Lyon, International City of Gastronomy
Created in the wake of UNESCO’s inclusion of the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ on the list of intangible cultural heritage, the ‘International City of Gastronomy’ label is now taking shape.
If you are something of a gourmet and love anything to do with gastronomy, in two years’ time, the only reason you’ll have for going to Lyon will be to feast at its famous ‘bouchon’ restaurants and spend your Sunday wandering along the banks of the Rhône in search of the best delicacies stallholders have to offer to their foodie customers.
This is all because 2018 is the year that Lyon will officially be launched as an International City of Gastronomy. The project was first presented last April and was developed by a committee presided over by chef Régis Marcon. What does it aim to do? To examine how gastronomy plays an integral part in the world today and will in the future, with food and health as the guiding thread. The site will host exhibitions, cultural events, venues for discovery and demonstrations, a hotel, restaurants and shops, conveying a ‘modern vision of gastronomy’.
This city for food lovers will be created in the Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital declared a historic monument in November 2011. It will cover 3823 m2 between the Rhône and Place Bellecour. The project is budgeted at 19 million euros. The public authorities will cover one third of this investment, and private funds the remaining two thirds.
Lyon is one link in a network of four Cities of Gastronomy, alongside Tours, Paris-Rungis and Dijon. This quartet aims to offer an original and effective tool for transmitting and enhancing French gastronomic heritage. Each of the Cities of Gastronomy has prepared a specific programme. The ‘nutrition and health’ theme will take a leading role at the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon. The site at Paris-Rungis, the ‘belly’ of Paris, will be dedicated to everything connected with the organisation of markets and their activities, using its own halls of gastronomic treasures.
Meanwhile, Tours is collaborating with the Université François-Rabelais and will act as a hub for the field of human and social sciences. Finally, Dijon will work closely with L’Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin (French institute of vine sciences) and the UNESCO Chair in the ‘Culture and Traditions of Wine’ to become a reference point for the development and promotion of growing vines and of wine. Currently, the Lyon project is the furthest advanced.
The ‘Gastronomic Meal of the French’
The UNESCO intergovernmental committee has included the ‘Gastronomic Meal of the French’ on its list of intangible cultural heritage. For UNESCO, French gastronomy is a “customary social practice for celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups.” Beyond the dishes themselves, it is social practices that define meals in France: the sense of togetherness, sharing, pairing of wine, and a connection with the terroir.
The gastronomic meal emphasises conviviality, the pleasure of taste and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good and preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the pairing of food with wine; decorating the table; and specific actions as you eat, such as sniffing and taste-testing the dishes. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an aperitif and ending with liqueurs, comprising at least four successive courses in between, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert.