In France, there is a distinctive culture of French food that is undeniable. It is accompanied with pride, exclusive ingredients and techniques, a world renowned culinary school and those special regions that are known for one particular kind of food. To not experience the food, both regional and national, is to not truly experience France.
Foods for Which the French are Famous
There are some foods and beverages that are quintessentially French. While you may find them all over the world, you will always associate these foods with France.
- Coq au vin--(pronounced co co van) is a chicken frickasee cooked in red wine with mushrooms and sometimes garlic.
- Crêpes--(pronounced crehp) is a very flat pancake typically stuffed with fruit or cream.
- Baguette--''(pronounced like it appears) is a long French bread loaf.
- Chocolate mousse--this lighter than air dessert originated in France.
- Éclair--(pronounced ay clair) is a pastry stuffed with cream and topped with icing
- Crème Brûlée--(pronounced crehm broo lay) is a custard topped with hard caramel.
Regionalism in French Food
You will also find that a region's food is heavily influenced by the region's own history and border countries. For example, in Alsace, which is separated from Germany only by the Rhine river, common foods include choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages, salt pork and potatoes) and spätzle, which is a type of German dumpling with egg noodles.
Bread, Cheese and Wine
While French dishes are known for their complex, and rich flavors, most French people eat bread, wine and cheese daily.
The French consume an average of 45 pounds per person of cheese per year! It is safe to say that cheese is a major staple of the French diet and should you be visiting France, you would be remiss not to sample the region's cheese. There are some 400 different types of French cheeses, all classified by the type of milk they are made with (cow, goat, or ewe), whether or not the milk was pasteurized, how they were pressed. . .and so on. What's more, every region is known for particular kinds of cheese.
Bread and Pastry
Who hasn't eaten a French baguette before? In France, most people go to the boulangerie, and get their bread fresh or bake it fresh on a daily basis. Bread is eaten with chocolate or with cheese. In the morning, you might have pain au chocolat avec café ''(bread with chocolate and coffee) or in the evening you might take your bread with wine at your meal.
There is not a region in France that is NOT known for some type of wine. Wine is commonly served with dinner along with water or carbonated mineral water. If you were to think about all the wines that have French names, it would soon become clear that the wine industry is quite large in France. For example:
- Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France.
- Chardonnay (believed to have originated in France)
- Burgundy wine
These are just a small sampling of the wines that are produced in France. France reportedly makes close to 900 million dollars off of the wine industry.
Distinctives of French Cooking
So what makes chicken coq au vin instead of just plain old chicken in wine sauce? There are a few things that are distinctive about French cooking.
Although truffles can be found all over the world, French cuisine is known for them. The truffle is a pungent tasting fungus that grows under trees in forested areas. Leave it to the French to make a fungus simply divine!
Techniques You Probably Know
There are many French cooking techniques that you probably know:
- Flambé--to cook or finish something by pouring alcohol over it and then lighting it on fire.
- Sauté--cooking something in fat, over high heat
- Emulsion--an emulsion means that you have a lot of fat distributed evenly through a mixture. (An example in mayonnaise.)
- Julienne--if you julienne vegetables properly, they will be as thin as match sticks
Culture of French Food: Enjoying What You Eat
If you were to sum up the entire French attitude towards food, you would have to say that the French like to enjoy their meals. Meals are prepared carefully and sometimes very slowly. They are influenced by the local region. And of course, you can't forget the cheese--an important staple of the French diet. LoveToKnow also information about French food on LTK's Recipes Channel, and don't forget about French Wine on the Wine channel.