Being genuinely interested in the history of French cuisine, I have recently researched how the French Revolution, in general, and the personality of Napoleon Bonaparte, in particular, influenced the culinary future of France. Even now, two centuries later, many gourmet innovations brought forth by both the Revolution and the glorious conquests of “Empereur des Francais Napoléon I”, have not lost their popularity among connoisseurs of French cuisine from all over the world.
Historical chronicles show that Napoleon Bonaparte, apparently, loved good food and ate well… His reign in the beginning of the 18th century witnessed the refinement and rise of modern-style French cooking, which was enriched by Napoléon Pastries, Chicken Marengo, and Lobster Thermidor. The famous layered Napoléon Pastries, also known as Napoléons, were created by chef Marie-Antonin Careme, who is often referred to as the father of gourmet French cuisine. Careme is also famous for their invention of puffy “chefs’ hats” and the introduction of soufflés into French cuisine of the Napoleon era.
At the same time, that period was also noted for the onset of some questionable methods of cooking and preserving food, such as canning – a truly revolutionary way to supply French troops fighting in Prussia and Russia with “quality ration”. During early military campaigns of Napoleon, scurry, starvation, and malnutrition were raging among his soldiers. Later, one of the first celebrity chefs of France, Nicolas Appert, invented the method of boiling bottled or canned food in water to stop its spoilage, for which the French government awarded him with a prize of 12,000 francs. His first commercial cannery established in Paris became a thriving business, even though the opening methods of these early preserves were far from modern. Usually, soldiers had to just smash the “cans” open with heavy rocks…
When Napoleon became a dictator of France, he also introduced a strict control over the food prices, which was a good measure to make basic staple foods accessible for the masses. The lessons of the French revolution led by hunger were obviously still fresh!