Of Traiteurs and Tsars

Potel et Chabot and the Franco-Russian Alliance

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Author:
Willa Z. SilvermanPenn State University wzs1@psu.edu

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Between 1893 and 1901, the Parisian traiteur Potel et Chabot catered a series of gala meals celebrating the recent Franco-Russian alliance, which was heralded in France as ending its diplomatic isolation following the Franco-Prussian War. The firm was well adapted to the particularities of the unlikely alliance between Tsarist Russia and republican France. On the one hand, it represented a tradition of French luxury production, including haute cuisine, that the Third Republic was eager to promote. On the other, echoing the Republic’s championing of scientific and technological progress, it relied on innovative transportation and food conservation technologies, which it deployed spectacularly during a 1900 banquet for over twenty-two thousand French mayors, a modern “mega-event.” Culinary discourse therefore signaled, and palliated concerns about, the improbable nature of the alliance at the same time as it revealed important changes taking place in the catering profession.

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