, and even of the dead; since by the end of the evening, few really knew what they were saying.

4This strange custom has now been abolished, and were it not for the excellence and variety of wines that make German feasts superior to French banquets, it might be said that no more is drunk in Warsaw or in Prague than in Paris. Only the English are yet to relinquish this bad habit; which makes no small contribution to slowing down their progress in the sciences.

5Whether through encounters with French ambassadors, or by visiting France themselves, foreigners have finally learned that temperance is the special virtue of the gentry, and if on occasion one might happen to sip the finest of wines, and reach a point of merriment, it is detestable to lose one’s reason and senses. Nonetheless, we cannot deny that our meals have become rather tedious since we have been so concerned with intellectual conversation, and that it is only the delicious food that sustains them; but it is such excellent food…

6How disagreeable it once was to dine among the Russians, but how free, and how pleasant is that experience now! Nowadays, they hold interesting conversations, laugh with ease, dine delicately, and this is yet another French miracle.

7They have been supping in Milan, since Marshal de Villars introduced the custom of hosting dinners there; they feast in Turin as in a country that borders Grenoble and Lyons, and in Rome itself, following the good example set by French ambassadors, they are beginning to know what it is to eat delicious food, and at times, even to relish it.

8‘Please do me the honour of dining with me’, a Neapolitan says amicably to a friendly traveller of his acquaintance. ‘We will number fewer than the Muses but more than the Graces, just as many as are required for the conversation to be general and not too loud’.

9‘Ah!’ replies the Foreigner, ‘it is not a Neapolitan who invites me but a Frenchman: when one receives such a pleasant invitation, it is in Paris and not in Naples that one surely finds oneself’.

10Louis-Antoine Caraccioli,
Paris, the Model of Foreign Nations, or French Europe (1777).

Read the free text in the original language (1777 edition):​ark:/12148/​bpt6k1156961
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