The Ultimate Guide On How to Eat Like a Local in France
By Seema Nande on Nov 29, 2016
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If you were to zero down on the most passionate eaters from around the world, it would undeniably be the French! I won’t be wrong to state that the French culture revolves around food. So passionate and zealous the French are of their food, that it is their configured way of life. With an ultimate objective of creating harmonious dishes, the French encompass an entire array of food-related aspects. This explains why they are not only particular about what they eat but even how and when they eat. Rightly so, these cheese and bread lovers know how to incorporate just about everything in their food appropriately.
Indeed, eating local is the best way to get the closest insights into the traditions and cultures of a destination. Perhaps, it is even the crux of traveling, to say the least. If you thought French food was fancy and all complicated, hold on till you read this. Here are some ways to get the best of France and it includes a lot of eating. The ultimate guide on how to eat like a local in France - right below!
Dining etiquettes in France
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Basics first! While you embark your venture learning how to eat like a local in France, it is essential to start with the fundamentals. Table manners and dining customs differ globally, but France’s are; let’s say borderline amusing! We can say that dining etiquettes in France are formal, albeit very polite.
As you sit down at a place to have a meal, speak French. We mean at least try. Doesn’t matter how fluent or good you might not be, speaking a local language is always appreciated, especially in France. Asking for suggestions is appreciated too. You sure might enter with a worked-up appetite, but unlike anywhere in the world, you got to be patient after placing your order. It is considered discourteous to hurry-up an order. The French do not believe in rushing the cooking process, so there are chances that you might have to wait longer than you anticipated.
Elaborating more on the do’s and don’ts, there are table manners that you must adhere to. Placing your hands on your lap is rude, and so is placing your elbows on the table. So, what do you do, you ask? Place your hands on the table in a way that the elbows don’t reach the table. The French never eat with their hands, not even finger foods. Always use a fork and knife to do so. The fork is to be held in the left hand and knife in the right hand. Even bread is eaten, rather torn with a fork and knife, unlike the usual biting. Cheese too must be cut in a particular way, retaining its original shape. Bread or a basket of bread is served with every meal. After you lift it off the basket, do not place it on your plate, instead, place it on your table cloth. Cutting the nose of a triangular cheese is a strict no-no! Lettuce must not be torn either, the French instead eat it folded on their folk. Adding salt or pepper additionally over served food might be offensive to someone, so try skipping it! Lastly, irrespective of the quantity, do not ask for taking away the leftover food, you might be looked down upon.
Bear in mind that, the French follow strict eating timetables, so follow the same while here. Have an early breakfast, lunch between noon to 3pm and dinner 8pm onwards. During the meal times, you are most likely to find many shops, museums and other things shut. Such is the importance of food in France!
Quality of food
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French don’t look at cooking as a chore, but a pleasurable process of slow cooking and using varied techniques, which further enhances the actual eating process. Every technique and process may vary as per various French regions. Thus, most of it is highly influenced by local cultures and practices. It is the French that introduced the cooking techniques of braising, flambéing, grilling, poaching and sautéing to global culinary!
The freshness of food is very important. The French love fresh vegetables, fruits, bread, cheeses, and meat. Eating like a local in France will require you to buy fresh ingredients from farmers’ markets. As a matter of fact, France was where the concept of farmers’ markets came into existence! They prefer buying meat directly from the butcher, over supermarkets. Meat, red or white, is an important part of the main meals in France. A reason why the quality of poultry, beef, pork and all other kinds of meat that we get in France is so brilliant. You must understand that cooking meat or any dish is an activity of building flavors.
What does a French meal consist of?
Locals in France follow a strict eating schedule consisting of three meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is no concept of snacking here. Perhaps, one reason why the French have a slim body frame! So much so, that snacking in between meals is frowned upon here. The French like to ‘enjoy’ their meals leisurely sitting on a table, so you will not find any food-on-the-go or fast-food in France. It is considered sloppy if you eat while walking.
The three-course meal unfolds with starter, a main dish, and cheese or fruit, in this particular order. The starter usually consists of a salad, a terrine, soup or a paté, while the main dish will be some form of meat Chicken gizzards and duck liver being favorites, of course with a serving of rice! Cheese, a very important part of the meal, is consumed at the end. Speaking of cheese, there are over 500 types of cheese in France, that differ regionally. It is also one of the primary ingredients of French food.
Vegetables are served as side dishes with the main dish. These come either grilled or steamed, again very fresh! Homegrown vegetables are not rare in France, almost every house has a kitchen garden. Of course, the variety of vegetables you will find here is enormous!
The French enjoy either wine or water with a meal. Dessert is special, exquisite and occasional. The idea of patisseries and confectionaries originated in France. As did the delightful chocolate eclairs, apple tarts, and cherry flan cakes! The French have a thing for fruit-featured desserts and thus, you will find several local desserts created with fruits.
Again, it is necessary to understand that food techniques in France are based on logics!
|Breakfast||Palmier, Croissant, Pain Suisse, Chouquettes Pain au chocolat, Brioche, Pain aux raisins|
|Lunch||Quick French Onion Soup, Baked Parmesan French Toast with Tapenade and Arugula Salad,
Nioise Tuna Melts, Classic Vichyssoise, Summer Bouillabaisse with Smoky Rouille,
Duck Breast & Orange Salad
|Dinner||Buf bourguignon, Oeufs en meurette, Gougre, bouillabaisse, Chicken Cordon Bleu Roll-Ups,
Chicken Fricassee, Grilled Steaks with Garlic Chive Butter and French-Style Potato Salad
Enjoy your meal
Want to eat like a local in France? then do not rush through your meal. The French, love to take it slow, devour their meal alongside a lot of discussion of various topics. These discussions might turn out aggressive, but it’s perfectly normal. Discussions may vary from assorted topics, politics, food and even sex (absolutely normal). Discussions are such an important part of a French meal, that, children are molded from childhood to interact during meals. Thus, they even learn a very important art of appreciating food from a very young age. The last meal of the day, dinner, is much of a relaxing affair. It is a way to wind up your day with the family!
Café culture in France
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The genesis of café culture, no one does cafes like the French. Not surprisingly, coffee is literally built into a French local’s lifestyle! Don’t be surprised if you spot people devouring coffee straight from a bowl. Blended coffee is not very appreciated in France and what you will find here is pure coffee without any chicory! Added flavors, cream, and the likes are not how the French like their coffee with. Café au lait or milk coffee is savored as a dessert or even breakfast.
Wandering around cafes, you will sight locals relishing croissants or baguettes along with a huge bowl of café au lait as breakfast or déjeuner! Patisseries and confectionaries form an important part of the French café culture.
The art of Drinking in France
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Lastly, drinking! The French love their wine. Like cheese, different regions have different wines. Drinking is an art in France, unlike rest of the world which observe drinking more as a form of socializing. It is taboo to drink if you are under 21 here. Filling your glass, before it gets empty is not the best thing to do while in France. Even holding your wine glass has a scientific explanation. Firstly, the French hold their glass at the stem of the glass by fingertips of the thumb and forefinger, as holding the bowl, causes exchange of temperature, thus affecting the original taste of the wine! Don’t mix your drinks in France.
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Finally, keep in mind that wherever you come from, love for food is universally appreciated and novice is always forgiven!