Ferguson’s Accounting for Taste reveals a gap in our understanding: How did French culinary discourse move beyond the bourgeois sphere in which it emerged in the nineteenth century? Picking up on her comparison of the Proustian synthesis of regional and national culinary culture in the Recherche to the project of national identity creation in the Third Republic’s best-selling textbook, Le Tour de la France par deux enfants, this essay argues that the culinary model Ferguson describes was in fact widely disseminated through mass primary education under the Third Republic. Examining an overlooked corpus of primary school readers and textbooks, I show that food and cooking provided object lessons imparting practical and scientific knowledge to enlighten the masses, and textbooks canonized regional specialties as part of a new national geographic consciousness. At the same time, I underscore the limits of this consensual image of a national culinary culture, which collided with the class habits and horizons of the urban and rural masses attending l’école républicaine.

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