Alsace-Lorraine, a territory of two parts on the western border of France, has, over the years, amalgamated the cultural influences from the alternating German and French rule it has received over the last two centuries.
Although Alsace-Lorraine has been under French rule since 1945, cultural and linguistic differences are obviously still very noticeable. The inhabitants of Lorraine speak the French language as a tradition, but over in Alsace, members of the population are more inclined to speak the German language and may even present dialectical influences.
Strasbourg, which lies closer to the German border, was once the capital city of Alsace, while Nancy, further inland towards the Champagne region, was once the capital city of the region of Lorraine. Now both (for now) are under French rule, but the years of German influence have characterised the cuisine of the region in the most beneficial of ways. There really is no finer example of taking the best of both worlds, and while some consider French cuisine to be some of the best in the world, many may be surprised to know that part of their enjoyment is in fact thanks to some German persuasion.
Strasbourg itself is famous for the dish Sauerkraut, the name of which is more immediately recognisable to westerners, perhaps having been made increasingly more popular by the internationally renowned Oktoberfest. However, the French language name for the dish is actually ‘choucroute,’ taken from the French name for cabbage, ‘chou,’ and the German name for cabbage pickled in brine, ‘sauerkraut.’
The influence of German cuisine can also be seen in the Rhine infused flavours of Alsace reds, and the excellent pickling and smoking methods used in Alsace-Lorraine cuisine.
The most renowned dish from the Alsace-Lorraine region however, must be the Quiche Lorraine. Despite hailing from Lorraine, the territory with more French pertinence, the name of the dish is actually German. ‘Quiche’ was taken from the German language word ‘Kuchen,’ meaning ‘cake.’ Considering the contents of the Quiche Lorraine, the mixture of creaminess with cured meat, it is entirely representative of the fusion of French sweetness with German sturdiness of flavour.
The tart or pie form itself is indicative of German cuisine, as hardy and heavy is the traditional German approach to wholesome rustic food, and coupled with easy preparation and a compatibility with most meals, it has maintained its popularity with the French.
Despite the popularity of quiche throughout the world, in all its forms and flavours, there is still some debate over the traditional recipe of Quiche Lorraine. While many recipes state that a full substitution of milk can be made for the filling, some Lorraine cuisine traditionalists remain unmoved on the requirement of crème fraiche alone for the traditional pastry filling.