Pathhers of French Cuisine – La Varenne
While it's tempting to call him the “Father” of French Cusine, in reality, Francois Pierre de la Varenne, was one of three Pathhers to the great art. The other two being Antoine Careme and Auguste Escoffier.
But it was La Varenne, who was first out of the gate. A rebel. An insurgent. Tilting against the established culinary windmills. Which, in 17th Century France were heavily rotated by the Italian cuisine of the Middle Ages. Favoring heavy doses of pungent spices. This was'nt on the menu for a guy who motto was: “Health, moderation and refinement.”
Thus, Francois Pierre deep-sixed the cinammon, cloves, myrhh and other goodies from the three wise men, and thought on the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. His (for those) times “revolutionary” idea being that the natural flavor of the ingredients should dominate, and not be smothered by and in heavy sauces.
As you would expect, vegetables now took the pole position, with meat bringing up the rear. And, ever the ground breaker, he introduced an exotic meat from the far away lands to his recipies- a thing called – Turkey.
Cleary on a roll, La Varenne replaced crumbled bread for stock with roux, introduced the first bisque and béchamel, and began using egg whites for clarification. He's also credited with an early form of Hollandaise sauce.
Not content with just all innovation and creativity, Francoise Pierre put quill to paper, and produced “Le Cuisinier Francois.” Regarded as the founding text of modern French Cuisine. In it, he systematically detailed, according to rules and principals, the considerable advances that had been made in 17th Century French Cuisine.
Tipping his toque to one of his earlier employers, the Marquis d'Uxcelles, La Varenne immortalized him by naming his creation of finely minced mushrooms season with herbs and Shallots – “Duxelles.”
Francois Pierre, however, unlike Duxelles, did not get to be immortal.
He went to that big kitchen in the sky at the age of 63. (Old for the 17th Century.) But his writings and recipies, copied, printed, re-printed continue to circulate, and most importantly – inspire.
Not a bad legacy, eh wot?
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