A Brief History
On June 4, 1411, King Charles IV of France granted a monopoly to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for the ripening of Roquefort cheese. Today, what we call “bleu cheese” is basically Roquefort cheese that is not from Roquefort, as only the cheese from that original location is allowed to bear that name. Many good things have come from France (uh-oh, do we need a sequel list?) and Roquefort/bleu cheese is just one of them. Here we list 10 of the absolute best things from France. There are so many people and things to consider any list is sure to omit something or someone you hold dear. (Note: Marie Curie was Polish, from Poland, and merely married a Frenchman.)
10. 75mm Howitzer.
Also known as Canon de 75 Modèle 1897 this gun incorporated a secret recoil management system that allowed it to be rapidly fired without having to reset the aim. During World War I, the firepower and accuracy of this gun saved the allies many times over, one of if not the most important allied weapon of the war. Regarded as the first truly modern artillery piece, it served as normal artillery as well as the main delivery means of poison gas shells and even as an anti-aircraft gun (truck mounted). In 1918 it was used as the main gun on the Saint-Chamond tank. Probably the greatest weapon ever produced by France, there is even a cocktail named after it called French 75.
No, not the emperor, the brandy and the pastry is what we mean! Cognac is the king of brandy, made to exacting French specifications, the favorite drink of Napoleon Bonaparte, Leon “The Ladies Man” Phelps, and sophisticated gentlemen everywhere. The Napoleon pastry is a three layered bit of heaven for the palate in any of its variants. Oh, and Napoleon Bonaparte was probably among the top 3 military leaders of all time.
8. Statue of Liberty.
A gift to the people of America from the people of France, this massive statue was dedicated in 1886. Welcoming the throngs of immigrants to New York the statue quickly became the very symbol of America to Americans and the rest of the world (like the Eiffel Tower is to France). The statue itself is 151 feet tall, and with the base is over 300 feet. Over 3 million people a year visit this national treasure.
Originally from Germany, it took France to perfect this wonderful pastry. A pie crust filled with a mixture of custard and cheese, vegetables, various meats, mushrooms, spinach, etc., there is a variety to please most people. Jokingly referred to as food “real men” do not eat, quiche makes a great breakfast or lunch dish for children, women, or even the manliest of men.
6. Jules Verne.
Sure, there are plenty of French writers, but Verne has captivated readers around the world for over 100 years like no other. His books such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days have also been made into major motion pictures over and over again. Only Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare are more often translated into other languages. He is often referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction.”
5. Louis Pasteur.
One of the first scientists that really understood the importance of microbes, Pasteur gave us the vaccines for rabies and anthrax, saving many lives. It was his invention of pasteurization that made milk, wine, beer and other food and drink safe that has saved millions of people over the years. Known as the “Father of Microbiology,” Pasteur was vital to the understanding of how controlling germs could keep people healthy. Earning many of the highest awards in his lifetime, Pasteur also has many streets and other items named for him around the world.
4. Metric System.
Instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte in France in 1799, the system spread throughout the world to replace the polyglot of individual systems found in many different countries. Finally, the world had a standard system of weights and measures. Even countries (like the US) that resists modernization and retains its own archaic system at least can define its measures by use of the metric system.
3. Roquefort (bleu) Cheese.
France is known for its cheese, and Roquefort is the best of the bunch. Useful on salads, on steak, on hamburger, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
Although Dom Perignon, the famous Benedictine monk, did not invent sparkling wine, he was fundamental to the developing of what we call champagne, a sparkling wine that is subject to a second fermentation while in the bottle. Only those sparkling wines actually produced in the Champagne region of France are allowed to be called “champagne,” but for some reason the US does not honor that tradition, although all wines developed in the US after 2006 cannot be called champagne.
1. Bridget Bardot.
In 1934, God created Bridget Bardot, proof that God loves men! The premier international sex symbol of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Bardot starred in 47 movies and recorded 60 songs. Her breakout role was in the 1956 film And God Created Woman.Bardot retired from acting as she turned 39 years old and posed nude in Playboy Magazine to celebrate her 40th birthday in 1974. Her energies since then have been directed at animal rights and animal welfare. Unfortunately, some of her political views have caused some controversy, especially her animosity toward non-French immigrants to France (especially Muslims). She even referred to Sarah Palin as “stupid” and “a disgrace to women.” Getting back to her strong suit, looking good, Bardot was influential in the rise in popularity of the bikini bathing suit and was the model for the French national emblem, a sculpture of “Marianne.” Bardot even wrote 5 books, somehow finding time between all her other activities. Now 79 years old, “BB” will be forever young in the mind of men all over the world.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who or what would you put on the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information on great things to come out of France, please see…
Lavagno, Enrico. The Best of France: Paris, Brittany, Castles of Loire and Provence. VMB Publishers, 2005.