Flip-Flop France: A guide to eating in France
Sasha Steiner provides tips for eating in France, and how expats can still find most of the ingredients to make their favourite foods in France.
Cooking is something I do every day. I rarely make frozen meals or eat highly sugarised processed foods – instead I make everything from scratch using fresh ingredients. If you're living in France, however, there are some key things to know that could help a newcomer regarding French food, drinking, and ingredients.
Tips for eating in France
- When ordering or making steak remember this: A point is medium, bien cuite is well cooked, and bleue is blue, or rare.
- At a restaurant, opt for the 'pot du vin', which is often five times cheaper than bottled and just as good.
- Garni is the sprinkling of parsley, garniture is the lay out of ingredients.
- The Producer's Market offers restaurant quality produce for cheap prices.
- Pastry flour is most commonly used for baking, and it is amazing for anyone who says they cannot bake.
- There are several different varieties of potatoes for different dishes; be aware the French know this difference.
- Never act 'American' when invited; meaning don't consistently ask what the food is and turn your nose up at it. Just eat, smile and graciously thank the hostess.
- Rice and coconut milk is five times cheaper in Guillotiere.
- Pate and foie gras are never eaten spread on crackers. We always eat these with bread or, for foie gras, we eat it with toasted brioche.
- When making a toast, always touch everyone's glass while making eye contact.
- Spices are more widely available in Guillotiere, ranging from Indian to Asian.
- A kebab is a great afternoon filler if you're hungry, and often cheaper than other global fastfood chains.
Sushi is notoriously expensive in France and normally is just several variations on salmon nigiris and rolls. To save money try Groupon to get discounts on Sushi joints. Some cheaper sushi joints:
- Ze Sushi – 7 Rue du Confort, Lyon; EUR 14 for 11 pieces during 'midi'.
- Sushi Wa – 31 Rue Thomassin; four plates for EUR 1.
- O'Sushi – 72 rue Mercière; between EUR 5–9 for a plate of sushi.
Ingredients in France
Rumors of things that don't exist, but do, or replacements for things we love:
- Baking powder – it exists in the form of 'Levure de Chimique' and it comes in one 1/2 tsp packets in supermarkets.
- Baking soda – also exists, can be found in Guillitiere supermarkets.
- Cornbread mix – does not exist, but you can make it at home by blending two cups of flour, 1/2 tbsp of salt, 1/4 cup of baking powder, 1/2 cup of french butter, two cups of cornmeal. Remember that cornmeal is available in Badouhrian or any Asian or Arabic grocery in Guillotiere.
- Pancake mix – does not exist, but again homemade is easy – two cups flour, some butter, two tablespoons sugar, 1/8 cup baking powder and blend with milk/eggs.
- Popcorn – available at most super markets for about EUR 1.50 a package, (about 300g) or from Producer's Market for EUR 1.30 a kilo!
- Sour cream – does not exist, but a great replacement is to mix together one pot yogurt, one tsp salt and some chives. Plus it's lower in fat.
- Taco seasoning – international brands are slowly entering the market, otherwise make your own authentic seasoning at home –mix one tsp piment en poudre, 1/4 tsp ail en poudre, 1/4 tsp oignon en poudre, 1/4 tsp piment du pizza, 1/4 tsp origan, 1/2 tsp paprika douce, one 1/2 tsp garam masala or cumin, one tsp salt, and one tsp black pepper, and seal in a jar.
- Tortillas can be made super easily at home, if you can't find fresh ones – blend two cups flour, 125g butter, 1/2 to one cup warm water, and some baking powder and set aside for about 20 minutes. Cook on a hot pan for a few seconds each side (roll into balls and press first).
For more extensive listings, although slightly outdated, check Lyon Eats.
Sasha Steiner is a young American who moved 3,360 miles to Lyon, France, then to Paris a few years later. She's a blogger and specialist in international business and culture shock. After three years abroad in France, she repatriated to her home town Portland, Oregon, in late 2013. Sasha continues to spend her free time sharing stories and advice about international living through her blog Flip-Flop France.
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