From antiquity to the Renaissance...
The city of Lyon has been known for its food since ancient times. It also controlled the wine trade as the capital of the Three Gauls.
During the Renaissance, Lyonnaise cuisine acquired Europe-wide recognition thanks to literature. The author François Rabelais, then a doctor in Lyon, told his patients fanciful stories whose characters were inspired by the Lyonnais of the time. He wrote "Pantagruel" in 1532. The giant Gargamelle gave birth there to her son Gargantua after having eaten « great platter of tripes ».
In this book, Lyon's cuisine is particularly well represented: « sausages, cervelas, hams, andouilles, hures of wild boar, thighs in garlic sauce, fressures, fricandeaux, fatty capons au blanc mangier, hochepots, carbonades, cabirotades, hastereaux, wild game (four legged and two), esclanches, stuffed carp, lavarets, recuites, craquelins and macarons, fruit pastes, bugnes, etc».
At the same time, Erasmus praised the cooks of the city: "We are not treated as well at home as we are in a hotel in Lyon. [...] The table is in truth sumptuous. "
In 1770, after the publication of the poem 'Gastronomy' or 'Man from the fields to the table' by Joseph de Berchoux, Lyon was considered the capital of gastronomy in all circles of society. This poet popularized the use of the word "gastronomy" and placed Lyon at the center of it.
Over the centuries many epicureans such as Brillat Savarin and Grimod of the Reynière did the same thing. They praised the art of "eating well," which was the rage in the bourgeois society of the nineteenth century.
The advent of the automobile altered the art of fine cooking, mainly for the bourgoisie. As tourism developed so did culinary guides: Lyon's cuisine, that had previously been reserved for the elite, became popular. Chefs employed in the bourgeois mansions decided to start their own businesses or because they were released as a result of the economic crisis of 1929. Being used to the work, the Lyonnais, from modest backgrounds, opened small restaurants where they presented their specialties; 4 or 5 traditional dishes. These were often ladies who became known as the "Mothers of Lyon" and brought Lyon unparalleled culinary popularity. Some of them became famous, such as 'Mother Brazier' who was the first woman to receive a Michelin star in 1933. Between her two restaurants, she accumulated six stars and received at her table personalities like General de Gaulle and Edouard Herriot.
Also, the mother Léa wouldn't be seen in the market without her helper sporting a sign «Caution! Weak woman, but strong character.»
A specialty of Lyon: 'rosette.'
This dry cured specialty of the region looks like a sausage but because of its consistency and size, is considered a "big piece."
Made exclusively from pork meat, back fat, spices and garlic, it's a long country sausage that draws its name from the casing in which it is stuffed. The real rosette (that of Lyon) has the distinction of being made with a larger natural casing at one end than the other. It therefore has a characteristic shape like a baseball bat with a reducing diameter from 9 to 5 cm and is trussed and clamped. One meter long, we often find it hanging above the market stands of the traditional butchers in Lyon. It has an 'honest' taste and 'personality' typical of Lyon meats.