Cuisine is an expression of the identity and culture of the people of a particular group or geographical area through a method or style of food selection and preparation. In the English language, the word “cuisine” is a term used to define, express identity and culture through the food of people of a certain group or a certain geographical area.
Definition – Cuisine
Oddly enough, the two ‘goto’ guides in English for culinary definitions, The Larousse Gastronomique and the Oxford / Penguin Companion to Food, have no entries for the word ‘cuisine’.
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The OED defines cuisine as “a manner or style of cooking.” Macmillan’s dictionary says: “a particular style of cooking, especially that of a particular country or region.”
The concept of cuisine encompasses ingredients, customs, taste preferences. And sometimes, restrictions arising from religious or moral prohibitions or other taboos. These elements combine into a structure of techniques, habits, and expectations that form a unique, distinctive, coherent whole. What is different from other structures that arose from other conditions.
The production, preparation, and consumption of food is “an inseparable part of the culture of a particular country and… depends not only on its quality. But also permeated by human culture, including religion.”
Cuisine offers different values
Cuisine evolves to offer food that is nutritious and safe for the context of the societies in which it originates. Central American cuisines developed the nixtamalization technique to release the niacin in corn and prevent pellagra. Cooks in India have developed a technique for clarifying butter to make ghee. That allows safe, long-term storage of oil in a warm climate.
Identifying with the kitchen provides people with more than just a consistent diet to eat, bringing pleasure. But it also supports the emotional, spiritual, moral, and even intellectual values inherent in them.
Cuisine and geography
In relation to the geographical location, the cuisine is usually considered to be characteristic of that region. As a rule, cuisine is tied to a geographical region, but this is not always the case. Jewish cuisine as practiced in Europe and the US is now quite different from that practiced in Israel. And vegetarian and vegan cuisines are related to belief systems rather than geography. Some cuisines, such as Belgian, can be a fusion of cuisines. Even if this is not true of the language groups they come from.
Many cuisines that we think of as unified, such as Chinese, French, Italian, or even American, are actually general classifications of strong regional cuisines.
Traditional vs. new ingredients
Generally, the cuisine consists of traditional foods. But new cuisines that have emerged (e.g., vegan) can quickly accept new types of food, such as plant-based meat alternatives. Old cuisines can also evolve to accommodate the new types of foods that become available to them. As many European cuisines did when the potato was introduced to Europe. And along the way, they may lose certain elements. In the Middle Ages, English cooking had many sauces, which have mostly been lost and replaced by modern industrial bottled sauces.
One would assume that the ingredients typical of the cuisine would always be local, but this is not always the case. Although locally produced ingredients will obviously have a major impact for economic reasons (thus, in Northern Europe, cold-resistant spices such as cumin, dill, and mustard will be used in everyday cooking instead of tropical ones such as allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg). Trade routes that have existed for thousands of years may also have introduced the naturalization of a foreign spice to certain cuisines. For example, cardamom in Swedish pastries, and cloves and spices from dried nutmeg shells in Acadian meat dishes.
The rise and fall of cuisine
Most cuisines have been around for centuries, and some for millennia, but new ones appear over time, such as American and Australian. Some are dying out, like, for example, Roman.
Some codified cuisines, such as French high-quality cooking, are created at a specific point, based on elements that are perfected, defined and recorded. To ensure a certain reproduction of the canon with minimal deviations over time. Although problems with the canon will invariably arise.
World cuisine can also be used to refer to a stylistic range of food. The French phrase high-quality cooking means very elegant food; “la cucina povera” is an Italian expression that essentially means “poor people’s cooking”.
In French, from where English borrowed the word “kitchen”, this word has a second meaning – the part of the building in which food is actually prepared.
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