This past March 21st marked the second annual Good France/Goût de France event, which celebrates French gastronomy through a unique event that brings together thousands of people all around the world around a meal based on the tradition and innovation of French cuisine.
Dinners served simultaneously in participating restaurants honored the merits of French cuisine, its capacity for innovation, and its values: sharing, enjoying, and respecting the principles of high-quality, environmentally responsible cuisine.
In 1912, Auguste Escoffier started Les Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners): one day, one menu, served in cities around the world, to as many guests as possible. In 2015, the first edition of Goût de/Good France took the idea further, bringing all categories of restaurants together globally. The second edition of this international event marked, once again, the concrete demonstration of French cuisine’s recent listing in the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” category by UNESCO, and its influence on the world.
This year’s event saw large increases in participation around the world. 20% more chefs worldwide took part in the event than in 2015, with a corresponding 20% increase in participation in the United States. Certain countries saw even larger increases in participation. Countries like Belgium, Cambodia, Finland, Indonesia and Poland had double the participation over 2015, and Colombia, Cuba, Nigeria, Thailand and Ukraine saw a whopping 200% increase in the number of chefs who took part. In the United States, 52 restaurants, 7 more than in 2015, celebrated this event all over the country. In total, more than 1,500 chefs took part around the globe, with events in 150 countries on 6 continents!
The French Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t miss out on the chance to take part. A Good France dinner was held at the Ambassador’s Residence, including attendance by well-known NPR radio host Diane Rehm and a presentation by Let’s Move! program director Debra Eschmeyer.
Claude Fischler, a French social scientist with the French National Science Center, gave a presentation about the French food model and the fight against obesity.
In the last fifteen years, Fischler has developed quantitative and qualitative cross-cultural comparative studies on how people think of food and health in European and Western countries. These studies show how considerably different in this respect Western countries can be, even though they show relatively similar levels of development. They suggest such differences might help understand differences in levels of obesity among otherwise similar-seeming nations. Fischler’s current focus is on the anthropology of commensality (eating together) and the role of social interactions in eating behavior.
Fischler’s talk centered on the different ways people across cultures relate to food. “Americans revere creativity and individuality more than tradition and custom,” Fischler said, quoting sociologist Daniel Lerner. Fischler also noted that French people tend to value ritual in their relationship with food and often treat meals as a social event.
Fichler added a quote from philosopher Michel de Montaigne to illustrate the point. “’One must look not so much at what one eats but with whom one eats,’” he said, adding that it’s important to “love the pleasure of society.”