For a long time, from antiquity till a century or two ago,
cooking was just a way to avoid starving to death. It was
the nineteenth century which marked the separation of
cooking into two genres.
The two categories of cooking are best distinguished by the
French. The French have two terms to identify the two
categories - normale cuisine and haute cuisine. Normale
cuisine is the practical cooking at home and haute
cuisine is cooking in the name of art, i.e. cooking to
demonstrate one's excellence in the kitchen.
The distinctions between these forms of cookery is growing
more vague over time. Today's modern home kitchens have
become better equipped with new technologies. Cooks have
become more informed and, even in their own kitchens, are
almost able to match, the cooking skills of chefs.
Haute cuisine cooking gathers different techniques and
ingredients together in an artform. Haute cuisine thrives to
gather as many aromas and subtle variations as possible to
let our taste buds discover the variations of even the most
ordinarily food. Color is also an important factor in this
type of cooking.
Until the advent of pottery about twelve thousand years ago,
cooking included few techniques to prepare food: mainly
roasting it or steaming it by the fire. This was enough not
to starve. Pottery introduced the new and revolutionary
techniques of stewing, boiling, and frying, which even
nowadays are the main building blocks of contemporary
Three major cooking styles were then developed: Italian,
Chinese, and French. The Chinese are said to have the
probably the oldest and most sophisticated style. Chinese
cooking is usually quick and fast. They are best known for
their specific frying pan which is named the wok. It was
designed to circulate heat quickly and effectively while
keeping the ingredients in constant movement.
Typically, ingredients are chopped in small pieces and they
are cooked quickly without wasting expensive fuel. Sauces
and the rich variety of aromas and flavors contribute to the
unique taste of Chinese food. Chinese food is popular also
in Japan and there are Chinese restaurants all over the
The Italians experienced shortage of fuel, too, which also
led to creating of fast and efficient ways of preparing
food. Again, the ingredients are heated for short periods of
time only. The basic ingredients are pasta, rice, corn,
tomatoes, and small meat particles.
Originally, French cooking was too spiced and too heavy. It
all changed with the arrival of an Italian-born queen called
Catherine de Medici in 1534. The queen brought along with
her crowd many Florentine chefs and bakers, along with their
more advanced equipment. They changed French cooking and
laid out new standards for Western cooks everywhere.
Today we are spoiled for choice. In many places throughout
the world, you can find all the above and more in every
combination under the sun, as a matter of course. Think how
amazed the forerunners of modern eating would be at being
presented with a modern city~s menu choices!
David Owenforth is the Operator of
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