France: Food                                                          

In France, cooking is an art and a skill which is passed on from generation to generation.  Food is a very popular topic of conversation, so much so that other people sometimes wonder whether the French eat to live or live to eat!

Eating habits are changing slightly. A main dish is not always meat smothered in a rich sauce full of cream, butter or brandy. Simpler, healthier meals are now being served even in restaurants.  

Although a young working couple without children may just have a plate of pasta or pizza for supper, for families with children, the evening meal is still the main meal of the day.

If there are guests, wines are carefully chosen to match the dishes being served. The meal itself can be quite an event with four or five courses. On special occasions, or when there are guests, meals may last for several hours. Afterwards everyone relaxes with a cup of strong black coffee or tea.

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are times when families get together. Both celebrations are called le réveillon and are centered around traditional meals, eaten late at night. The meal starts with oysters and is followed by smoked salmon, foie gras, and turkey with chestnut stuffing.  The Christmas Eve réveillon ends with a delicious buche de Noël, which is a rich chocolate cake, rolled into the shape of a log.  It is decorated to look like a Yule log.

Below is a list of some of the many specialty food shops you can find in France:

  • Une boucherie - A butcher shop that offers all types of meat.
  • Une boulangerie - A bakery. Many French people visit their neighborhood boulangerie daily to buy fresh bread.
  • Une charcuterie - A delicatessen that features a variety of cold cuts and cured sausages as well as meat pies, canned goods and prepared salads. Many charcuteries also double as boucheries.
  • Une fromagerie - A dairy shop where the specialty is cheese. France is known for having more than three hundred types of cheese. Some have specially grown mold that adds a zingy taste to the aged cheese!
  • Une pâtisserie - A pastry shop that specializes in sweet breads like tarts, cakes, pies, and cookies. Often boulangeries and patisseries can be found together.
  • Une pharmacie - A drugstore where you can find everything from toothpaste to over-the-counter medications to suntan lotion.
  • A French open-air or farmer’s market is called a marché. There are all types of markets: fresh fruit and vegetable markets, flower markets, meat, seafood and poultry markets, clothing markets. Most French towns and cities have at least one market day a week.