Travel Tips – French Cuisine


France has something of a reputation to live up to when it comes to food, and it is renowned throughout the world!  It is true that some of the French cities have succumbed to the lure of the big international fast food chains, but if you are in rural areas, don’t even bother looking for anything but French restaurants.  It is also true that most towns have a supermarket – or a hypermarket – and they do sell tinned food.  But hypermarkets are just an excuse for the purveyors of fresh produce to have a captive trade for their goods.  The standards do not drop.

Food has to be cooked to perfection in France; I think there is a law somewhere to say that.  I have yet to have a bad meal in any restaurant in France, although some I’ve had in very “touristy” places have not been quite up to the standard I have come to expect, so, if you can, try and steer clear of the tourist traps.  And the universal rule applies: if the locals eat there, the food is likely to be good.

The French Way of Eating

The French still have a traditional view of food, so the time-honoured rules still apply:

The first meal of the day is a petit dejeuner (breakfast), which is usually croissants or slices of baguette with jam and coffee, or sometimes hot chocolate or tea.  This is starting to change now, and if you are staying in a large hotel, you are more likely to have choice of cereal and yoghurt as well.  In France, where breakfast is concerned, small is beautiful, probably because of the portions that follow in later meals.

Lunch, or le dejeuner, can be a sumptuous affair.  I know of a place in Gascony where it consists of seven courses, and this is more of a workman’s café than a gourmet restaurant.  (Of course, not everyone has that every day, but the general rule is that lunch is bigger than breakfast.)

And finally there is le diner.  My strong advice to anyone eating a traditional French dinner is to take a very long walk to work up a good appetite first.  The French would be insulted if anyone left the dinner table hungry.  Maybe not so much on a weekday, but at weekends, it goes on for hours…

Points to Note

The French don’t, in general, understand vegetarianism.  Be prepared for them to look at you as though you are slightly mad if you suggest it, although most will try to prepare something to suit you.  It may take a few attempts though, so be patient.

France is a large country, and each region is very proud of its own produce so it is worth tasting local delicacies wherever you go.  You may not like all of them, but they will always be well cooked.  Gascony is famous for its pork – it is divine; the coastal areas always have good fish and seafood; and the cheeses…  Try them all.  Check out the local specialities before you travel to see what is on offer.  It is unlikely that you will be disappointed.

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