Musée d'Orsay: The Art of Eating in the 19th Century

The Art of Eating in the 19th Century

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Tin
Tin of sardines, Vincent Colin in Nantes© Ville de Nantes, A. Guillard
Set up exceptionally in the spectacular decorated ballrooms of the former Orsay station Hotel, near today's museum restaurant, this exhibition is intended to give a panorama of table arts in 19th-century urban France. This subject is rarely tackled, though it was during this period that most of today's culinary conventions first appeared.

painting
Jacques-Emile BlancheContemplation© Floride, St Petersburg, Museum of Fine Arts
The 19th century, that saw the invention of canning by Benjamin Appert (1749-1841), a real culinary revolution, was also the century when people started to eat regularly potatoes, rice and pasta, ice cream, fresh fruit and vegetables, and white coffee with toast for breakfast. During the same period, the times of meals also changed to resemble those of today. French-style service inherited from royal meals was progressively replaced by the service à la russe, in which all guests eat the same course at the same time. Luxury of presentation stayed, thanks to the democratisation of table silver and decoration permitted by corporations such as Christofle. It is also in the nineteenth century that the modern restaurant appeared, with menu, bill, private tables and service without fixed times, which made it equally a privileged place for the Human Comedy.

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