Among the various European countries, you will find excellent national cuisine. In some countries there are more proud of it than in others. At the top are probably the French, and at the bottom the Nordic countries. Given how poor the latter used to be, this is perhaps not much of a surprise. After all, if you fight for survival in a socialist hellhole, then you just don’t have the time or energy to advance the art of cooking. Thus, the traditional Swedish dish is the pedestrian meatballs. You may now object that the French have the “Pot-au-feu”, a kind of stew. While this is true, there is just not equivalent of fine Swedish cuisine, so this comparison would miss the point.
Over the centuries, the Italians came up with all kinds of pasta and pizzas, and some of the most exquisite desserts you can find anywhere. Surely, at some point someone thought that only serving minced meat is a bit boring, so they experimented and came up with lasagna — sometime in the 16th century! Gradually, knowledge of how to make lasagna spread, and nowadays you can buy a variant of it in the form of frozen ready-made food in any supermarket. However, can you think of anything relatively recent coming out of Italy? The pizza is an 18th century invention, for instance, and since then there seems to have been some stagnation. This did not just happen in Italy but in all Western European countries.
There is of course some experimentation going on, but this is normally fake and gay. You can go to an expensive restaurant, and you may get an unexpected combination of ingredients or a variation you did not really expect. Yet, none of those dishes will ever enjoy any kind of mainstream adoption. The only other example of experimentation I can think of are those fake and gay local specialties. For instance, in St Tropez you can buy the La Tarte de Saint-Tropez, a relatively unexciting cake. Every bakery has it, but it is so traditional that it dates all the way back to the 1950s. This is not at all surprising when you consider that St Tropez used to be a fishing village. Of course, those made-up local specialties are only an attempt to make you spend some money because how could you visit St Tropez without tasting their fabled local cake?
It makes you wonder how we moved from having excellent, local cuisine to utter stagnation? I know little about cooking schools. However, I also do not think that innovation in this field necessarily comes from the top. For instance, it seems much more plausible that many local dishes are simply based on tradition, and got subsequently refined. Lasagna, for instance, is supposed to have roots in some Ancient Greek dish. Is any refinement happen nowadays? I am tempted to say that this is no longer the case. However, unlike with music and the fine arts, it seems that this was not the result of a deliberate destruction of a cultural tradition spanning many centuries if not more than a millennium. In the past, people simply used to cook, and the more cooks you have, the more smart cooks you have. Today, your smart office workers just go to a restaurant or get food delivery instead of cooking for themselves. In the past, those people would not even have had the chance to climb the socioeconomic ladder, so an intellectually gifted cook may simply have begun experimenting as a means of entertaining himself, whereas his duller colleagues just went through the motions.