It’s very easy to overrate and underrate French culture. On the underrating side, there is no shortage of material to abe found online. In fact, you only need to do some searches on YouTube to quickly stumble upon a wide range of videos that are critical of anything French.
A lot of people have a beef with French warfare proficiency. Some have a chip on their shoulder when the discussion turns to Napoleon Bonaparte. Other videos would like to make the case that France has lost its way and its culture is now passe and irrelevant. Even others make the claim that while France has a great historical legacy, we can only do retrospectives. In the minds of these commentators, there is no future worth celebrating.
Thankfully, none of the above oversimplifications and echo chamber self-talk by critics of France bear out. Indeed, contemporary French culture continues to make strides as France itself continues to take on migrants and enrich its culture due to this cross-pollination of sensibilities, priorities, preferences, and revelations, among many others.
A lot of people would say that French food is overrated because hey, let’s face it, Catherine de Medici imported Italian food and Italian cuisine and that formed the bedrock of what we now call High French cuisine.
This criticism seems to say that there is no such thing as a local variation. This criticism seems to be rooted in the unsustainable position that cuisine does not have a genealogy. It has to be uniquely indigenous for it to be truly authentic.
Now, everybody knows that this is not the case. If you need an example of a truly authentic American dish, look at the American hotdog or the American hamburger or the American taco.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, well, don’t tacos come from Mexico? Well, not necessarily because the Taco Bell food is distinctively American in the eyes of a Mexican person. Do you see how that works?
Because it’s one thing to say that an idea came from somewhere when that idea is planted in a foreign culture, don’t be surprised if strange food comes up. And it’s not strange in terms of something that you need to reject or be fearful of. It can be downright beautiful and be welcomed like Mexican food or blue jeans or french fries.
Do you see how this works? This is why it’s really important, when talking about culture, that we have the proper grounding because this is how you can adequately explain the French love affair with life. French are not neurotic. They are not so caught up with the idea of control that they worry and torture their future to death. They just need a broad overview they can wrap their minds around and they are chill for the rest of the trip.
They have a romantic soul because they have a distinctive way of looking at life that is rooted in a specific moment. And this is not just restricted to a small population of people, but this spreads easily through a society, thanks to literature, mass culture as well as daily lived cultural experiences.