Pleasures and Pastimes of the Bourgeoisie


A Brief History of the Restaurant in France
~ Pre -revolution

~Fashion in Les Mis

~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
~Les Misérables

Etiquette ~Promenade ~Dances ~Dinner ~Casinos and Salons

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



In Paris restaurants did not become an important part of the gastronomic scene until after the Revolution. (Wheaton, 73) In the early to mid-18th centure only taverns and inns served food and drink, but even in these establishments there were no menus and no intricate dishes. Meals usually consisted of boiled or roasted meat, served without sauce, and a seasonal vegetable.

In the late 18th century came the invention of essences. Essences were what we now know of as bouillon, a condensed stock taken from the juice of cooked meat, used commonly in soups. In the 18th century there were two kinds of essences: the fonds bruns, which were extracted from beef, and the fonds clairs, which were made from veal and poultry. Soon a greater variety of essences were created using ingredients such as mushrooms, ham, and wine. At the time it was the custom to give invalids a concentrated essence to restore their strength, these were served, of course, in restaurants. (Bernier, 95) Restaurants gained their individuality through the selection of essences that they offered, and over time they began to carry more varieties of food.

In 1779 the first modern cookbook entitled La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise was published. It contained recipes and typical menus suitable for the bourgeoisie. These dishes were slightly less extravagant than those commonly served in aristocratic households. The recipes also followed certain guidelines pertaining to the availability of certain foods through out the year. (Bernier, 96)

In 1794 the Thermidorean Convention led to a period of culinary extravagance as numerous cooks were released from their service in aristocratic households. (Spang, 138) These chefs brought to the restaurants the ingenious idea of cooking meat within essences. This discovery led to the now common practice of cooking meat with its sauce.

In the 18th century tastes began change as well, and a style known as nouvelle cuisine was developed. Nouvelle cuisine was a decidedly bourgeois movement as the dishes were neither simple nor cheap. The sauces called for more intricacy and the dishes themselves were fresher and more refined. (Wheaton, 205)


La Cuisiniere, Hubert Francois Gravelot, 1759

The caption of this drawing is a short poem which reads: "New cooking every year, because every year tastes change; and every day there are new ragouts; and so you must be a chemist, Justine."


By this caption of the engraving above, we can gather that the woman depicted here is a cook in the household of bourgeois status, for a lower class family would not have a cook nor would they concern themselves with the changing styles of cuisine. Justine is having cooking explained to her, sarcastically, as a sort of chemistry. This short poem demonstrates the speed with which palates and menus began to change in 18th century France.