Roll Over, Escoffier

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Roll Over, Escoffier

by James G. Ferguson Jr.
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 1: Spring 1997

"Ducloux was in ecstasy as he devoured the next five biscuits."

Last summer I had die good fortune to audit a course on the sociology of the South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Actually, it was a bit of an intellectual breather from five-years work on an increasingly ponderous tome concerning Burgundian culinary traditions and tradents—the latter represented by three megachefs in the region. I he course turned out to be a sort of revelation— a serendipitous epiphany, really. I discovered that despite Yankee roots, I am a southerner—which got me to musing about similarities between the part of the South I know and Burgundy. There are such obvious things as finding our familiar red clay at the monastery of Pierre que Vire just south of Vézelay. But there are fundamental social substrates as well. In this course, we heard of the importance to the southerner of sense of place (terroir in French), family ties, and religion, all of which help define the Burgundian character. I could hear Marc Meneau of L’Espérance say that the Nivernais, though politically a subdivision of Burgundy, did not belong because the cuisine was different. The famed Troisgros kitchen has three generations of family working side by side. And, were it not for the knowledge and diligent labor of Bernard of Clairvaux’s Cistercian monks and nuns, pinot noir and chardonnay would not be as avidly consumed (and grown) in the South as it is today.