by Sophie Gayot
Gastronomy is a very significant part of French culture, but it’s even more important today than ever before. For the first time, on September 23, 2011, the country is holding a national day dedicated to gastronomy. Frédéric Lefèbvre, French Secretary of State for Trade, SMEs, Services, Tourism, the Professions and Consumption, created La Fête de la Gastronomie to celebrate the rich diversity of the French gastronomic tradition. Each year, the Fête de la Gastronomie will be based on a theme. For 2011, it is “the Earth.”
All over the country, restaurateurs, chefs, caterers, producers, government agencies, and amateurs will showcase French cooking, French produce, and the art of entertaining à la Française. As I am writing these lines, there are over 4,400 scheduled events — and there are sure to be impromptu ones as well, such as chefs coming out of their kitchens to cook in the streets. The objective is to bring people together and inspire them to get cooking.
During Les Etoiles de Mougins, 6th Festival International de la Gastronomie, which I attended last weekend, I had the honor of being introduced to the minister Frédéric Lefèbvre by Richard Galy, the mayor of Mougins. While some politicians make a token appearance at an event, the minister stayed there for two whole days, underscoring the importance of gastronomy to France. About the Fête de la Gastronomie, Mr. Lefèbvre stated how delighted he is to see “how well this event is being supported, an event intended to give everyone an opportunity to celebrate this key component of our heritage, which embraces such values as sharing, socializing, and generosity.”
For a detailed list of the events, consult the official website http://www.fete-gastronomie.fr