If there’s one thing that French culture is known for, it is food. The French are famous around the world for their freshly baked bread, pastries, cheese and wine. Some of the world’s most talented chefs hail from France, and the country has become a place of pilgrimage for food lovers from across the globe.
But these are not the only things that we have to thank French cuisine for. From a linguistic point of view, the French have given us far more than just some very tasty dishes. Many words in English relating to food come from the French language too.
Take the word ‘restaurant’, for example, which comes from the French verb ‘restaurer’, meaning to restore or refresh. Originally, the word ‘restaurant’ meant a food that restores, and was most often used to refer to hearty meat stews that would restore strength. Today, a restaurant is a place where you can eat delicious food and feel your strength restored immediately!
Here are some more fun facts about food in French culture:
- The French consume on average 25 kg of cheese per person per year, so are the largest consumers of cheese in the world!
- Over 300 different kinds of cheese are produced in France.
- In most towns and small cities in France, almost all small businesses and shops shut down between noon and 2pm so that workers can enjoy a leisurely two-hour lunch.
- The Michelin Star restaurant rating system was created by the French tyre company Michelin in 1900, as a marketing ploy for French people to buy more cars! In the guide, restaurants are rated on the quality of their food. Today, the Michelin star guide is gospel for many food fanatics!
So, in short: France is the perfect place to be a gourmand.
We asked our very own French Tandem tutor Isabelle about what food means in her culture and how being a gourmand is an essential part of almost every French person’s life…
Just what is a gourmand, exactly?
“A gourmand (or gourmande, if it’s a female) is a person who cannot help but eat food that is pleasing to the eye. Just looking at or smelling a well-arranged and colorful dish awakens the imagination and makes you really want to taste it. Most French people are gourmands!”
What part does food play in French culture?
“Food is very important in French culture. Food needs to be good or French people probably won’t eat it or won’t come back to the restaurant, especially if it’s badly presented or doesn’t taste great. Even cheaper restaurants offer nice food; if they didn’t people would simply not go there.”
“Food is something special to be shared with family and friends so going to a restaurant is seen as a very sociable occasion. In fact, in 2010 the ‘Gastronomic Meal of the French’ – where family and friends come together to enjoy good food and drink in a specified order of dishes – was declared a ‘World Intangible Heritage’ by UNESCO. This means it is a protected tradition of France, which shows just how important the social side of sharing a meal is in French culinary life.”
What are the main dishes in French cuisine?
“There are simply hundreds! But here are a few of the most famous:
– Le Pot au feu – a classic stew from northern France made with beef and vegetables;
– Les Tomates farcies – baked tomatoes stuffed with sausage meat;
– La Raclette – a dish based on melting cheese with grilled vegetables and meats;
– Les Moules frites – mussels and french fries with a white wine sauce;
– La Quiche Lorraine – a savoury open pie filled with a cheese and meat filling which comes from the Lorraine region of France;
– Les Escargots au beurre d’ail – snails cooked with garlic butter;
– Les Crêpes – large, thin and flat pancakes which can be eaten with sweet or savoury toppings;
– Le Rôti de bœuf – roast beef served with vegetables.”
Here are some great French phrases and idioms to use when you want to unleash your inner gourmand!
J’ai une faim de loup! – I’m as hungry as a wolf!
Je n’ai pas assez mangé – I haven’t eaten enough
J’ai assez mangé – I’ve eaten enough
J’ai trop mangé – I’ve eaten too much
Je suis repu(e) – I’m full
C’était vraiment délicieux ! – It was incredibly tasy!
Ça n’était pas bon! – It wasn’t good!
C’était infecte! – It was inedible!
Bon appétit! – Enjoy your meal!
Here at Tandem, we love celebrating different cultures – especially when there’s food involved! If you’re a bit of a foodie yourself, follow us on Instagram to see our weekly Foreign Food Friday story – we try (and sometimes attempt to make) interesting foods from around the world each Friday!