Few countries are as celebrate as France for its inventive approach to dining. French cuisine has a deserved reputation as one of the world’s best.
The reputation of French food is international and once you start exploring the top French foods it’s easy to see why. Indeed, food has become such an integral part of French culture that UNESCO placed the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ was its list of intangible human culture.
French food culture, according to UNESCO, is important for ‘bringing people together to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking’ and the power to create ‘togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature’.
With such importance placed on food, here is some French food information to help you fit into France and understand its vital French food culture.
French food facts
- Traditional French culture places a high priority on the enjoyment of food. The French view eating as not just a neutral act, but as culture.
- France has a different cheese for every day of the year.
- In France, people eat approximately 500,000,000 snails per year.
- Ten billion baguettes are produced each year in France. By law, a traditional baguette can only have three ingredients – flour, yeast and salt – and must weigh 250 grams, just short of 9 ounces.
- To combat food wastage, France was the world’s first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food and instead supermarkets must give to charities and other services.
- Many people in France drink their hot beverages from bowls and dip bread or pastry in it.
- The legal drinking age is officially 18 for spirits and strong liquors (21 percent alcohol), and 16 for most other alcohol drinks, such as beer and wine.
- While French cuisine is often associated with rich desserts, in most homes dessert consists of only fruit, yogurt or sometimes a few squares of natural dark chocolate.
- France is among the world’s top 10 largest exporters of agricultural products – and Europe’s largest, accounting for up to 20 of total EU production.
- France is largest consumer of fungicides in Europe, just ahead of Germany, and one of the top European consumers of pesticides. The widespread use of chemicals is one reason people in France are turning to bio or organic products. In fact, France is Europe’s second largest consumer of organic products and produces around three-quarters of European organic products.
- Even though one in five French people say they have stopped eating beef, most of them do not like tofu. They have obviously never tried the tofu dishes at The Bamboo House!
- The French enjoy eating horse and rabbit. It is normal to see these items on a restaurant menu.
- Almost all grocery stores close at 8pm and are closed on Sundays. There are exceptions in big cities, and increasingly more are open.
- Wine is considered an important part of the French meal. “Wine …the intellectual part of the meal.” – Alexandre Dumas, 1873.
- It is almost impossible to find true Mexican food in France. I say ‘almost’ because I am hoping someone can prove me wrong.
- In times of celebration, the French always drink Champagne. The first written reference to Champagne was English, not French. In 1676, Etherege wrote in praise of ‘sparkling Champagne’ which ‘Quickly recovers, Poor laughing lovers, Makes us frolic and gay, and drowns all our sorrows’.
- At a French McDonald’s, you can order a beer and a Croque McDo. Prices on most items are twice as expensive as the US, most likely because most of the agricultural products used at French McDonald’s are produced locally.
- Cuisine TV, which is the French Food Network, is way boring. The recipes are interesting but if you are not passionate about cooking you won’t want to watch.
- A traditional French Christmas menu consists of raw oysters, escargots, fois gras, smoked salmon, scallops and Champagne.
- Goûter or quatre-heure is an afternoon snack for French children and is made up of crepes, croissants, brioche, cookies or hot chocolate.
- It is common for people in most parts of France to take a two-hour lunch break (although less in main cities). Therefore, most shops close around 12pm and reopen at 2pm or sometimes 3pm or later.
- The cuisine from each different region in France differs greatly. The Provence region uses olive oils, tomatoes and herbs in many dishes. In Normandy, the food is influenced by butter, crème fraiche and apples. The Alps region is known for its cheese dishes, including fondue and raclette, while the Alsace region has a strong German influence which includes beer and sauerkraut.
- Grand Cru (great growth) is a regional wine classification that designates the best or most promising vineyards, with the term having varying meanings in different parts of France. In Burgundy or Alsace it refers to the best vineyards, while in Bordeaux its meaning varies by the specific region and is not always the highest classification.
- The AOC, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, is a system of labelling products – wine, cheese, chickens, olive oils, potatoes and even lentils. It serves as a guarantee of the origin of a product and its quality.
- Côte-Rôtie is a French wine AOC in the northern Rhône region of France. The earliest record of wine making in the region dates to the 2nd century BC when the Romans settled in the regions around Vienne. Côte-Rôtie means the ‘roasted side’ and refers to the long hours of sunlight that these steep slopes receive.