Three Cuisines
January 3, 2004 2:46 AM   Subscribe

I had dinner in a Mexican restaurant a while back, and the menu made this claim: There are only three true "cuisines" in the world, French, Chinese, and Mexican which predates the other two. In that case, can anyone explain to me what "cuisine" means, and how it differs from just meaning "style of food"? Why, apparently, is there technically no such thing as "Italian cuisine" or "Indonesian cuisine". Or am I just placing too much faith in Mexican restaurant menus?
posted by Jimbob to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
That's offensively stupid. I hear the same thing all the time, in reverse, when Koreans, as they often do, decide to tell me why their food (or whatever) is better than anyone else's. I have no patience for it.

Did you know that kimchi cures SARS? [/rolleyes]

I'll admit the possibility that the word cuisine, which is French if I'm not mistaken, has some specificity of meaning of which I'm unaware. If your menu was claiming, though, that all ethnic and national styles of food emanate from one of the three national styles mentioned (which are far from monolithic), well, that's just silly, I'd say.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:52 AM on January 3, 2004

Oddly, the culinary school finder lists only four ethnic themes: French, Italian, Mexican and Thai.

Still, I agree with stavros that this is most likely a half-truth (these are all certainly major cuisines) distorted by the warped lens of ethnic pride.
posted by vacapinta at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2004

Response by poster: I don't think it was claiming that all other styles came from either French, Mexican or Chinese. Rather, that these styles were somehow unique and more advanced than the others (what, with French people force feeding ducks through tubes, then doing disturbing things to their livers...)
posted by Jimbob at 3:19 AM on January 3, 2004

Obviously every group of people has its own style of food; I think the term "cuisine" is normally taken to refer to a style that has spread beyond its native habitat and to some extent codified. (If they have a shelf devoted to it in Barnes & Noble, it's a cuisine.) The statement in the menu is silly (and let this be a lesson to all of you: don't get your education from restaurant menus!), but don't be too hard on the Mexicans—they're just trying to get some respect for their truly great food. (I recommend Diana Kennedy's books for anyone who thinks Mexican = glop with rice-n-beans on the side; also, burritos are not Mexican but Cal-Mex.)
posted by languagehat at 7:28 AM on January 3, 2004

I'd imagine that Chinese cuisine far predated Mexican and - anyway - what about Basque cuisine? Scottish? (Haggis, anyone?..)
posted by troutfishing at 10:25 AM on January 3, 2004

Did you know that kimchi cures SARS? [/rolleyes]

/insert mandatory, lame kimchi-fart joke here/
posted by matteo at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2004

Julia Child has been quoted as saying that French and Chinese are "the two great cuisines of the world" (see the beginning of the third paragraph. The article itself is a pretty interesting read, too.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:33 PM on January 3, 2004

And, of course, I screwed up the link. Here it is.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:48 PM on January 3, 2004

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