Leave it to the French. They invented the very concept of a restaurant, so it’s no surprise delicious charcuterie is a proudly French tradition.
What is charcuterie? The word refers to cured and smoked meats, such as prosciutto and salami, or an array of meats served in combination. Cultures around the world over have similar practices, but the French perfected it and gave it a name worthy of its elegant flavor profile.
Soon, charcutiers – those crafty butchers of ancient France - began supplementing charcuterie meats with cheeses, forming what would one day be known as charcuterie boards.
Simple enough, right?
Not so fast. Today’s charcuterie boards have a variety of influences. Who could forget cheese platters?!
A tool of social climbers and all-night drinkers
We can thank Russian aristocrats for the invention of cheese platters, according to some historians.
Exiled by the Russian Revolution, which began in 1916, they were eager to resume their lavish lifestyle among the wealthy elites of Western Europe. There was just one problem: they were no longer wealthy.
Their solution? Cheese boards, of course! They gave the impression of prosperity without the high cost.
Russian aristocrats (or their kitchen staff) may have invented cheese platters, but they rose in popularity during the Roaring Twenties – for exceedingly pragmatic reasons. Cheese, with its healthy protein and fats, was found to slow the absorption of ethanol, allowing eaters to consume more alcohol.
Hooray for the Roaring Twenties!
You put WHAT on that charcuterie board?
French chefs of ancient Rome would hardly recognize today’s charcuterie boards.
With bursts of colorful fruits and veggies, intricate designs, and messages of love, celebration, and togetherness, they have a way of bringing people together. They’re the life of the party!
Still, as gorgeous as they are, charcuterie boards never forget where they come from. They remain healthy, uniquely satisfying, and charmingly simple.
Social media goes crazy for customization
No story about the history of charcuterie boards is complete without mentioning their social media stardom.
It’s not surprising. They’re so photogenic and appetizing it’s as if they were invented for Instagram. In a short period of time, charcuterie boards exploded in popularity, inspiring new trends and dozens of hashtags.
The key is in the customization. Charcuterie boards can be whatever you want them to be, from Valentine’s Day appetizer to boardroom finger food or wedding reception centerpiece.