Food in France - French Food, French Cuisine - traditional, popular, dishes, recipe, diet, history, common, meals, main
France is the second-largest country in Europe (after Russia). Much of the country is surrounded by mountains. The highest mountain, Mount Blanc, is near France's border with Italy.
The climate and soil of France create good conditions for farming.
The financial conditions, lifestyle and society obviously have framed local food conventions in unique ranges. The discovery of cheese was made in the mountainous regions since the regions experience persistent cold temperatures that cannot support traditional techniques of farming. When people talk about the
economy, they usually discover that within restricted territories, cheese is known as the primary food processed in the mountains through use of animal
products. Over some 100 years, the area of Burgundy investment success was amazing as a result of their uniqueness in raising cows which helped them in production of meat products and cream sauces.
Although only four percent of the French people earn their living from farming, the country is self-sufficient when it comes to growing its own food.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
The French have always been proud of their sophisticated way of cooking. Fertile soil provides fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and meat, nearly year-round.
Good climate in the south allows them dominant use of fruits and vegetables. Areas near the Atlantic coast use more sea food, while inland areas near rivers use fresh water fish.
The soil is also suitable for growing grapes, which are used for making some of the finest wines in the world. Food and alcohol play important roles in French society—the way a person eats often reflects their French heritage, region of birth, social status
, and health.
The French use this to end the meal to signal awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. (Courses of a French Dinner). Also on holidays such as, Christmas, or New Years, the men end the night by smoking cigars and drinking strong alcohol. In France, holidays such as, Christmas, are very important
. During the Christmas meal, La revillion, which is held at midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the main course for this meal varies from region to region. The meal is very similar to a party dinner, except for their dessert menu; in Provence, they serve thirteen desserts to represent Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles.
During the reign of Louis XIV (1661-1715), the nobility (upper class citizens) would hold twelve-hour feasts with over ten different dishes served. The presentation of the food was just as important as the taste and quality of the ingredients.
French cuisine is considered an art in France and dining is not just about food and drinks but it is about culture, family and socializing. Aside from satisfying the gastronomic needs of the body, dining in France is a leisure activity. It is in no way done hurriedly. Instead, dining is enjoyed with good company, pleasant conversation and relaxation. French Cuisine is known for its richness of taste and its elegant presentation. No matter how simple a dish is, food is always presented elegantly and pleasing to the eyes. Because of the lavish presentation of dishes, French food is often referred to as complicated, but French cuisine is not all about complex recipes. Rather, French cuisine consists of simple recipes using fresh ingredients and cooking done from the heart.
Such elaborate feasts were too expensive and required too much time for the common people to prepare for themselves, but others were also able to enjoy exotic foods and spices, such as the kumquat fruit and yellow saffron, brought back from Africa and Asia by
Meals are enjoyed in the company of friends or colleagues during workday lunches and with the family at home during dinner. The sharing of a hearty feast of French food is evident in traditional family gatherings during the Sunday mid-day banquet which is lovingly prepared over many hours and leisurely consumed through a large number
of appetizers, main courses and wine (Introduction to French Cuisine). The French treats cooking and dining as part of their personal experience and gratification. Thus, every moment spent in cooking or dining is an event that they get pleasure from. Every dining moment is a moment shared with people who are friends
or loved ones. These times are used for bonding and developing closer personal ties. The French culture is trying very
hard to resist the fast food phenomenon that is gripping countries throughout the world. Although, fast food joints have emerged and have proved to be successful in France, French culture is still maintaining their passion for cooking and dining away from the fast track ways and means of the fast food trend.
These foods were quickly incorporated into the French diet.
3 FOODS OF THE FRENCH
The baguette, a long, thin loaf of crusty bread, is the most important part of any French meal. Everyone at the table is expected to eat a piece.
Le Plat Principal, the main course, will most likely have fish or beef, and local vegetables. The next part, La Fromage (cheese), will have a wide variety of cheeses to pertain to every guests taste. After the guests finish their cheese plates, they move on to La’ Cafe (coffee), which is normally taken in the living room and served with a small piece of chocolate, which is said to increase the flavor. To signal the end of the meal, the hosts’ serves Le Diegestif, which consist of strong alcoholic beverages such a cognac, brandy, or whiskey.
It is eaten in a variety of ways, including being used to make
sandwiches. Melted cheese spread on a baguette is often presented as part of a meal.
French cuisine is highly diverse with dishes or recipes originating from different regions with various climates and geographies. Geographies determine the ingredients grown in that region. Almost all of the popular French dishes were developed in the
different regions because of the abundance and quality of the specific ingredients required per particular dish. French meals range from basic servings like baguette, cheese and inexpensive wine, to more sophisticated meals involving courses of up to a dozen and different kinds of wines (French Food Culture
). Some of the French dishes which became popular nationally and internationally include bouillabaisse which is a seafood soup, quiches, crepes, pâté de foie gras or goose-liver paste, and andouillette sausage (Adams, Jordan-Bychkov, & Kaiser, 2005).
A meal of grilled food (called la raclette ) is sometimes served. Using an open grill, diners melt their own cheese with ham or beef slices, or fry their own egg. The grilled food is accompanied by potatoes.
The general traditional meal pattern of the French is to eat a light breakfast comprised of bread or croissants with butter or jam, and hot chocolate or coffee, a hefty lunch and a lighter dinner. Particularly in Paris, 1 PM is the usual time for lunch and 9 PM or later for dinner. French people in other areas
eat earlier. Lunches and dinners often last for more than two hours. This is the reason why lunch breaks of offices in France last for two hours instead of the usual one hour break that companies allot for lunch in other parts of the world. Lunch and dinner consist of the first course which is the appetizer or the hors d’oeuvre comprised of soup, sausage, pate or raw vegetables, followed by the main course or Le plat principal. The main course consists of meat or fish with vegetables. Roast beef and legs of lamb are some of the kinds of meat served with potatoes. After the main course and before dessert, a cheese platter called Le Fromage is served consisting of a minimum of three or four cheeses (French Cuisine). Fruits and chocolate cakes are usually served for desserts. Dessert is then followed by Le café or a strong espresso coffee. Wines or water are served as beverages that accompany the meals. Secondary foods which are widely and often eaten, but not on a daily basis, in France therefore include fish and meat, usually beef and lamb.
Sometimes diners spear pieces of bread on long-handled forks, and dip the bread into a pot full of melted cheese called la fondue .
The regions of France have varying cuisine: in Brittany (northwestern France), the main dish is crêpes (thin pancakes) with cider; and in the Alsace region (eastern France near Germany), a popular dish is cabbage with pieces of sausage, called la choucroute . The French from the Loire River Valley eat a special dish made of the Lotte fish that can only be found in the Loire River.
A large number of techniques are involved in French cooking. Though some may be complex, a French cook will never resort to shortcuts in the cooking process. Recipes remain classic and steady because French culinary arts focus on the mastery of pastry dough and sauces (French Cuisine, 1996). French cuisine is characterized by
meticulous and non-hurried cooking. Processes may be quite long and complicated, but the aim is always to come up with dishes that will please the palate. There are three cooking styles in French cuisine. Classical French cuisine involves rich dishes which use cream-based sauces. The more sophisticated classical French cuisine is haute cuisine which is characterized by use of heavy creams and elegant presentation. The second cooking style is the Cuisine Nouvelle which avoids heavy creams and dishes are simpler, lighter and served in smaller portions, as opposed to the Classical style of cooking. The third style of cooking is Cuisine du terroir which focuses on specialties per region and highlights the use of food traditions and local produce (French Food Culture
On the coasts of France seafood is plentiful, including mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, and squid. The French enjoy escargots (snails) cooked with garlic and butter, roast duck, and rabbit.
Baguette (French Bread)
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2½ cups warm water
- 7 cups flour
- Egg white, lightly beaten
- Grease two cookie sheets.
- Dissolve the yeast, salt, and sugar in water in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the flour until a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured surface (countertop or cutting board) and knead for 10 minutes.
- Clean out the mixing bowl, lightly oil it, and return the dough to the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, ½ hour or so.
- Dip your fist in flour and push your fist into the center of the dough to "punch" it down. Remove from the bowl, and knead 3 or 4 more times.
- Separate the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a long loaf. Place 2 on each of the greased cookie sheets.
- Carefully slash the top diagonally every few inches with a knife.
- Brush the loaves with the egg white. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let the loaves rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake loaves for 10 minutes.
- Lower heat to 350°F and bake 20 more minutes.
- 1 small baguette (purchased or freshly baked; see recipe above)
- Cheese (may be soft cheese, such as Brie, or hard cheese, such as Gouda)
- Leaf lettuce
- Mayonnaise or mustard
- Cornichons (tiny sweet French pickles)
- Slice the baguette in half lengthwise.
It is said that each person in France consumes about forty-five pounds of cheese every year. France is said to be the “Cheese Capital of the World” (List of French Cheeses). Cheese is a staple part of everyday life in France. Breakfast in France is a light meal, consisting of a small platter of fresh fruit from the local farmers market
, a small tartine, which is half a buttered baguette, with your choice of jams or jellies to dip them in (Culinary Ambassadors-Breakfast in France). Also at the breakfast table, one can find hot chocolate for the children and hot
espressos for the adults.
- Spread one half with mayonnaise or mustard, depending on preference.
- Arrange sliced cheese and ham over the mayonnaise.
- Slice the sweet pickles in half, and arrange on ham.
- Top with sliced tomato and lettuce.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and carry for lunch away from home.
Serves 1 or 2.
A uniquely French accent to the filling of the Baguette Sandwich are the cornichons (French pickles).
Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup)
- ½ pound onions, cut into thin slices
- 3 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup white wine (optional) or water
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- 1 beef bouillon cube and a dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 3 cups water
- Four ¾-inch thick slices of bread, cut from a baguette
- Salt and pepper
- Melt the butter and olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat and add the onions.
- Brown the onions for about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour on onions and stir until dissolved, heating 5 more minutes.
- Add the wine (if desired) and the water.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the bouillon cube and dash of Worcestershire sauce (if desired).
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Pour soup into bowls. Float a slice of bread in each bowl.
- Top the hot soup with cheese.
Croque-Monsieur (Ham and Cheese Sandwich)
- 1 loaf (12 slices) of sandwich bread
- 8 slices of ham
- 8 slices of Swiss cheese
- Swiss cheese, grated
- 1 cup milk
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese between two pieces of bread; repeat this step on the same sandwich to make a triple-decker sandwich.
- Repeat to make 4 sandwiches in all. Arrange the sandwiches in a baking dish.
- Make the béchamel: Combine the flour, milk, butter, salt, and pepper in a saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until the flour has completely dissolved.
- Pour the béchamel (white sauce) mixture over the sandwiches and top with the grated Swiss cheese.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and crusty.
- Serve on 4 plates. Cut sandwiches into halves or quarters.
These triple-decker croque-monsieurs (ham and cheese sandwiches) will be covered with a creamy sauce and topped with shredded Swiss cheese before baking.
Quiche au Saumon et Crevettes (Salmon and Shrimp Quiche)
- 1 prepared pie crust
- 4 small pieces of smoked salmon
- 1 small can of little shrimp
- Swiss cheese, grated
- ½ cup sour cream
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Beat the eggs until light and fluffy.
- Add the sour cream and cheese to the eggs and beat again.
- Poke holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork.
- Cover the bottom of the crust with the salmon. Arrange the shrimp evenly on top of salmon.
- Pour the egg mixture over the seafood. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Cut pie into quarters and serve hot with a salad and crusty bread.
Mousse au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse)
Packaged instant chocolate mousse mix, simpler to prepare than this traditional recipe, is available at most grocery stores and may be substituted.
- 4 ounces unsweetened cooking chocolate
- 4 eggs, separated
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of salt
- Raspberries, strawberries, and ladyfinger cookies as accompaniment
- Melt the chocolate over low heat in a saucepan.
Chestnuts and mistletoe are also loved in Brittany and they are included in most suppers. For majority of Frenchmen cooking, is a process that is more inclined on the quality rather than quantity of food. Saffron, olives, lemon, virgin oil and garlic are all used for purposes of enhancing flavor. The styles used by the French in cooking are based on their sauces. The sauces mixtures are boundless since different kinds of ingredients are used within different blends. Dairy products such as cream also are popular. An assortment of herbs are also used in cooking such as marjoram, lavender, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon and rosemary (David 66).
- Remove from heat, add cream and allow mixture to cool.
- Separate egg whites from the yolks.
- Add sugar to the yolks and mix well.
- Add yolk mixture to chocolate in the saucepan.
- Add a pinch of salt to egg whites, then beat with an electric mixer until stiff.
- Stir egg whites gently into chocolate mixture and let cool in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- To serve, arrange ladyfinger cookies vertically around the mousse.
- Arrange fresh fruit such as strawberries or raspberries on top. Serve chilled.
Serves 2 to 4.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
Major French holidays include Christmas (December 25), New Year's Day (January 1), and Bastille Day (July 14). On Bastille Day, named for the prison that citizens stormed on July 14, 1789, the French celebrate their liberation (freedom) from the monarchy and the beginning of their Republic.
In Asia, the French mode of cooking has become very popular. Seemingly, recognized as one of the most refined on the planet (together with Chinese food), it was developed in the duration of hundreds of years of social and political
changes. During ancient times, the French hosted extravagant feasts in celebration of leaders and they
prepared fanciful foods like Guillaume Tirel. During the Revolution
, the country experienced a move towards reduction of herbs and flavors. Celebrated French chef Auguste Escoffier later revolutionized the cooking methods in the country. Basque food, in addition produced incredible impact on cooking in
southwest parts of France. The ingredients usually differ on basis of location. Numerous distinguishing territorial dishes
have received recognition both locally and nationally
. Most of the dishes that once were locally have flourished in diverse varieties over the territory in present times. Cheese and wine are also key ingredients in cooking assuming their numerous varieties and distinctions. (David 21).
There are fireworks, dances, and parties with picnics. Picnics almost always include fromage (cheese), such as Camembert, brie, chevre (goat's milk cheese), or Roquefort.
Fromage (Cheese Board)
- ¼ to ½ pound of 3 different cheeses: select from Camembert, brie, chevre (goat's milk), Roquefort (bleu cheese)
- 1 loaf of crusty French bread (or 1 package of crackers)
- Wooden cutting board for cheese
- Basket for bread or crackers
- Cheese knife or paring knife
- Arrange the cheeses on the wooden cutting board.
- Line the basket with a napkin ( serviette in French), and fill it with crackers or the bread, sliced into thin rounds.
- Diners will use the knife to cut their own individual slices of cheese. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 12 or more.
For Christmas, the French have large feasts with many courses, which usually end with a Bûche de Noël, or Yule log. This cake is shaped to look like a log of wood because of the traditional French custom of lighting a real log at Christmas. On the first Sunday of January, the Christian holiday, Epiphany, is celebrated, marking the three kings' visit to the newborn baby Jesus. For this occasion, a special dessert called la galette des rois, is prepared. A small token, either a bean or porcelain toy, is baked inside. Whoever finds the hidden bean or porcelain toy in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a golden crown. Traditionally, the king (the man who found the bean in his piece of cake) had to pick a queen and present her with a gift. To avoid this obligation, the "king" would sometimes eat the evidence. To solve this problem, in 1874 French bakers began putting collectible porcelain charms in their cakes instead of beans.
Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Large jar of seedless jelly (strawberry or raspberry)
- Chocolate frosting, 1 can
- Powdered sugar
- Optional decorations: holly berries and evergreen leaves (fresh or artificial)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
Both Lorraine and Alsace have been under Germany rule numerous times in the past and the impact of this is obvious if the number of neighborhood dishes are to be mentioned in which cabbage and cured pork are regular. Baeckeoffe is marinated meat that is skewed with vegetables. Choucroute alsacienne is salted cabbage which is seasoned with juniper berries then presented with pork knuckle, pork belly and hotdogs. On top of this, the locals revere in different kinds of appetizing tarts and pies which are known as tarte flambee or flammekuche, which is a small layer of baked food accompanied with pork belly, onion or cream (David 36).
- Grease a jelly-roll pan (cookie sheet with a rim all around) and line the bottom with waxed paper. Grease the waxed paper well.
- Beat the eggs until frothy and pale yellow in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the sugar and water to the eggs and continue to beat.
- Mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add the flour mixture to egg mixture.
- Add the vanilla and almond extract.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes. (Toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean Do not overbake.)
- Remove from oven. Cover pan with a clean dishtowel, and turn over to remove cake from pan. Remove pan and carefully peel off the wax paper. (Cake is wrong-side up) Trim off any crusty edges.
- Fold one end of towel over short end of cake, and carefully roll cake up inside the towel.
- Lift the whole roll and place it, seam side down on a cooling rack.
- Allow to cool completely. Unroll carefully.
- Coat the cake completely with jelly.
- Carefully roll the cake back up again, without the towel.
- Cut a 2-inch slice from one end and cut in half.
- Attach these pieces to the sides of the cake to resemble branch stubs on a log.
- Frost the cake "log" with chocolate icing. Drag a fork along the length of the cake, scoring the frosting to resemble bark.
- Arrange holly berries and evergreen leaves around the cake if desired.
Serves 12 or more.
A central component of French culture is traditional food which at Christmas would consist of baked ham, chicken, seafood, fruits, pastries, cakes and French red or white wine. The French consume 45 pounds of cheese and over 57 liters of wine yearly (Survive a French restaurant in Paris ). Most of this consumption happens during Christmas time. Cheese, wine and bread are staples at a French
home or restaurant. Bread and pastries are consumed daily and are readily available at boulangeries, French for local bakeries. Wine is a staple drink after meals but it is seldom taken by itself or without food. Wine is not drunk only during celebrations or special occasions, but it is taken after regular everyday meals. The kind of wine should also match the food because not all kinds wine are complementary to any kind of meal. The French believe that each dining experience, whether there is an occasion or not should be an enjoyable experience. Aside from its use in cooking, Cheese is oftentimes served as a separate course after the main meal but before serving dessert (French Food Culture
La Galette des Rois (King's Cake)
- 1¼ pounds puff pastry (available in the frozen foods section of the supermarket)
- 1 dry bean (such as a dried kidney bean or navy bean)
- 2 eggs
- 7 ounces almond paste
- Paper crown for decoration
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Grease a cookie sheet.
- Roll out pastry an 8-inch round.
- Mix 1 egg with the almond paste until smooth and spread evenly onto the pastry.
- Place the bean anywhere on the filling.
- Roll out another 8-inch piece of pastry and place it over the almond filling. Press the edges together firmly to seal. Score the top layer lightly with a sharp knife.
- Beat the other egg lightly and gently brush over the top layer.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 400°F, and bake for another 25 minutes.
- Serve warm, with the crown on top.
Serves 8. The person who finds the bean is designated as the queen or king.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
When entertaining at home, the hosts pride themselves on making mealtime a memorable and positive experience. For everyday lunches and dinners, four courses are typically served: salad, main dish with meat, cheese with bread, and dessert. Bread and water are always served. Special occasions include even more courses such as an appetizer of savory pastries, or other finger foods. This is normally served with an alcoholic beverage, often French wine. Several bottles of wine may be served with the meal. Coffee is also served.
Restaurants in France are generally more formal than those in the United States. It is expected that patrons are there to have a full meal. Wine is ordered by the half or full carafe (a glass container). Waiters are rarely tipped because a fee for service is added to the bill for the meal. Eating out is a social occasion, and is a leisurely activity. It is considered rude to ask to have leftover food wrapped to be taken home. Several fast food restaurants such as Quick (a French version of McDonald's), and Pizza Hut are available. Sidewalk vendors and cafés or local boulangeries (bakeries) also offer quick.
The typical eating habits of the French include three meals a day, with tea served at 4 p.m. Breakfast often includes a fresh baguette and buttery croissants, sometimes filled with chocolate or almond paste. Coffee, café, is usually very strong; café au lait is coffee served with hot milk. Fresh fruit and yogurt are also common at breakfast. Lunch is the main meal of the day and takes more time to eat than the typical lunch in the United States. For this reason, many businesses are closed between 12 noon and 2 p.m. A school lunch might consist of a baguette filled with cheese, butter, meat, lettuce, and tomato. Dinner usually takes place after eight at night.
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
The diet of the French people is generally considered healthy, and most citizens receive adequate nutrition. In 2001 the countries of Europe experienced outbreaks of two diseases, "mad cow disease" and "hoof and mouth disease" that affected the cattle and sheep herds. Many countries enacted laws and regulations restricting the import and export of meat during that period, until the diseases could be brought under control. In France, there have been protests at some fast food restaurants in an attempt to drive them out of the country to keep the traditional quality of French food and the French lifestyle.