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A HISTORY OF FRENCH COURSES: Soups/pottages

This is the second post in a series on the history of French meal courses. The first was an overview of the subject.

The American phrase “from soup to nuts” codifies an idea that a formal meal has always started with soup. In France, this has been true just long enough to establish the concept, but not by any means for most of French history.

In modern French, soup, as a mainly liquid and usually hot dish, is known both as soupe and potage. The first term originally applied to a piece of bread put in the base of the semi-liquid dish originally known by the second – in English, "pottage". This referred broadly to anything made in a pot, most often vegetable or meat stews.

Thirteenth and fourteenth century French cookbooks and menus give no special role either to soups in our modern sense (a mainly liquid dish) nor to “pottages”. The Menagier de Paris lists menus for various meals without giving any special place to either. The only possible exception is in two menus for wedd…

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