Socio-Ethnology of French Cuisine

Institut Catholique de Paris

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Socio-Ethnology of French Cuisine

  • Host University

    Institut Catholique de Paris

  • Location

    Paris, France

  • Area of Study

    Anthropology, History, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    The objective of this course is to give students grounding in the sociology and ethnology of French Cuisine. Understanding the ancestral development of one French socio-cultural specificity: French cuisine and French eating. We will be understanding French sociability, education, etiquette, taste through its cuisine and the way the French eat. We will analyze the transmission of French Cuisine through generation as well as the incorporation of new taste and techniques into the French diet today showing the inercultural development of French diversity. Through culinary lenses, students will grasp the development of French identity at home and abroad. This class will therefore use the student's close daily environment and Paris as a classroom in order to have a multi-disciplinary and multi-sensorial approach to French gastronomy. 



    Students are expected to read the relevant course material for each class. Students are askd to expose themselves to as many French gastronomic cultural experiences as possible. 

    Students have to complete the given assignments: 
    -Comments and personal assessment of the week's topic based on the reading of the core texts.

    -Two 20/30 minute (tasting included) oral presentations in class on a topic related to the topic of the course based on personal research. 

    -Midterm exam.

    -A final reading and research paper (6 pages minimum plus a bibliography and a 5 minute oral summary). 



    The majority of texts will be handed out in class and audiovisual documents will also be used. 

    Recommended reading:

    Jean-Robert Pitte, French Gastronomy- the Hisotry and Geography of a Passion, Colombia University Press, 2002. 



    Susan Pinkard, A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800, Cambrige University Press, 2010.

    Barbara Ketcham, Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789, Touchstone, 1992. 

    Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Accounting for Taste- The Triumph of French Cuisine, University of Chicago press, 2006

    Mennell, Stephen (1996). All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

    Maguelonne Toussaint-Sama, History of Food, Blackwell, 1992.

    Steven L. Kaplan, Good Bread is Back: A Contemporary History of French Bread, The Way it is Made and the People Who Make it, Duke University Press, 2015.

    Ghislaine Bavoillot Ed., Paris Patisseries: History, Shops, Recipes, Flammarion, 2010. 

    Claude Fischler, Selective Eating: The Rise, The Meaning and Sense of "Personal Dietary Requirements," Odile Jacobm 2015. 

    Christian Vincent's Les Sauveurs du Palais, 2012



    The final grade for the course will be based on student performance on the following tasks: Presence and participation, oral presentations, midterm and reading and research paper. 

    NB: Students are required to be present for tests and to hand in their papers at the scheduled time. Late papers are penalized. 


    Attendance is essential and checked on a daily basis. Only two unjustified absences will be accpeted and all "justified" absences must be documented. The final evaluation will take both absences and repeated unpunctuality (three "lates" count as one absence) into account. Students who are late (i.e. who show up during or after attendance is being checked) should see the instructor after class so that they are marked as "late present" 


    Dates and Topics 

    1. 11/02/2020

    Introduction: Syllabus Presentation, Self Introduction, Setting Class Rules, Oral Presentation Scheduling. 

    Eating: a primitive, biological, social and cultural behavior.

    Time and Space in France. 

    Scavenger Hunt in Lafayette Gourmet.

    Homework: Read Jean-Robert Pitte, Pg. 1-11


    2. 18/02/2020 

    Introduction to French Gastronomic History, from Antiquity to the 16th Century. 

    Oral Presentations: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsacian, Loire, Côtes du Rhone wines, French wine market. 

    Homework: read Jean-Robert Pitte, pg. 69-85.


    3. 25/02/2020

    French Gastronomic History, 17th, 18th, 19th Centuries.

    Film: Roland Joffé, Vatel, 2000. 

    Oral Presentations: Antonin Carême, Auguste Escoffier (Ritz).

    Homework: Read Jean-Robert Pitte, pg. 115-132


    4. 10/03/2020

    French Gastronomic History, 20th and 21st Centuries. 

    Oral Presentations: Chef Paul Bocuse, Chef Michel Guérard, Chef Auguste Escoffier, Chef Thierry Marx. 
    Historical Walking tour from Palais Royal to rue Montorgueil.

    Homework: Read Jean-Robert Pitte pg. 143-158


    5. 17/03/2020

    The French Gastronomical Meal as a UNESCO's intangible World Patrimony. Cultural Transmission and Table Manners. 

    Documentary: Paul Lacoste's Entre Bras. La Cuisine en Héritage, 2011. 

    Homework: Review for midterm.


    6. 24/03/2020 

    Midterm Exam. 

    A French Specificity: Chocolate.

    Film: Lasse Hallström's Le Chocolat, 2000. 

    Homework: Read Maguelonne Toussaint-Sama, pg. 552-562 on sugar. 


    7. 31/03/2020

    A French Specificity: Chocolate.

    Oral Presentations: History of Chocolate in France, Chocolate in France (Paris) today. 

    Homework: Read Maguelonne Toussaint-Sama, pg. 113-124 on Dairy Products. 


    8. 07/04/2020 

    Les Cuisines du Terroir in France (Regional Cuisine). 

    Oral Presentations: La Cuisine in Alsace, La Cuisine in Normandy, La Cuisine in the Southwest of France (foie gras, truffles). 
    Homework: Research on final paper. 


    9. 05/05/2020

    Ethnic Food in France: the Case of Couscous.

    Oral Presentations: Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian) cuisine in France, Middle Eastern cuisine in France, Indian cuisine in France, Mexican cuisine in France, American (USA) cuisine in France.

    Homework: research for final paper. 


    10. 12/05/2020

    Vegetarianism, Veganism, Organic Food, Health and Food in France. 

    Oral Presentations: Vegetarianism/veganism in France, Animal Protection in France, Organic food in France, what is a balanced diet in France? 

    Debate: Food and Ethic, reading from Claude Fischler. 

    Homework: Finalize final paper and its oral presentation. 


    11. 19/05/2020, at my home, 5 pm-9pm

    Oral presentation of each reading and research paper. 

    Sharing and tasting our culinary discoveries and recipes. Farewell dinner. 

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.