Facts About French Food
1. Before eating a meal, it is polite and correct to say Bon appétit. Literally, this means 'good appetite'.
By saying 'Bon appétit!' you are wishing everybody 'a good appetite' so that they will enjoy their meal.
2. In France, some popular foods are les escargots - snails, la viande de cheval - horse meat and les cuisses de grenouilles - frogs' legs.
3. The most popular French bread is la baguette ( meaning: little stick). It is a loaf 5 or 6 cm. wide and up to a metre in length. If it is a thinner version, it is called une ficelle ( meaning - a string) and if it is wider it is called une flûte. Bread rolls are called les petits pains - the little breads.
4. The word for breakfast is le petit déjeuner. It literally translates as 'the little lunch'. In France you dunk un croissant or another pastry such as un pain au chocolat into a milky drink at breakfast-time. The word 'croissant' actually means 'crescent' because the pastry is a crescent shape. The shape is very good for dunking!
5. Officially, it is said that - Il existe un fromage différent pour chaque jour de l'année. This means that in France there exists a different cheese for each day of the year - 365. However, it is known that there are even more than 365!
French cheese is grouped into eight categories known as 'the eight cheese families' - les huit familles de fromages. They are also known as les grandes familles. They are:
1. fresh cheese - le fromage frais
2. soft cheese - le fromage à pâte molle with natural rind such as Brie and Camembert
3. soft cheese with washed rind
4. hard cheese - le fromage à pâte pressée
5. hard cheese that is cooked such as Emmental, Beaufort and Gruyère
6. goat's cheese - le fromage de chèvre
7. blue cheese - le fromage à pâte persillée
8. processed cheese - le fromage fondu such as Boursin
6. On 6 January, a special cake is eaten called la galette des Rois (the Kings' cake) to celebrate the journey of the Three Kings - les Rois Mages - who followed the star to find the Baby Jesus - l' Enfant Jésus.
This occasion is called l' Épiphanie.
Inside the cake, a trinket called une fève is hidden.
On 6 January, parties take place and the cake is served. The lucky person who receives the trinket becomes the 'king' or 'queen' of the party and wears a paper crown.
7. La quiche is a savoury pie. It is a pastry base filled with a creamy egg mixture. Various ingredients can be added, for example, cubed bacon, onion, cheese, tomatoes, etc.
La quiche Lorraine is the most famous version, from the area of Lorraine in north-east France. It has a filling made from egg, cream and cubed bacon (les lardons).
8. La ratatouille is a vegetable stew from the area of Nice in the South of France. Its full name is la ratatouille niçoise. The stew contains aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, peppers, herbs and garlic.
The vegetables are tossed together in a frying pan - une poêle. La ratatouille is served warm and can be either a side-dish or a main course served with rice - du riz or bread - du pain.
9. Here is some vocabulary relating to meals in French:
le petit déjeuner = the breakfast
le déjeuner = the lunch
le repas = the meal
le dîner = the evening meal
l'entrée = the starter
le plat principal = the main course
le hors-d'œuvre = the appetiser
le dessert = the dessert
le casse-croûte = the snack
10. La bouillabaisse is a fish and seafood soup from the area of Marseille in the south of France. It is served with croûtons and a sauce called rouille. The sauce is similar to a mayonnaise made with breadcrumbs, chilli peppers, garlic, saffron and olive oil.
Below: La bouillabaisse servie avec de la rouille et des croûtons.
11. A French delicacy is le foie gras. This literally means 'the fat liver' and it refers to the fattened liver of a goose or a duck that has been forced to eat more food than normal.
The fattened liver can be served whole, in pieces, in a mousse or in pâté.
It can be served cold or warm as a starter - une entrée - or to accompany another dish.
Officially, the production of le foie gras has important and protected status in French cuisine and culture.
12. Le pâté is a paste made from meat, fish or vegetables. If it is cooked in a ceramic dish, it is called la terrine. If le pâté is cooked within a pastry crust then it is called le pâté en croûte. Another form of pâté is called les rillettes. This has a 'shredded' texture and is less smooth than normal pâté.
13. Le croque-monsieur is a hot, toasted or grilled cheese and ham sandwich. A variation is when it is served with a fried or poached egg on top and then it is called un croque-madame.
14. The city of Dijon, in the Burgundy area of eastern France, is famous for producing mustard, known as la moutarde de Dijon.
15. La crêpe means 'the pancake.' Les crêpes can be sweet or savoury and are sold in shops or at stalls called les crêperies.
A popular way to prepare a sweet pancake in France is to drizzle it with melted butter, sugar, Grand Marnier liqueur and grated orange and lemon peel. This pancake is called la crêpe Suzette and it was named after the French actress Suzanne Reichenberg.
Often the liqueur is ignited so that a flame is burning on the pancake when it is served. This will caramelise the sugar and it consumes the liqueur. Food that is prepared or served by setting it alight with a burning flame is called flambé.