Italian influence on france haute cuisine

Jul 2016

Italy has been called the mother of the Western cuisines, and perhaps its greatest contribution was its influence on France. The crucial event was the arrival of Catherine de Médicis in France in the 16th century. The great-granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Catherine married the young man who later was to become Henry II of France. She brought with her a retinue of Florentine cooks who were schooled in the subtleties of Renaissance cooking—in preparing such elegant dishes as aspics, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, truffles, liver crépinettes, quenelles of poultry, macaroons, ice cream, and zabagliones. Catherine also introduced a new elegance and refinement to the French table. Although, during Charlemagne's reign, ladies had been admitted to the royal table on special occasions, it was during Catherine's regime that this became the rule and not the exception. Tables were decorated with silver objects fashioned by Benvenuto Cellini. Guests sipped wine from fine Venetian crystal and ate off beautiful glazed dishes. An observer reported that:
Catherine's cousin, Marie de Médicis, who married Henry IV of France, also advanced the culinary arts. An important new cookbook appeared in her time. It was called Le Cuisinier françois (1652) and was written by La Varenne, an outstanding chef, who is believed to have learned to cook in [ame][/ame]kitchens.

Caterina de Medici introduced to France many Italian dishes and habits that are now considered the hallmark of French culture.
The French still had the medieval habit of eating with a knife. Caterina had broght several dozen intricate silver forks with her from Italy. Henry’s courtiers were ridiculed for the amount of food they spilled trying to eat with the unfamiliar forks. Despite the laughter, the use of forks spread to wealthy French families eager to adopt the new Italian vogue.
Legend has it that Caterina loved spinach so much that she insisted it be included in every meal. The trusted Tuscan chefs she brought with her to Paris diligently created her beloved spinach dishes as instructed, and since then any dish with spinach in it became known to the French as 'Florentine style'.
This explains why ‘eggs Florentine’, a version of eggs Benedict with poached eggs sitting on a bed of spinach and drizzled with Hollandaise sauce on an English muffin, carries the name of the Renaissance city, yet could not be less Florentine.

This (now) traditional French dish derives its name from the Crespelle alla Fiorentina. These Florentine crêpes, are made with the same recipe and technique as French crêpes, but with a couple of important differences. They're not eaten sweet, as the French usually do, but are stuffed with a ricotta and spinach filling, folded or rolled, then covered in generous amounts of ‘Salsa Colla’ (see béchamel, below), a few spoonfuls of tomato puree, grated Pecorino cheese, then baked in the oven until golden brown.


The unappetizingly named salsa colla-literally ‘glue sauce,' or white sauce is made with flour, butter, milk and nutmeg. It too was introduced to France by Caterina. It received its current name in the XVII century when a version of the sauce was dedicated to the Marquis Louis de Béchameil, head steward to Louis XIX.

Soup d’Oignon (Onion soup),
This soup was called the Carabaccia in Florence, and one of Caterina’s favorite soups.
Caterina is also responsible for the duck à l’orange, and for educating the French on the use of olive oil, white beans, artichokes, truffle mushrooms, and figs.
Oh, and she also introduced the use of underwear among the ladies of the court. Yes, because Caterina was very fond of horseback riding, and you really need underwear if you’re to sit on a saddle…
She is also responsible for the separation between savory foods and the sweet ones (in the middle ages this separation did not exist and both coexisted on the table at the same time).
Lastly, Caterina enjoyed personally choosing the ingredients for her kitchen, and she would often accompany her cooks to the market where she had become famous as the ‘Dame de Cordon Bleu’ (the lady with the blue ribbon) because Caterina was also the Ambassador to France of the Gran Duchy of Tuscany, and the blue ribbon was – and still is – the official garment of the diplomatic envoys to a foreign country.
There is an old story in Italy, which is known to be false, but it’s too sweet to keep it out of this post: it claims the French Culinary Academy was named ‘Cordon Bleu’ as a tribute to the Italian woman who ignited the culinary passion of the French.
The story may be false, but would there be anything wrong if it were true?
Jul 2016
It seems that French haute cuisine is the Italian renaissance cuisine..


Forum Staff
Jun 2006
You're quite right, but all "national" cuisines borrow and devolop from others, southern Italian cuisine, for example borrowed from North Africa.
Jul 2016
You're quite right, but all "national" cuisines borrow and devolop from others, southern Italian cuisine, for example borrowed from North Africa.

North Africa was controlled by the romans for long long time..

The French can not claim to have invented their HAUTE cuisine..

They have to say: Thanks... CATERINA
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