French food is known around the world as a reference for gourmet food, but are you familiar with the dishes served every day in French restaurants and cooked at home by French people? Here you have some of the basics you should know about French dishes and French meals.
France has numerous dishes to offer and each region has its own specialties. Wherever you go, you’ll be amazed by the variety of local food. Let’s start with the Southwest of France, where famous foods like foie gras and confits originated. The best Cassoulet (a mix of beans and charcuterie) is made in the Toulouse region, and the best truffles are produced in the Cahors region. But the most famous city in the Southwest of France is Bordeaux, which grows some of the best wines in the world, both red wines from the Medoc and Saint Emilion areas and sweet white wines from the Sauternes area.
Burgundy is not only famous for its wines. Escargots are one of Bourgogne specialties, along with Dijon mustard (Dijon is Burgundy’s capital city) and creme de cassis (blackcurrant liquor). The Savoie region is famous for its cheeses (Tomme, Beaufort, and Reblochon) and cheese-based dishes like fondue and raclette. East of France offers delicious specialties too: Quiche originates from Lorraine and Choucroute (hot sauerkraut with charcuterie and potatoes) is a traditional dish from Alsace.
Further down South, Marseilles is known for its soupe de poisson (fish soup) and bouillabaisse (seafood soup), while the region of Provence is known around the world for its delicious herbs de Provence, a mix of thyme, rosemary, basil, savory, marjoram and oregano. Nougat is a delicious treat that originated in Montelimar.
But France’s gastronomic capital is Lyon, which offers an interesting combination of bouchons lyonnais (usually family-run bistrots that serve simple but delicious foods) and Michelin-starred restaurants owned by renowned French chefs such as Bocuse and Troisgros.
And of course Paris is a great place to eat fine foods from all over the country. With close to 10,000 restaurants including some of the finest establishments in the world.
A typical French meal comes in a number of courses, from 3 for everyday meals to 7 or 8 courses for elaborate meals. French people typically have a first course, then the entree, and finally dessert. Many people also serve a cheese platter, with a variety of cheeses. In that case, please note that dessert is always served after cheese.
A French meal is much more than a time to eat food, it is an excuse for socializing and discussing for hours. We are used to quick service in the US and in more and more places. Service in French restaurants will seem slow in comparison, so use the additional time to enjoy the dishes that are served, to talk with friends or family and to better digest the food you are eating.