Restoring the restaurant

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

A world without restaurants would be hard to imagine. But of course they have not always been here. Who invented them when and where? To find the answer to these questions we must go back to Paris, France in the 16th century.

The French word restaurant originates from the Latin verb restaurare, meaning "to restore.” It was first used to describe the broths and bouillon sold by street vendors in Paris, meant to restore, nourish and maintain health and vitality. You see, at that time, a restaurant was not a place to eat, but rather something to eat. There was only one thing to choose “Bouillon restaurant”, "restorative broth" - that is – and and instead of ordering whenever one pleased, it was served whenever it was ready. It became known that sipping warm, restoring broth would support digestive health and serve as a medicinal remedy for many ailments. Male Parisians who wanted something healthy and nourishing would frequent these new establishments known as “restaurant rooms”. Women were only allowed in the company of a man, and colored, poor and children stayed away entirely.

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century, and the restaurant establishment has evolved. In contrast to the original Parisian establishment where one ate what was offered whenever the host would serve it, restaurant diners nowadays can order from a bountiful menu of options, at the time of their convenience. And thankfully, contemporary customers include everyone, independent of origin, age or gender. In that sense, society and the evolution of the restaurant has come leaps and bounds over the centuries.

However, when it comes to the healing properties of restorative broths, somewhere along the way we receded rather than evolved. People worked longer hours and spent less time cooking, restaurants looked for every kind of short cut, and scientists experimented with creative new ways of making food production more convenient. Concentrated tablets, liquids and powders were understandably a welcome invention, producing an instant flavorful broth without long hours of cooking it from scratch.