The French Labour Day

The French Labour Day

Whether you give a bouquet of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers to a loved one, or participate in one of many demonstrations advocating for workers rights, May 1, also known as La Fête du Travail (Labour Day) and May Day, remains a widely celebrated and cherished holiday. As a public holiday in France, Labour Day is recognized for its rich history and traditions of appreciating others and campaigning for workers rights. While the tradition of the flowers is specific to France, celebrating and advocating for workers rights on May 1st is recognized all over the world.

 

History

In 1886, there was a demonstration by workers at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. As a general strike for the eight-hour work day, this event would become known as the Haymarket Affair. In the years that followed, efforts continued in attempts to organize an international demonstration of workers demanding the eight-hour work day. In order to organize an international demonstration, May 1 was chosen in coordination between workers across various countries as a day to collectively demonstrate and recognize the efforts of the past labour movements.

The recognition of May 1 as the day for international Worker’s rights, and as a day for demonstrations and protests meant to continue the work required to secure rights for workers all over the world, is especially significant in France’s history since it was specifically the Second International in Paris where these various countries met, and with help from the American Federation of Labor, decided upon May 1 in 1890.

To symbolize this international movement, workers and supporters of the demonstrations and protests began to wear a red triangle meant to symbolize the the three parts of the desired work day—8 hours for work, 8 hours for leisure, and 8 hours for sleep.

 

Names In France

Originally known as Fête internationale des Travailleurs (International Worker’s Day), May 1 became an internationally recognized day in 1890, dedicated to labourers and working classes, emphasizing the achievements of past labour movements. Since then, the name has changed to Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale (Work and Social Unity Day) by France’s Vichy regime during World War 2, and finally settled upon as La Fête du Travail (Labour Day) and made a public holiday in 1941.

 

May Day

However, before May 1 was known as a day for workers and labor rights, it had been celebrated for centuries as a day of seasonal change from winter to spring, as well as a day to show appreciation for loved ones. Dating back to 1561, the lily of the valley flowers became a symbol for May Day because King Charles IX had received a gift of the flowers on May 1, and was so pleased with the flowers that he decided to present a lily of the valley to the ladies of his court each year. Over time, this tradition slowly evolved into giving bouquets of lily of the valley flowers to loved ones. However, today the gift of these flowers can be seen simply as a sign of appreciation to whoever they are given.

Today, May 1 exists as a public holiday in France with most businesses being closed in recognition of the workers. However, there is still a lot of activity throughout France as families spend days picking lily of the valley flowers, celebrations are held, people plan special outings, and demonstrations take place. It is because of these deep connections to France’s history, along with the social and cultural developments also associated with Labour Day, that Left Bank recognizes May 1 as an important day for French culture.

Celebrate the French Labour Day by sharing your evening with us at one of our Bay Area locations in San Jose, Menlo Park or Larkspur.

Regional French Cuisine

Regional French Cuisine

Within authentic French cuisine, there exists vast difference and diversity in the ingredients used and the cooking styles found throughout the many regions of France. In each region, one will find a unique and authentic cuisine, based on the various traditions and cooking styles that have developed in France.

Today, we will discuss the various regional cuisines found in France, emphasizing the diversity of ingredients and flavors found in the different regions.

 

Paris and Île-de-France

As the central regions and cultural hub of France, nearly any food and cuisine type can be found in Paris and its surrounding regions. With over 9000 restaurants, many of which are Michelin rated, Paris offers a complete experience of all the different influences and styles that make up French cuisine.

 

Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace

Known mainly for its extremely popular sparkling wine, Champagne cuisine commonly includes game and ham. In addition to this, fresh fruits and preserves made from these fruits are also popular to these regions. Due to this availability of various fruits, the alcoholic beverage known as schnaps is produced in this region too, made with fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and prunes. The region of Lorraine is specifically famous for its classic quiche and apple tart. On the other hand, Alsace is very influenced from German cuisine because of their proximity to the country, leading to popular foods such as sauerkraut, as well as the production of beers similar to German beer.

Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany

As the regions making up France’s coastline, their cuisine is largely based on the abundance of seafood available, including crustaceans, shellfish, scallops, sea bass, monkfish, and herring. Along with this, these regions are known for their use of apples, which are used as ingredients in many dishes, and also commonly used to make ciders. Thick stews are a popular staple for these regions as well.

Loire Valley and central France

Similar to the regions of Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace, the Loire Valley and central France are also known for the abundance of high-quality fruits. The most common fruits found in these regions include cherries, pears, strawberries, and melons. Specialty ingredients of this region include high-quality goat cheese and rare mushrooms. Dishes are commonly made using fish and other prized proteins, such as veal and Géline fowl, and are often served with a beurre blanc sauce.

Burgundy and Franche-Comté

These regions, much like France as a whole, are well-known for their wines. Predominant proteins in this region include snails, river crabs, and poultry. Commonly paired with these proteins are various cheeses that come from the regions rich dairy supply. Specialty ingredients and dishes of this region include dijon mustard and smoked meats.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

In these regions of France, fresh produce is abundant and an extremely common ingredient in most of its recipes. This fresh produce is oftentimes paired with fish, due to the various natural streams that run through these regions. Beyond this, France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions are specifically known for high-quality sausages, and specialty cheeses such as Beaufort, Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme and Vacherin.

Poitou-Charentes and Limousin

The cuisine found in the Poitou-Charentes and Limousin regions of France is popular for its supply of fresh shellfish, including oysters and mussels. With the southern area of this region being influenced by Perigord and Auvergne, their dishes are usually robust and earthy, using high-quality meats such as the Limousin cattle and Parthenaise cattle. However, this region is most famous for being known to produce the best butter and cream in all of France.

Bordeaux, Périgord, Gascony, and Basque country

Stemming from various sources such as the Bay of Biscay, the Garonne, and the Pyrenees,  including both saltwater and freshwater fish, the seafood offered in these regions is an extremely important foundation for their cuisine. In addition, specialty grapes are found in the region of Bordeaux, allowing for the production of unique and refined wines. As regions that are heavily farm based, they also offer high-quality lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, pigeon, capon, goose, and duck. Considered unique to these regions, is the production of foie gras.

Toulouse, Quercy, and Aveyron

Commonly grown in these regions is the Haricot bean, a primary ingredient in a popular dish known as cassoulet, which is a rich, slow-cooked casserole with meat and pork skins. Additionally, a common meat used in the cassoulet is also known as one of the finest sausages in France—saucisse de Toulouse. Unique ingredients found in these regions of France include specialty truffles and mushrooms.

Roussillon, Languedoc, and Cévennes

The influence from Spanish cuisine can be seen in these areas, especially with their recipes using snails and fish. Along with this, these regions are also well-known for raising sheep and producing specialty cheese, such as Roquefort. Distinct ingredients to these regions include mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, and honey.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Known as the largest producer and supplier of popular fruits and vegetables, this region is also central to French cuisine due to their supply of a wide array of herbs. Specifically prized in this region, is the production of amazing olive oil and honey. Similar to many other regions, seafood is also abundant in this region due to the coastlines. Their cuisine is known for its use of a lot of vegetables, as well as specialty sauces made with garlic and anchovies.

Corsica

Since this region is an island, fish is extremely common to the cuisine. However, this region is also well-known for using goat, sheep, and lamb to create incredible stews and roasts. Beyond this, pork is also a popular protein used in Corsica cuisine. Clementines, nectarines, and figs are unique ingredients commonly found in the recipes.

Altogether, these regions and their unique cuisines combine to create the world-renowned, authentic French cuisine, with a diversity of flavors and degree of refinement that is distinct and exceptional. Call us now to reserve a table and experience authentic French Cuisine in the Bay Area at Left Bank Brasserie in San Jose, Menlo Park or Larkspur.

Guillaume Tirel

Guillaume Tirel

Renowned across the globe, French cuisine has been slowly developing and refining itself as a culinary practice and art of the highest quality for centuries. Many of the modern-day French techniques and traditions actually originate in collections of writings and recipes from the distant past. One of the most prominent and important names in French cuisine’s expansive history is Guillaume Tirel.

 

The Life of Guillaume Tirel

In the 14th century, Guillaume Tirel, a court chef known as “Taillevent”, wrote Le Viandier, one of the earliest recipe collections of medieval France. Even though he began his culinary career as a kitchen boy for the Queen of France in 1326, through various positions as queux, or head chef, for the royalty of France, he soon achieved the title of “premier queux,” and eventually rose to “first squire” for all the royal kitchens. As a personal chef to some of France’s highest nobility, Guillaume Tirel became one of the first master cooks to outline and record the proper techniques and preparations for haute cuisine, which refers to French cuisine of high-end establishments, and is known for its meticulous attention to details during preparation and presentation. As one of the first examples of a written guide to haute cuisine, Le Viandier is split into separate sections, each being dedicated to instructions on the preparation of various proteins and sauces, with specific attention to the proper way to spice dishes. Overall, Guillaume Tirel laid out three major foundations for proper haute cuisine, which include the use of spices, separation of the meat and fish from the sauces during preparation, and how to present a dish.

 

Haute Cuisine

During Guillaume’s time as a cook, the ingredients used in France changed as the seasons changed, with spring, summer, and fall offering an abundance of various ingredients. Among the ingredients available, certain meats were common such as beef and pork, while rare proteins such as pigeon and squab, as well as highly prized game meats such as rabbit, venison, and wild boar, were reserved for elites. Along with this, spices such as pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg were very expensive, and therefore also reserved for meals of French nobility. In this context, Guillaume Tirel had available a wide array of specialty ingredients to use in his recipes, which would not only become known as medieval French cuisine, but also the foundation for haute cuisine. Beyond the extraordinary dishes crafted by Taillevent, his cooking also became a major influence for the pairing of red wines to specific flavors and dishes.

 

One of the details that defines Taillevent’s ideas of true haute cuisine is how much emphasis he placed on presentation. A key aspect of these grand presentations was the use of various dyes and metallic leaves to color sauces and decorate meat. These dyes provided beautiful colors to the dishes that they accompanied, and were produced in colors such as green, yellow, red, and purple. Green dye was often produced using spinach and leeks, yellow came from saffron or egg yolk, red was made from sunflower, and purple came from flowers. By using these vibrant colors, along with the golden and silver leaves, chefs like Guillaume Tirel constructed recipes and dishes that were elaborate and beautiful.

 

The Legacy of Taillevent

As such a well-known and respected chef of French nobility, upon Guillaume’s death, he was buried in a tombstone created to represent him wearing armor, holding a shield and three cooking pots. Beyond this, many luxury restaurants have used his name to symbolize his legacy in their food. Overall, as one of the first professional written collections regarding French cuisine, as well as the basis for the French gastronomic tradition and haute cuisine, Guillaume Tirel’s style of cooking and his publication of Le Viandier has influenced countless generations of cooks dedicated to French high cuisine. Today we are proud to follow in Chef’s Tirel’s footsteps and all others who came since and contributed to the variety and quality of authentic French dishes. Share an evening with us and enjoy authentic French Cuisine in the heart of Silicon Valley and the North Bay.

Steak-frites

Steak-frites, meaning “steak [and] fries” in French, is a very common and popular dish served in brasseries throughout Europe consisting of steak paired with French fries. It is considered by some to be the national dish of Belgium and France, which both claim to be the place of its invention. “Steak-frites” is also known by a variety of other names in French, such as “Bifteck-frites”; all with roughly the same meaning in translation.

Historically, the rump steak was commonly used for this dish. More typically at the present time, the steak is an entrecôte also called rib eye, or scotch fillet (in Australia), pan-fried rare (“saignant” – literally “bloody”), in a pan reduction sauce, although hollandaise or béarnaise sauce are not uncommon, served with deep-fried potatoes.

Larkspur~Cooks with Books~Ayesha Curry

Sunday, September 25th, 6:30 pm

Join us at Left Bank in Larkspur as we partner with Book Passage in Corte Madera to present yet another fantastic “Cooks with Books” event featuring Ayesha Curry, author of The Seasoned Life.

[Read more…]