Catherine de Medici
1519 – 1589
In 1533 when Catherine de Medici was 14 years old, she married King Henry II and moved to France. The though of leaving her beloved sophisticated Florence and moving to unrefined France gave her chills. She, therefore, brought with her several cooking paraphernalia, the “fork” in particular, as well as several master Florentine cooks to keep l’arte della cucina alive in the French Royal Palaces.
Food never before seen in France was soon being prepared using utensils instead of just fingers, spoons and daggers. She introduced the French to spinach, aspics, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, truffles, liver crepinettes, quenelles of poultry, macaroons, ice cream and zabaglione just to name a few things.
In later years, she gained considerable politcal influence and was considered the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe.
The Florentine cooks stayed with her for many years and they trained les garcons de cuisine to become great cooks. In due time, a new art form was created and prospered.
Credit must be given to our French cousins for taking this cultural import and elevating it to an art-form that we now call “Haute Cuisine”
Next time you visit a French restaurant say Mille Mercis to Caterina de Medici.