“So what do people eat in France?” – is a question I am often asked. Sit down for a French meal and expect to stay seated for at least a couple of hours, I usually tell them. To tell you the truth, it is one of the things I miss the most from back home! I remember appreciating the food I was eating more while having great discussions with my family. Great memories … that I now share with my husband and children. We may not sit at the dinner table for hours, but we sure enjoy each other’s company much more! Great way to strengthen families and discuss the events that occurred during our day!
Traditional French meals – mostly lunch and dinner – consist of 5 courses (Aperitif, Appetizers, Main Dish, Cheese, and Dessert) to be eaten in sequence.
- Aperitif (Apéritif): The aim of this course is to open your appetite for the later courses. It usually consists of alcoholic beverages, such as pastis (a French liqueur flavored with anise and mixed with water – it also comes non-alcoholic) and salty foods (Hors-d’œuvres), such as olives, crackers, and mixed nuts. These are consumed in moderation and served in the living room, away from the dining room.
- Appetizers (L’Entrée): This is your typical stuffed mushrooms or chicken wings dish. Served at the dining table, appetizers consist of poisson (fish), charcuterie (pâté, ham) quiche, or some other baked dish. It can be served either hot or cold and can be seasonal and/or local. This is a good time to open the wine bottles! Fish is usually served with white wine or champagne. Meat is usually served with red wine.
- Main Dish (Plat Principal): As you may have guessed, the Main Dish is the heart of the meal where you will find all kind of meat (viande) or fish (poisson) alongside with vegetables (legumes) and a dish of either rice (riz), potatoes (pommes de terres), or pasta (pâtes). This is the most copious of all courses and you must ensure not to eat too much of the appetizers and aperitif as this is not the last course either!
- Cheese (Fromage): This course is a wondergul way to bring a lot of fascinating, varied flavor to the table and it is so easy to prepare! The only thing that you really need is a knife, a fork and some French bread. Occasionally, chesses are accompanied by a small salad to contrast the rich cheeses. If not followed by dessert, a little honey, preserves, or fresh fruit can be served with the cheese course. Otherwise, create a plate selecting cheeses from the following 4 categories: soft (Brie, Camembert, Munster, Reblochon), semi-soft (Port Salut, Raclette), hard (Mimolette, Emmental, Comté) and bleu (Saint Agur, Bleu d’Auvergne, Roquefort). Their flavor values are described as mild, medium, strong, and bold. Other cheeses that most French people enjoy eating are Goat cheese (Fromage de Chèvre).
- Dessert (Dessert): To finish off a great meal, I recommend any type of French Pastries! However, a delicious pie (Tarte) or a type of custard (Flan) would do! Usually coffee is served to complement the dessert at the table or in the living room.
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