The French table: Theater of the absurd? (IHT)

PARIS It turns out yet again that we have got the French all wrong. Take Sunday luncheon, which we imagine all lively chat and lovely food, adorably buttery grandparents, Papa expertly carving the roast, rosy-cheeked Maman with her casserole of steaming purée, children straight-backed and scraping their plates clean.

Dream on. A family meal is a social construct more complicated than the tasks involved would suggest, says the sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann, and its study is back where sexuality was before Freud. In fact, Kaufmann reminds us, historically there have been more taboos concerning food than sex.

In his latest book, “Casseroles, amour et crises” (published by Armand Colin), Kaufmann explains that the crises are existential and adds that in our secular society the sacrificial altar has become the kitchen stove. “Cuisine is sacrifice. There may be joy but there is also pain,” Kaufmann said by telephone from Brittany, where he was planning his family’s Saturday night dinner. “Cooking is not simple. There are contradictions: Why have I spent two hours on a dish when it’s quite likely that no one will have a good word to say about it at the table?” (more…)

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