There are many kinds of French cuisine. It is not limited to the haute cuisine accessible only to the rich.
What many of us think of as “French cuisine” is actually haute cuisine, the cuisine that evolved from the aristocratic cuisine of the royalty. This cuisine was centered mainly in Paris and Versailles. Regional cuisine as we know it today did not even exist at the time, since regions didn’t exist until after the Revolution. Until the Revolution, there were provinces and feudal “kingdoms,” abolished afterward. Cuisine bourgeoise, the cooking of the upper middle classes and later middle classes, developed after the Revolution, and gradually filtered down to the broader population.
Regions didn’t formally exist by name until 1890, so there was little meaning attached to the word “region”. One cooked and ate what was available, what one grew and raised and that varied widely. Even the gruel was made with different grains in different regions. Regions only formed an identity after this. Knowledge of regional cuisines increased as travel became easier and accessible to all, especially after the generalization of cars.
French cuisine has always consisted of two tiers: haute cuisine and regional cuisine. Elements of haute cuisine — the cuisine that we inherited from the courts and later the affluent bourgeoisie, the cuisine that elevated sauce-making to an art form — have over the centuries infiltrated the cuisine of the regions, and regional cuisine is the lifeline and wherein lies the future.