French gastronomy is iconic.
While the food itself is exceptional, there is an entire set of rules around shopping, eating, and cooking that helps to make French dining so singular in nature.
The culture of food in France – while set in its ways – is not as stuffy or rigid as we think it to be here in the States. And who doesn’t like being a little fancy now and again?
You’d be hard pressed to find a ‘normal’ sized refrigerator in France. Most families have only what we could call a mini-fridge.
Before you go chain yourself to your 2nd industrial size freezer in the garage, let me explain!
Thanks to the copious amounts of open-air markets and independent grocers in France (aka 3 markets within 2 blocks of your house), families are able to shop daily for fresh food.
Daily shopping means that the French don’t buy in bulk and store food; proper portioning translates to no leftovers, either! That means you can fill your fridge with wine, instead 😉
We all know about 7-course meals, escargots, frog legs. But what does everyday home cooking look like in France?
Using the groceries you picked up at the market that day, you’ll cook a 3-course meal. And don’t worry – portions are smaller than in the US so you’re not gorging yourself here!
For an entrée (this means appetizer – don’t get it confused with the English ‘entrée’ which means main dish) you’ll likely see a meat and cheese plate. The only prep on this is slicing bread and cutting cheese! Easy!
There are thousands of plats (main dishes) to choose from – I’ll let Julia Child take care of this one – but what’s important to note here is that there should a balance of meat, starch, and vegetable. And more bread. Don’t you dare forget that baguette!
Fun fact: the French have a superstition that an upside-down baguette brings good luck! So for the love of Victor Hugo please keep your bread right-side-up!
Depending on how heavy your main dish was, dessert can be anything from Greek yogurt with fruit (healthy can still be sweet!) to crème brûlée to heavy chocolate ganache!
As with French style, balance is the key to a proper meal.
Oh, and please no fat-free margarine! The French are adamant that healthy food means real food (not hydrogenated oil with the word ‘light’ slapped on the label)
Etiquette might be the most important part of this food trifecta!
There are some simple rules for this one:
No elbows on the table
Hands visible at all time
Break (don’t cut) your bread into bite-sized pieces before eating
Your bread belongs on the table, not a napkin or plate
The host serves water and wine to everyone before themselves
Everyone starts eating together (and take your time!)
These might sound a bit obvious, but strict adherence to this rules provides a harmonious dining experience for all!
Food in France is a communal experience – bring your friends and family together and enjoy!
How many markets are near you? Shop and cook like the French for a week!