The French gourmet meal… beyond delicious cuisine, it also represents an attachment to good food, conviviality, and the pleasure of coming together to eat and drink well. To celebrate this UNESCO-recognized intangible cultural heritage—and bring it to life—Pointe-à-Callière is devoting an entire exhibition to this inexhaustible and delectable subject. The new exhibition Dinner is Served! The Story of French Cuisine, presented from June 6 to October 13, 2019, pays tribute to the captivating story of the French gastronomic meal, from Gallo-Roman times to the present day.
Visitors will journey across centuries in a historic environment, exploring the particularities of French cuisine—the quality of its ingredients, the know-how of its artisans, its regional specialities, its traditions, as well as current trends. Pointe-à-Callière's exhibition will introduce visitors to various political figures, artists, and great chefs who have shaped or even revolutionized the country's culinary arts. Like the French, who—both rich and poor—devote the most time to meals worldwide, visitors will also be able to take some time to contemplate and appreciate all of the richness of France's culinary culture.
"The French gastronomic meal is an extremely rich subject that has seldom been addressed in museums around the world. Visitors will have the chance to admire nearly a thousand exceptional objects rarely shown together in one place. This exhibition rises to the challenge of highlighting, illustrating and explaining the intangible heritage that is the French meal. What is wonderful is that by retracing the history of gastronomy, it reveals and gives shape to the history of France before our eyes," explains Francine Lelièvre, Executive Director of Pointe-à-Callière.
The exhibition will feature, among other things, very delicate porcelain and glassware, kitchen accessories used in French homes in the 18th century and collectibles from prestigious French museums as well as the House of Hermès, Christofle and the Crystal manufacture of Saint-Louis. It will illustrate the introduction of certain ingredients that enriched French dishes over the years, such as spices, salt, sugar, tea, coffee, and chocolate, and take a look at the place that certain vegetables—like green beans and potatoes—have taken on in French meals. Of course, the exhibition will also examine the development of several renowned French alcoholic products that have excited taste buds for many generations!
Through video projections, visitors will get to meet different people: Maître Chiquart, who will talk about the meals he created for a great banquet that lasted three days in the Middle Ages; gardener Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, in charge of growing fruits and vegetables at the Palace of Versailles for King Louis XIV; and Marie-Antoinette, who loved everything "natural" and especially adored goat's milk and fresh cheese. Visitors will also get to attend an improbable tasting during which Voltaire, Churchill, Rabelais, Thomas Jefferson, Colette, and Napoleon 1st will discuss their love of wine. Lastly, visitors will be able to test their culinary knowledge in various quizzes and send themselves some recipes from the Middle Ages.
When was the fork first introduced? What is the difference between service à la française and service à la russe? How did a widow improve upon champagne, a bottle of which is open every two seconds in the world? How did a guide originally geared to motorists become the foremost reference on the quality of gourmet restaurants? How have chefs risen to the ranks of celebrity? Foodies, seasoned and amateur cooks, as well as fans of the culinary arts will satisfy their curiosity and better understand how important French gastronomic heritage is for our cuisine here at home and around the world.
—Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Museum of Archaelogy and History