Pleasures and Pastimes of the Bourgeoisie

PLEASURES AND PASTIMES OF THE BOURGEOISIE

Economic and Social Symbolism of Restaurants in 18th Century France
Fashion
~ Pre -revolution
~Sumptuarylaws
~Post-revolution

~Fashion in Les Mis


Restaurants
~Rise in Popularity
~Economic and Social Symbolism
~Representation in Les Mis

Gardens ~17th Century ~18th Century ~19th Century ~Versailles

Gambling ~Pre-Revolutionary ~Cafés & Cercles

Opéra & Theatre
~The Revolution
~Social Status
~Politics
~Les Misérables

Etiquette ~Promenade ~Dances ~Dinner ~Casinos and Salons

Bibliography ~Fashion ~Etiquette ~Restaurants ~Opéra ~Picture Bibliography

 

 

In the 18th century dietary habits had the ability to mark membership in a social group. The bourgeoisie used the influence of culinary habits as another way of presenting an aristocratic image. The private banquets of the bourgeoisie and their forays to restaurants served to boost their social status by exemplifying their wealth and "savoir faire."

The Royal Family:

Many republican pamphlets and publications focused on depicting the corruption and weakness within the Royal family through images of their eating habits. In numerous anti-monarchial pamphlets the King was portrayed as suffering from a "moronic and short-sighted bul emia that made him no match for the honest, abstemious, and responsible Constitutional Assembly." (Spang, 123) In particular, the night of Louis XVI's Flight to Varennes has historically been within the context of gastronomy. On the June 21, 1791 Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, the royal children and the royal entourage fled Paris. In response to their flight, some revolutionary posted a "Lost Pig" notice in the Tuileries Garden. (Spang, 127) However, in Varennes the entourage was stopped by the procureur, a grocer-candlemaker, Monsieur Sauce. Sauce was to become a key character in reports of the King's arrest. Although accounts vary throughout 19th century retellings, almost all focus on the detail of Sauce's hospitality. One eyewitness account describes the King eating Sauce's cheese and toasting Sauce with his own Burgundy. The official version published by the Imprimerie Nationale reports that the King ate several meals before his captive return to Paris. (Spang, 125)

 

The Glutton, or Big Birds Fly Slowly. Unknown, 1791, A highly satirical version of King Louis' arrest at Varennes. Louis is is enjoying his dinner, seated beneath a painting of the storming of the Bastille when officials enter with a warrant for his arrest. Louis responds with "I don't give a fuck about all that. Leave me in peace." To further mock the royal family's gluttony, the heir to the throne is seated, grimacing, on a chamberpot.

 

Whether depicting King Louis XVI's flight to Varennes or simply commenting on his neglect of the French citizens, Louis was often characterized with porcine features. Also popular were scenes of Louis eating pig's feet, one of his favorite dishes. Between these two images the republicans were insinuating the King's cannibalistic tendencies.

 

In this drawing by an unidentified artist, the aristocratic right reads about "Feudal Rights" and the Republican left studies "The Rights of Man" while the "Belly" steals from both. This image demonstrates the common feeling of many French citizens who opposed restaurants because those who frequented these establishments were showing a deliberate display of wealth and a disregard for France's suffering lower classes. Members of the sans-culottes despised restauranteurs due to the belief that they had "no greater enemy than these voracious creatures who daily gulp down our money...so that we may obtain the necessities of life." (Spang, 122) This opinion was echoed by Mercier who felt that "aristocratic delicacies corrupted republican decency and contaminated honest citizens." (Spang, 142), This concern carried over into the public's opinion that Louis XVI's "crime was both moral and economic." (Spang, 127)

 

The Estates General:

Le Diner des Deputes, L. Alexandre DeVerite, 1789

The caption to this painting states, "That's right...separate checks," says one representative of the Three Estates.

 

In the eighteenth century some publications depicted the shifting of economic and social responsability within the Estates General through restaurant scenes. In the drawing above, a request for three separate checks shows the Upper Estates finally paying their share instead of letting the Third Estate carry the responsability, as in the past. Popular belief rumored that a meal between the Three Estates would ease any disagreements