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Food and Drink

France - Food and Drink

French food is renowned for being amongst the best in the world. For the French, eating is more than just an everyday necessity, it’s an integral part of their culture, and this is clearly reflected in their signature dishes.

France is well known across the world for a whole host of traditional dishes and ingredients, such as crepes, baguettes, champagne, cheese, and croissants. And that’s just the beginning. Other national dishes include specialities such as Duck L’Orange, Coq au Vin, and an endless array of seafood dishes.

Of course, an article about traditional French food wouldn’t be complete without giving a mention to the classic snails (L’escargot) and frogs legs – although it’s unusual to find locals dining on them on a day to day basis!

In addition to classic French dishes, you will also find plenty of delicious world cuisines such as North African, Caribbean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian.

Traditional dishes vary from region to region, depending upon the climate, customs, and landscape of the area. In Provence, for example, local speciality dishes feature plenty of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, aubergines, and peppers, thanks to the region’s Mediterranean climate. The area is also famous for its fish dishes thanks to its close proximity to the sea, and one of its most iconic dishes is bouillabaisse, a tasty fish stew.

Moving into the south west regions of Languedoc and Pays Basque, the food takes on a distinctly Spanish influence, offering warming stews (cassoulet), whilst in the north eastern Alsace region, Germanic-influenced dishes such as sauerkraut (choucroute) and all manner of sausages, are the area’s speciality. In the north west, however, regions such as Normandy and Brittany are all about seafood, crêpes, and galettes. Some of France’s most symbolic dishes, such as coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon are regional dishes from Burgundy, the home of French wine.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy a quick and easy breakfast (petite déjeuner) is with a croissant or pain au chocolat washed down with a tea, hot chocolate, or coffee. Croissants and other baked treats can be picked up from cafes, bakeries or patisseries and are usually extremely cheap.

Lunch in France (Le déjeuner) is the main meal of the day and has traditionally been a two-hour meal enjoyed leisurely at around mid-day. However, there is an increasing trend towards a shorter, one-hour lunch, particularly in urban areas. If you’re eating out, popular lunchtime dishes include crêpes, galettes, and pizza from local Pizzerias. The majority of restaurants and cafes also offer daily specials (plat de jour) and reasonably priced lunch menus (formules), offering a limited choice of a main dish and starter or a dessert for a fixed price.

The typical evening meal (Le diner) is usually eaten around 20:00 and consists of three courses – a starter (hors d’oeuvre/entrée), main course (plat principal), and a cheese course or dessert.

As an expat in France, it’s important that you bear in mind that many restaurants, particularly in rural areas, are open for very short periods covering lunch and dinner. For example, it’s not unheard of for a restaurant to be open from 12:00 until 13:30 for lunch, and then 19:30 until 21:30 for dinner.

If you’re eating out, when it comes to tipping, a service charge of 12 to 15% tends to be added to the bill in restaurants, bars and hotels, but it’s also standard practice to leave small change with your payment.

Drinking alcohol in France is a leisurely pastime often enjoyed before food (aperitif) or after food (digestif). Apéritifs vary from region to region, for example Pastis is a favourite in the south of the country, whilst Crémant d’Alsace is commonly enjoyed in the east.

The French are famous for their wines and it is drunk at just about every meal, with a wine for every taste and every occasion. Champagnes, Burgundy, and Bordeaux are arguably the most famous winemaking regions in the country; however, wine is produced pretty much everywhere, aside from the north west of the country and the mountainous areas, of course.

As a general rule, vegetarians are somewhat limited when eating out in France, and vegans find the process even more challenging!

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