bistronomy

That I mostly go to Paris to see friends, and rarely to eat out, was brought home by the current Olive magazine. Its most interesting word, used by one author, Adrian Moore, of four writing on Paris, was “bistronomique”. The word is a French hybrid adjective of bistrot and gastronomique, a trend of the mid-90s, apparently, which is still going strong, even if the word itself is rarely heard in Paris these days. Like many other writers, Clotilde Dusoulier, in Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, uses “neo bistro” in preference to the awkwardness of “les bistronomiques”. (p. 46)

The term refers to restaurants with the casualness of bistrots and the food aspirations of restaurants, which are more formal affairs in France. Their chefs usually trained in Michelin-starred restaurants, but, eager to head up their own kitchen, open venues which are more affordable to both them and to their patrons. Several of the best known instances of “les bistronomiques” have been opened by former students of chef Christian Constant.

“Bistronomique” was coined by the journalist Sébastien Demorand, and popularized by the chef Yves Camdeborde. The New York Times Magazine writes that he “started the bistronomique trend fifteen years ago”. Jane Sigal, writing for Food and Wine magazine, specifies that “bistronomie” started in 1992, at La Régalade. No, it was 1991, according to this article. The coinage, however, substantially postdates the trend, coming into existence in 2004. Demorand, on the jury at that year’s Fooding awards, created the adjective. Sigal, instead, uses the noun.

The less frequently used noun form, “bistronomie” has since been anglicized to “bistronomy”, a rather awkward word which currently has a mere five and a half thousand hits on Google currently. In English, Google’s oldest hit is from 28 January 2007, from The NYT Magazine again, in an article entitled, simply, “Bistronomy”, by Christine Muhlke. I expect there are older uses of the term, at least in informal translations somewhere, but that still leaves this article as the likely popularizer of the term in English, as it has been used somewhat regularly in media sources since then. (If that can be said of a word which is used so rarely.)

Lucy Waverman in The Globe and Mail, on 13 March 2007, wrote that

Paris has been reinvented once again and the buzzword is “bistronomy.” Yves Camdebourg kicked off the trend in 2005 when he gave up his coveted post at La Régalade to open a small restaurant, Le Comptoir…

Except, of course, “bistronomy” isn’t really the buzzword at all. At most, it’s “bistronomique” which has that honor. Nouns do seem more likely to claim the glory; but in this case, the noun was derived from the adjective.


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