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A HISTORY OF FRENCH COURSES: Roasts

This is the third post in a series on the history of French meal courses. The first was an overview of the subject. The second was a look at soups and pottages.

The idea that meat is the heart of a meal is encoded in the phrase: “the meat of the matter”; that is, the one, central, essential ingredient. It may come as no surprise that it has its roots in the barbarian ancestry of Western culture. The Romans certainly ate meat, and it was part of the principal course in a large, formal meal: the coena. But fish, notably, played a larger part. Above all, the principal course was characterized by variety, and so pork might be served with poultry, as well as fish and shellfish. Meanwhile, both the Greeks and the Romans commented, not entirely approvingly, of the barbarians’ love of meat (“barbarian” here meaning mainly Germanic groups, but also the pre-Roman Celts). For these groups, meat WAS the heart of the meal. The Germanic Franks were firmly established as masters of Gaul by the time …

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