by Zoe Weisner:
Photos by Wendy Qiu
La Semaine Du Goût, which is French for Tasting Week, is an annual event held in France that many other countries have also adopted. La Semaine Du Goût started in 1989 when chefs, farmers and restaurateurs brought the rich flavors of French food to the French public. Today, it has become an event for foodies all over the world, during which they can participate in cooking workshops, cooking demonstrations, tastings and gourmet food exhibitions.
The gastronomic education of youngsters is one of the biggest priorities during La Semaine Du Goût. About 3,500 chefs are sent to French primary schools to introduce children to delicious and healthy French cooking. Outside of school, restaurants offer discounted menus for students, and special children’s menus are served during this period.
Neighborhoods become part of an initiative known as Des Repas Entre Voisins, or meals with neighbors. Each household is encouraged to cook a meal and place it on a table outside in the street so the community can appreciate the joys of home cooking. Different regions celebrate the taste of fresh local produce with markets and festivals.
“Rebecca Scholl lived in France when she was younger and experienced La Semaine Du Goût so she asked if we could do it,” French teacher Anne Jensen said. “Through connections she was able to bring chefs in elementary, middle and high school. Tasting Week makes people really think about what they eat and their health. It gives an opportunity for schools to talk about good food.” Gerald Hirigoyen, a chef at the Piperade resturant in San Francisco, taught the French Civilization and Culture class how to prepare piperade, a Basque dish with onions, red peppers and olive oil. “Each region of France has their own unique taste.” Jensen said. “Basque food is influenced by Spanish spices.”
[pullquote]”Tasting Week makes people really think about what they eat and their health. It gives an opportunity for schools to talk about good food.” —French teacher Anne Jensen
After giving students samples of the piperade dish, Hirigoyen served plates of Gateâu Basque and figs for dessert. “I want to educate people about food, to get young people to learn about traditions and become adventurous,” Hirigoyen said. “To me, food is very pleasurable. If you miss the taste your missing something in life.” When Hirigoyen finished his lessons, some students were left with a new perspective on food. “The food was really amazing,” junior Hannah Ribbe said. “I tried things I wouldn’t try in my life. I had anchovies for the first time, and it was really good.”
Jensen also appreciated Hirigoyen’s visit. “Having a French chef is good practice for my students, it lets them explore French cooking,” Jensen said. “It encourages students to look into fine dining.”
Although, as of now, Tasting Week is exclusively in Palo Alto, everyone across the country will be able to enjoy Tasting Week in the near future. “Alice Waters, an American chef, is trying to bring Tasting Week to America,” Jensen said. “Americans need to learn how to eat good food.”