chapter  11
Feeding the People
ByHugh Clout
Pages 25

The mosaic of agricultural production during the early years of the July Monarchy was mirrored by an equally complex pattern of food consumption as 33,500,000 people survived on the cereals, 'special crops' and livestock products that France generated. In a context of virtual self-sufficiency in basic foodstuffs but limited opportunities to transport commodities over long distances, spatial variations in the quantity and quality of diet provided an eloquent commentary on the diversity of agricultural systems, on their efficiency as a means of food production, and on the relative well-being of the consuming population. For most Frenchmen eating consisted of 'a lifetime of consuming bread . . . still more bread and gruels'. 1 In many parts of the countryside meat was a rarity that was eaten perhaps only once or twice a week and then it was most likely to be some cured or salted form of pigmeat. 'Butcher's meat' was 'still considered to be an object of luxury and was not regarded as indispensable to life or even to health'. 2 In many villages it was eaten only on the local patron saint's day, when the harvest was safely home, or if an unexpected shortage of winter fodder required cattle to be slaughtered and eaten or salted for later use. Fish, poultry and game were consumed in greatly varying quantities depending on the local environment and contributed some animal protein to what was a largely meatless diet for the majority of Louis-Philippe's subjects.