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Palace of French Food - Expo Liege 1905

Palace of French Food at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1905

The food group, both liquid and solid, had gathered such a considerable number of exhibitors that it was impossible to group them in the French section of the halls, which was so large. Negotiations conducted by President Pinard with the Executive Committee of the Exhibition resulted in the concession of a vast piece of land located on the Mativa quay.

On this site, M. de Montarnal built the spacious and cheerful Palais de l'Alimentation, with such a happy sobriety of ornamentation. With a length of 140 metres and a width of 20 metres, it had an exhibition area of 2,800 square metres. Thanks to its height of 14 metres, it had allowed the installation of large grinding machines.

It was located in one of the most beautiful sites that embellished the World's Pair, very close to the Mativa Bridge, which, silhouetted against the light mist of the Meuse Diversion, linked the Mativa Quay to the cool, leafy shadows of the Parc de la Boverie.

The side façade of the Palace, with its long balcony, was reflected in the calm water where the hieratic silhouette of some gondolier, leaning over the back of his boat, could be seen from time to time.

Group X, whose particular divisions are given below, was composed of classes 55 to 59 (Equipment and processes for the food industry - solid foods), class 60 (Wines and wine spirits) and classes 61 and 62 (syrups, liqueurs, various drinks).

The distinguished chairman of the Group, Mr. Henry Turpin, with his experience of exhibitions and his discreet courtesy, knew how to link the classes together, while leaving them their individuality and autonomy.

Mr. Jules Cahen, as secretary, gave him his precious assistance and from their collaboration emerged the remarkable ensemble that Group X offered.

Along the entire length of the palace, the raised central part was decorated with vine branches that followed one another from farm to farm. The walls were covered with grey cloth, with a frieze of large rose garlands at the top.

With its varied ornamentation, its ingenious installations, its tasty display cases, the Palais de l'Alimentation Française was really interesting to visit. Little by little, as he progressed in his walk, the visitor felt invaded by a real gourmet appetite. Just reading the names of the foods on display was a real delight. The most varied tastes, the most heterogeneous, could have found here the food that suited them.

The champagnes, the light wines, the fine biscuits, because of their superficial qualities, would have been particularly appreciated, for example, by a Parisian from Paris. On the other hand, the heavy preserves of foie gras and the thick, savoury Burgundy wines would have suited strong Flemish stomachs. They were reminiscent of an unbridled orgy in some Teniers inn, furnished with heavy seats. The same was true of the food, which could have been brought together to evoke scenes from certain countries.

Such was the impression that took hold of the intellectual wandering in this palace. An intoxicating smell of wine, mingled with the various scents of food, hung over the place. One dreamed of some disciple of Gargantua sitting at some table, with a large knife in his hand, his napkin around his neck, his waistcoat open, his face full of flowers, tasting everything under the windows, everything in columns, barrels, boxes, terrines, etc.

The visitor might have chosen the wine enclosed in the most precious bottle, the chocolate wrapped in the most beautiful paper, the ham best garnished with pink paper, so much so that there are secret affinities between the container and the content, which the man who invented these long and frail Champagne glasses, precious and light as the liquor they are intended to contain, knew so well.

As an epilogue to these reflections, without which the description of the Palais de l'Alimentation would have been nothing but a cold display of arbitrary things, let us recall the witty words pronounced by M. Gustave Francotte, Minister of Industry and Labour, at the inauguration of the Palais, when he jokingly pointed out the influence of good food on the friendly relations of peoples, and posited, as an axiom, that the future belongs to those peoples who eat well and drink even better.

A long walk through this palace was most suggestive and amusing. We shall take it in the company of our readers, pointing out to them that the few names of exhibitors that come under our pen, taken from among thousands, are only brought about by the size of their installations, hence the need for a special mention.

Class 60, with its varied wines and wine spirits, was first.

The considerable number of its exhibitors and the importance of the installations of some of them required a site of nine hundred metres in area, in which wide aisles, traced around the showcases and stands, allowed easy circulation and ensured easy access to neighbouring classes. With its dioramas painted by the master decorator Jambon, its paintings, its monumental triumphal arch, its showcases, its tiers, its picturesque tastings, its decorative frieze, its flags and its banners, class 60 offered a delightful bacchanalian setting.

After a general glance at the entrance, the visitor found on the right and left of the main door the beautiful installations of Burgundy, Maçon and Beaujolais, bringing together the wines of 600 exhibitors from the departments of Yonne, Côte-d'Or, Saône-et-Loire and Rhône. On the right, around the diorama representing an interior view of the famous hospices de Beaune, were the rich collections of wines from the Côte-d'Or sent by numerous individual exhibitors and by various wine unions and societies.

These were the syndicate of the Dijon wine and spirits trade, the Côte Dijonnaise wine syndicate, the Gevrey-Chambertin owners' syndicate, the wine societies of the Nuits-Saint-Georges canton, the Beaune winegrowers' society, the Auxey-le-Grand winegrowers' syndicate and the Burgundy winegrowers' association.

The aforementioned diorama, a true work of art, framed by climbing vines with golden grapes and tiers of bottles with multicoloured labels, presented the appearance of one of the vast courtyards of this renowned establishment.

Between the buildings, with their receding lines towards the back of the picture, the well raised its stone curbstone and its wrought iron bell tower. Busy shoppers, among whom one could recognise some of the personalities who come to this market every year, were tasting and gesticulating.

This scene, lit by an autumn sun, gave the illusion of a day of "Sale of the Wines of the Hospices de Beaune".

A little further on, attention was drawn to a remarkable allegorical painting of the Côte d'Or grape harvest, symbolised by a young woman sitting on a chariot harnessed to lions, in the centre of a group of fauns armed with thyrses and winged genii crowned with red vine branches.

On the left, on the sides of the diorama, matching that of the Côte-d'Or, were staggered the bottles of the individualities of the Beaujolais and the Maçonnais, with those of the numerous members of the Chambre syndicale de Mâcon, of the Syndicat des Vins et Spiritueux de Lyon and of the Département du Rhône.

The painter of this diorama, obeying the master idea of grouping in a single canvas several renowned sites of the Maçonnais, had, by an artist's fantasy, brought together the "Moulin à Vent" and the "Roche de Solutré" of the City of Mâcon.

The Saône, which flowed in the foreground, and whose waters, criss-crossed by tugs pulling barges loaded with wine, reflected the colourful houses on its picturesque quay, completed this landscape and gave it life.

Opposite this picture were two elegant showcases: one contained the wines of the merchants of Burgundy, Seine, Seine-et-Oise, Seine-et-Marne and Oise, as well as the samples gathered by the Chambre syndicale des Courtiers-Gourmets de Paris around the curious collection of old cups to be tasted by M. Malaquin, its president. Malaquin, its president; the other contained various specimens from different wine-producing regions sent by the Chambre syndicale de Commerce en gros des Vins et Spiritueux de Paris et du Département de la Seine, which had reserved this stand entirely for itself and had fitted it out with perfect taste.


On a site located next to it, Mr. Vitou, a merchant in Paris, had, with the help of decorations, reconstituted a Languedoc "Mas".

This original and locally coloured construction was pierced by a wide vault. Straddling the transverse aisles of the classroom, this vault supported a terrace topped by intertwined poles, on which vines from the ground climbed and entwined.

The visitor, passing underneath, had on his left, in trompe-l'oeil, a wine storehouse furnished with its barrels and on his right the tasting and sales counter of the products displayed by the owner of the "Mas".

Not far from there, he came to a stand whose outer sides were loaded with bottles and in the centre of which MM. Hanier et fils et Cie, merchants in Paris, had reproduced, in reduction, a wine shop in the Parisian warehouses.

Retracing his steps, he saw behind the same glass the bottles of different shapes belonging to the individual exhibitors of the Hérault, the Aube, Meurthe-et-Moselle and the Vosges, as well as those of the Syndicat Viticole de Jurançon and the Cave Coopérative de Gaillac, and if he turned around, he had before his eyes the wines of the various regions contained in the beautiful display cases of M. Soualle, a wine merchant in Pont-Saint-Maxence, and Mr. Joninon, a wine merchant in Paris.

He then came across the kiosk of the "Tasting" of the white wines of Lower Burgundy, belonging to M. de Traynel.

Opposite this stand, on tiers, were the wines of the South of France presented by individual exhibitors from the Aude, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne and Pyrénées-Orientales, as well as by the Syndicates and Committees of their respective departments, those of the department of Var by the Agricultural Societies of Toulon; those of Hyères and the Qarde du Gard by the Agricultural Syndicates of the Gard; those of Bagnols-sur-Cèze and the Rhone valley; those of the Tarn, by the agricultural syndicates of Lavaux and Albi, and by the grouping of the wine growers of the canton of Saint-Paul; those of Cap de Joux in the Basses-Pyrénées, by the Syndicat du Commerce en gros des Vins et Spiritueux des Basses-Pyrénées, the Syndicat du Jurançon and the Syndicat agricole de Lembeye, and finally, those of the Hautes-Pyrénées by the Syndicat de Madiran.

At the centre of this southern exhibition, leaning against the wall, was the monumental piece of furniture of the Hérault Collectivity. In this transparent glass roof, with its harmonious lines, two allegorical paintings appeared independently of the bottles on display, drawn up by Messrs Leenhardt Pomier and Cyprien de Crozals, presidents of the Montpellier-Lodève and Béziers-Saint-Pons Committees.

These tables reproduced, one the official statistics of the deliveries of the wines harvested in the 77 French departments cultivating the vine (average of the years 1901-1903) and the other the comparison between the French and foreign imports, showing this conclusion that France exports more wines to Belgium than all the other nations combined.

The visitor then passed by the isolated display cases of various owners from Bordeaux and Paris-Bercy, the Société des vins de Banyuls, and then by the display cases adjoining them, in which the products of individual exhibitors from the Charentes, the grouping of the Chamber of Commerce of the Deux-Charentes, the Comice agricole de l'Arrondissement de Saintes, the Comice agricole et viticole de l'Arrondissement de Barbezieux, the Comice agricole et viticole de l'Arrondissement de Cognac, the Comice agricole and the Société d'agriculture de l'Arrondissement de Jonzac, as well as those of individual exhibitors from the Bordeaux and Dordogne regions.

This section, placed under the patronage of the Comité du Département de la Gironde, brought together 590 exhibitors whose memberships had been collected by the Comices of Bazas, Cardillac, Créon and Entre-deux-Mers, Libourne, Podensac and La Réole, by the Bordeaux Agricultural Syndicates, by the Syndicat des expositions de vignobles de la Gironde, by the Grands Crus Classés of the Médoc, Graves de Bordeaux, Cardillac, Podensac and the neighbouring cantons of Saint-Emilion, the winegrowers of Loupiac de Bourg-sur-Gironde, Saint-André du Cubjac and Galgou, the Association of Winegrowers' Owners of the Gironde, the Agricultural Society of the Gironde, the Union of Wine Merchants of Bordeaux and the Syndicate of the Wholesale Trade of Wines and Spirits of the Gironde

The wines, of such diverse vintages, were arranged in long rows of tiers, above which a huge artistic board showing the firms of the merchants and the names of the winegrowers, attested to the extent of this cooperation.

To these consignments were added those of the individual exhibitors who thus completed the whole of the Girondine Exhibition, whose members had really competed in their efforts to contribute to the common success.

This exhibition was enhanced by a diorama representing the "Port of Bordeaux". The image of this port, with its wide quays cluttered with trucks loaded with countless barrels and its superb roadstead where ships awaited their precious cargoes, gave a striking impression of the overactivity of Bordeaux's trade.
At one end of the Bordeaux section, M. Larronde, vice-president of the Syndicat des vignobles de la Gironde, wishing to make known the wines of his members, had installed a very beautiful stand-counter where the walkers could taste the products exposed.

The wall of this beautiful installation was decorated with a huge map of the Gironde indicating the main points of the Bordeaux vineyards.

Leaving the Bordeaux region, the visitor approached the large brandy casks of Messrs Picard fils, merchants in Saint-Jean-d'Angely, and arrived in the central aisle at the foot of the majestic triumphal arch built by E. Mercier et Cie, of Epernay, with bottles of Champagne supported by an invisible frame. Against the right pillar of this monument, he found the wines of the Vienne Farmers' Union.

On arriving at the east end of the class, on the vast site allocated to the Charente section, he was surrounded by numerous barrels of brandy which were piled up, one on top of the other, and seemed to threaten to invade the neighbouring stands. Most of these casks formed the exhibition of the Cognac Wine Owners' Society, which, in a display case in the middle of this enclosure, had gathered together the samples of its members.
Going backwards, the visitor had before him the clear escape of the diorama of the Charente valley, the foreground of which was formed by low tiers on which were lined up the flasks of old eaux-de-vie, the marvels of Charente production.

The panoramic view of this valley gave, in its immense extent, the perspective in relief of the towns of Angoulème, Châteauneuf-sur-Charente, Barbezieux, Jonzac, Cognac, Saintes, Saint-Jean-d'Angely, and, melting in the distance into the mists of the Ocean through the limpidity of the atmosphere, the course of the Charente, where the roads, the railways, the woods, the fields and the vineyards appeared clearly drawn.

This work, conceived by Commissioner General Chapsal, a native of the Charente (Saintes), had been masterfully executed by his compatriot Mr. Jambon.

Neighbouring the Charentes, the Gers exhibited the products of its distillation universally known as Armagnac brandy. Several individual members and the Comice de Condom et de l'Armagnac had gathered on the same stands bottles of very old eau-de-vie and bottles of new red and white wines.

Leaving the Gers, the visitor encountered the brilliant array of Anjou wines, presented by the Syndicat général des vins d'Anjou, the Comice agricole de Saumur, the Union des Viticulteurs de Maine-et-Loire and passed the "Dégustation" of white wines of the Union vinicole des propriétaires de l'Indre-et-Loire.

Continuing on his way, he passed the exhibitions of the Association of Clermont-Ferrand, then the charming showcase of the Syndicat des vins mousseux de Saumur.

The visitor then admired the exhibitions of the Champagne region artistically grouped in the centre of the class.

Near the stand of Mr. Gabriel Perrier, a wine merchant from Châlon-sur-Marne, was an original construction made up of Champagne boxes. The ingenious assembly of these crates, pierced with glass doors and windows showing the comfort of its interior, formed a sales office in which the Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin house, from Reims, had installed its sales agent.

Opposite, the stand of the Syndicat des Vins de Champagne ran lengthwise and parallel to the wall.

Between the two pretty Louis XVI pieces of furniture forming the wings of this stand, and which contained the bottles of the 34 houses of this union, the model, in miniature, of a Champagne installation aroused the general curiosity.

The section of the superimposed cellars of this model revealed the successive and continuous operations of the preparation of the Champagne wines, from the grape harvest to the shipping.

Amidst the tuns, barrels and bottles, one could see workers engaged in the various phases of this handling process, including blending, bottling, bottling, disgorging, dosage, corking and finally shipping.

To this amusing and instructive reproduction, a synoptic table was attached, which showed, by means of bottles of different sizes, the importance of production, that of the stock in shop and that of the annual shipments of Champagne wines.

Next to it was a large multi-faceted display case in which merchants and owners of Champagne had placed, in symmetrical order, the wines of their various brands.
Leaving the centre of the class and returning to the entrance, the visitor passed through the collective exhibits of the Meurthe-et-Moselle and Barrois syndicates, past the original pyramid of bottles of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape owners, and the group of individual exhibitors from Vaucluse, then, reaching the showcase of Mr. Claude Blanc, a wine merchant in Paris, he ended his examination in class 60 with the tasting chalet coquettishly set up by the house of E. Mercier et Cie, of Epernay, whose monumental triumphal arch, located at the end of the compartment reserved for class 60, gave access to classes 55 to 59.

Here were grouped the solid food, the equipment and the processes of the food industries.

On either side of the two main entrances, one to class 60 and the other to classes 61 and 62, were two large painted panels depicting scenes of fruit picking and canning.

The reunion of the various elements of classes 55 to 59 had been brought about firstly by the similarity of the products exhibited, which is summarised in the general classification, and secondly by the fact that the exclusive reunion of the food industry equipment, which was very cumbersome, would have resulted in a great loss of exhibition space. To remedy this, small display units were placed between the large appliances. The showcases thus occupied the space left between them by various large appliances forming class 55, which included equipment and processes for the food industries.

This class brought together, either in kind, in reduction or in plans, the various used appliances that we have in view.

As we walked around, we noticed machines for flour mills, a machine for making tin cans and their automatic welding, a machine for making sparkling water, a model of a machine for concentrating sugar juice, various distillation machines, etc.

Among these, MM. Ergot Orangé et Cie, from Paris, presented their large apparatus for distilling and rectifying at the same time, with a height of nearly fourteen metres. In addition, there was equipment for sugar factories, coffee burners, enrobing machines, mechanical masher, mechanical kneading machines, models of tables, counters, chairs, etc., for the installation of coffee and wine merchants.

Completing the grouping of Class 55, Mr. Jacquemin, from the Institut des Recherches Scientifiques Industrielles de Malzéville, near Nancy, presented various documents relating to his research on selected pure yeasts and pure ferments from grapes from hot countries.

Flour products and their derivatives were included in class 56. Foods in this category were presented in elegant display cases in original and ingenious groupings. There were numerous displays of pasta, starches, dextrins, flours, wheat and wheat products, tapiocas, semolina, rice and maize starches, glucose, rice and rice flours.

Class 57, although less well represented, was more tempting and tasty to visit for the gourmet. It included bakery and pastry products. Luxury biscuits, gingerbread from Reims, wafers, fine desserts, petits fours, evocative of feminine, distinguished and pretty delicacies.

Quite different was the aspect of class 58, which included preserved meat, fish, vegetables and fruit intended for the strong stomachs of country lords.

The list of these foods is a tasty read. These were preserved foods, concentrated soups, truffles and foies gras, sausages, hams, preserved foie gras with truffles, salted meats, dried vegetables, preserved fish, duck pâtés, Périgord truffles, etc.

Sugars and confectionery products, condiments and stimulants forming class 59 grouped together a thousand good things and those products intended to excite jaded stomachs. At random, we will mention liquorice in its various forms, jams, Cérébos salt, mustards, and preserves in vinegar.
The participation of the confectionery industry was naturally of the utmost importance. There were sugared almonds, some of which were very luxurious for feasts and christenings, angelica, almonds, pure melting nougats and iced fruit, then praline-flavoured violets, candied fruit, glazed chestnuts, glazed fruit and fruit in brandy, honey and honey pastilles, refined sugars, etc., etc.

Among the many exhibitors of chocolates in various forms and qualities, the house of Menier, from Paris, was notable for its exhibition, which was a real monument. It was made up of piles of chocolate bars, doubled at the base and joined at the top by a sort of arch of the greatest effect. In addition to various paintings relating to its manufacture, this important company also exhibited documents informing the visitor about its various working institutions. This large archway gave access to class 61, devoted to syrups and liqueurs, various spirits and industrial spirits.

The participation of this class was very suggestive. In very pretty display cases, the bottles, some faceted like perfume bottles, others sealed and stamped, as if they contained precious viatics, shone with all the brilliance of their translucent colours. There were the thick, harsh liquors that one could only imagine tasting in tiny glasses, there were the most famous aperitifs, and finally there were the old provincial liqueurs, which, having escaped one day from some old woman's recipe book, had gone to the factory. Some smelled of the fruit that formed the basis, others with fine mountain herbs reminded us of the diabolical elixir of the R. P. Qauchez, whose story Alphonse Daudet told us.

Some firms had made considerable expenses to secure particular stands. Among the most remarkable were those of Cointreau from Angers, Cusenier from Paris, Get from Revel, Ricqlès from Saint-Ouen, Violet from Thuir.

Among the liqueurs represented, in addition to the ordinary bitters, rum, vermouth, etc., were creams of mocha, cocoa, gentian, sloe, verbena, cherry and blackcurrant liqueurs, caramels, kirsch, cloister liqueurs, strawberry, curaçao, orange blossom water, etc., and various liqueurs with special names.

Class 62, containing fermented beverages, i.e. beers, ciders and cider brandies, completed the important participation of the French food industry. The participation of the Brewery was more an act of courtesy than an actual exhibition. It was merely a demonstration of recognition for the selfless and very important participation of the Belgian brewery in the Paris Exhibition of 1900.

The exhibition of the French brewery was therefore held in a showcase, without a tasting counter.

Although limited, its participation in the Exhibition had the precious result of further strengthening the cordial ties which, for so long and especially since the colossal and unforgettable Franco-Belgian banquet of 1900, have fraternally united the brewers of both countries.

The ciders and cider brandies, most of which originated in Calvados, included liqueurs with delicious names: sparkling ciders, champagne ciders, pear nectar, sparkling perry.

It was in this variety of elements and in the breadth of representation of each of them that the importance of the participation of the French Food Industry lay.
From the outset, we tried to show what interest the ordinary visitor could have in visiting the palace built especially for the occasion and which a courtesy of France called the Palais Mativa.

To conclude with some telling figures, the significance of which will dispense with paraphrasing, let us say that the wines and wine spirits class had 2,354 exhibitors, the syrups, liqueurs, spirits and various beverages class had 334 exhibitors, and finally, in the classes of Equipment and Processes of the Food Industries, Flour Products and their derivatives, Bakery and Pastry Products, and Preserved Meat, Fish, Vegetables and Fruit, there were 121 exhibitors.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905