The easy answer to the question "What do French people eat?," is that they eat just about everything. In France, like in most developed countries, there are meat lovers and vegetarians, and there are people who prefer salty and others who prefer sweet. However, aspects surrounding food in France set the country apart from other countries.
History of Food in France
Food is a very important part of life in France, which makes it also a very important part of French culture. While the British are known for their afternoon tea and the Americans are known for their bottomless buffets, the French are known for long, lingering meals that feature several courses. This food culture is an integral part of daily life in France.
Although food and eating is a prominent part of the French experience, with each passing year the French food culture resembles other Western nations a little bit more. For example, giant supermarkets that resemble major American chains have found their way to France in the last 20 years. While France was once the epitome of multiple-stop shopping (bread at the boulangerie, meat at the boucherie, and vegetables from the outdoor market), more and more French people are visiting the large shopping centers once a week.
Despite this trend, it is still very common for French people to buy the most important items (breads and pastries) from independent shops. While everyday meat is typically purchased at the supermarket, many families still visit the butcher to reserve a choice cut for special occasions. Likewise, many French citizens walk to the baker each morning in order to put a fresh baguette on the breakfast table.
What Do French People Eat
While meals in France tend to be long, breakfast can be a rather quick affair. While dinner and lunch may seem like long meals with an overabundance of food, breakfast may seem particularly limited by American standards.
Breakfast in France is usually a light affair, with the beverage (usually coffee) being just as important as the food. Some typical French breakfast choices:
- "Tartines", which is toast with jam, is a typical French breakfast loved for its simplicity and the sweet flavor that goes well with coffee.
- Croissants are a common weekend breakfast.
- "Pain au chocolat" is a well-loved luxurious breakfast in France, especially by children. On weekends especially, chocolate-filled croissants (although they are not the same shape as a traditional croissant) may be bought for the children.
- A piece of baguette with butter or jam is a French breakfast.
- Some French people accompany their bread/toast/croissants with a bit of fresh fruit or yogurt.
- Many French people will reach for the coffee before the breakfast plate. While the default type of coffee in France is espresso (if you ask for un café in a restaurant, you will get an espresso), it is common to ask for a café au lait at breakfast. This coffee is served in a large, rounded bowl or mug, and has a lot of milk added to it. Other options are tea or hot chocolate.
You will find the most varied answers to the question, "What do French people eat?," at lunchtime in France. While some French people leave work for two hours and eat a multi-course meal served with wine, other French people grab a sandwich from a street vendor.
Restaurant lunch: With this option, anything goes! A three or four course meal can consist of appetizer (salad, soup, pâté, etc.), a meat or fish accompanied with a type of potato and a warm vegetable, and followed with a dessert, and occasionally a cheese platter. This lunch is often accompanied by wine. Of course, there are also restaurants serving salads and crêpes;.
Lunch at home: Some French people still go home at lunchtime, and many of these people eat a warm meal, usually not as fancy as the multi-course restaurant meal.
Street lunch: As work schedules get tighter and commutes get longer, many more French people buy sandwiches on the street or in the train station at lunchtime. Popular sandwiches are on baguettes, with the most traditional choices being cheese or ham and cheese. You may also be able to find boiled eggs, tuna, and salami in addition to the traditional cheese or ham and cheese.
Dinners in France can vary depending on the day of the week and how big of a meal lunch was. Couples who go home for a decadent lunch often have a simpler dinner, whereas those who eat a sandwich at lunchtime might eat a larger dinner. On special occasions, dinners become longer, feature more courses (especially the cheese platter), and the dinner table is set with fancy linens and plates. For some sample French dinner items, check out these traditional French foods.
Enjoy Delicious French Cuisine
While there is no specific daily French diet, there are plenty of foods that are typical in French houses and restaurants. Coffee and wine are closely linked to the food culture as well. Visitors to France will appreciate the fine food as well as the simple, fresh ingredients.