One str;k;ng "'pect of French cooking, at least since the seventeenth century, is its periodic rejuvenation via various forms of "new cooking." Enunciated more often than not by its greatest practitioners, the finest and most renowned French chefs are not those who excel in executing traditional dishes to perfection but, on the contrary, ones who modernize recipes of their predecessors or, better yet, innovate and create new ones. They secure for themselves places in the culinary pantheon, often leaving their mark on a generation of cooks through their writings and/or teachings that expound views counter to those expressed by their predecessors and former masters. In this respect, Antonin Careme was not the first chef to attack the cooking of previous generations, nor would he be the last, but the methods he used to promote "modern" cookery are worth examining not only because of their consequences for the future development of cuisine in nineteenth-century France but of what they teach us about what seems to be a specifically French phenomenon-the periodic renewal of cuisine by chefs who seem to feel the need to reevaluate the state of the art roughly every fifty years. 1
To begin, since Careme believed cuisine was constantly advancing, he did not formulate rigid doctrines nor did he consider his cuisine to be the end of an evolution of the culinary arts: "My colleagues can now see undisputed proof of the advances in nineteenth century French cooking for which I have been responsible. I do not claim that this new work should bring an end to further progress in the culinary art: craftsmen who are imbued with
the true spirit of science will no doubt produce innovations; but it is my work that will have inspired them"(L'Art de la cuisine franfaise). In short, for French chefs, cuisine is by its very nature something one must improve upon (though not everyone is capable of making improvements). The "old" will, in time, cede to the new, but just how did Careme see the "old" cookery that he sought to reform? His position with regard to the great culinary traditions he describes as "old," as well as his attitude toward his own cooking, are the subjects of the following paragraphs.