cuisine is characterized
by its extreme diversity. In that, it can only be compared to Chinese cuisine or the
cuisine of India.
each region of France have their own distinctive cuisine: cuisine from northwest
France uses butter, cream (crème
fraiche), and apples; Provençal cuisine (from the southeast) favors olive oil,
herbs, and tomatoes;
cuisine from southwest France uses duck fat, foie gras, porcini mushrooms (cèpes),
and gizzards; cuisine from northeastern
France is reminiscent of German cuisine and uses
lard, sausages, beer
and sauerkraut. Besides these four
general areas, there are many more local cuisines, such as the Loire Valley
cuisine famous for its delicate dishes of fresh water fish and Loire Valley white
wines, the Basque cuisine famous for its use of tomatoes and chili, or the cuisine
of Roussillon akin to Catalonian cuisine.
With the movements of population of contemporary life, such regional differences
are less noticeable than they used to be, but they are still clearly marked, and
one traveling across France will notice significant changes in the ways of cooking
and the dishes served. Moreover, recent focus of French consumers on local, countryside
food products (produits du terroir) means that the regional cuisines are
experiencing a strong revival in the early 21st century.
is known outside of France as "French cuisine" is the elaborated cuisine of the
higher classes of Paris, served in restaurants for hefty prices. This cuisine
is mostly influenced by the regional cuisines of northern France, with a marked
touch of refinement. It should be noted, however, that average French people do
not eat or prepare this cuisine in their everyday life, and rather eat the regional
cuisine of the region where they are located (or the region where they grew up).
and cheese are an integral part of French cuisine (both Paris high cuisine and
regional cuisines), both as ingredients and accompaniments. France is known for
its large ranges of wines and cheeses.
cuisines, particularly Chinese cuisine and some
dishes from former colonies in Northern Africa (couscous), have made inroads.
and drink in France nowadays
French people, cooking is part of culture, and cooking and good food are well
appreciated. The French generally take a high pride in the cuisine of their country,
and some, particularly in the older generations, are reluctant to experiment with
normal meal schedule is to take a light breakfast in the morning (consisting
of bread and/or cereal, possibly coffee and some
fruit, perhaps croissants), a lunch at some point between noon
and 2PM, and dinner in the evening. A normal complete meal consists in appetizers
(perhaps raw vegetables or salad), a main dish (generally, meat or fish with a
side of vegetables, pasta, rice or fries), some cheese and/or dessert (fruit or
cake). In large cities most working people and students eat their lunch outside,
it is to be noted that corporate and school cafeterias normally serve complete
meals (appetizers, main dish, dessert); it is not usual for students to bring
sandwiches. In smaller cities and towns, most working people leave their offices
to return home for lunch, generating four rush hours during the day (8am, 12pm,
2pm, and 6pm).
contemporary lifestyle, especially the reduced number of housewives,
the French rely a lot more on canned or frozen foods for weekdays. Cooking evening
or weekend meals from fresh ingredients is still popular. In most cities, there
markets selling vegetables, meat and fish, several times a week; however,
most of those products are now bought at hyper- or supermarkets.
France has been a culture of wine consumption. While this characteristic
has lessened with time, even today, 98.67% of the French consume wine every day. (http://www.inra.fr/Internet/Departements/ESR/publications/iss/pdf/iss97-3.pdf)
The consumption of low-quality wines during meals has been greatly reduced. Beer is especially popular
with the youth. Other popular alcoholic drinks include pastis (in the southeast), an aniseed-flavored
beverage drunk diluted with cold water, especially in the summer, or cider in the northwest.
legal drinking age for most spirits is 18. However, it is not customary that shopkeepers
or bartenders check for the age of consumers, and teenagers eating with their
family in restaurants will be served wine. On the other hand, it is very unusual
to witness the kind of public inebriation that is customary in English cities
on Saturday nights. Usually parents tend to forbid the consumption of alcohol
to their children before they reach their early teenhood. Students and young adults
are known to drink heavily during parties (vodka and tequila being very
popular), but usually drunkeness is not displayed in public.
of restaurant cuisine
French restaurant cuisine can be divided into:
bourgeoise, which includes all the classic French dishes which are not (or
no longer) specifically regional, and which have been adapted over the years to
suit the taste of the affluent classes. This type of cooking includes the rich,
cream-based sauces and somewhat complex cooking techniques that many people associate
with French cuisine. At the 'top end' of this category is what is known as haute cuisine, a highly
complex and refined approach to food preparation and kitchen management.
this kind of cuisine is what is often served abroad under the name of "French
cuisine", many foreigners mistakenly believe that typical French meals involved
complex cooking and rich, un-dietetic dishes. In fact, such cooking is generally
reserved for special occasions, while typical meals are simpler.
du terroir, which covers regional specialities with a strong focus on quality
local produce and peasant tradition. Many dishes that fall in this category do
not stand out as stereotypically "French," sometimes because regional cooking
styles can be quite different from the elaborate dishes seen in French restaurants
around the world.
nouvelle or nouvelle cuisine, which developed in the 1970s as a reaction
to traditional cuisine, under the influence of chefs such as Michel
Guérard. This type of cooking is characterized by shorter cooking times, much
lighter sauces and dressings, and smaller portions presented in a refined, decorative
manner. Its modern, inventive approach sometimes includes techniques and combinations
from abroad (especially Asia) and has had a profound influence on cooking styles
all over the world.
fashions and trends in France
tend to alternate between these three types of cuisine; today (2004) there is
a distinct focus on cuisine du terroir, with a return to traditional rustic
cooking and the "forgotten" flavours of local farm produce. The "fusion" cuisine
popular in the English-speaking world is not widespread in France, though some
restaurants in the capital
have a "fusion" theme, and many modern French chefs are influenced by a variety
of international cooking styles.
Vegetarianism is not widespread
in France, and few restaurants cater for vegetarians. Veganism is hardly known or represented
cuisines popular in France include:
dishes from the former colonies of France in north Africa, especially couscous;
- Vietnamese and Chinese food.
offering Japanese dishes such
as sushi or yakitori are
getting increasingly popular in urban centers, though the majority of the French
population probably objects to eating raw fish.
but untypical dishes
following dishes are considered typical of French cuisine in some foreign countries,
while they are actually quite untypical:
- kik ar fars
(boiled pork dinner with a kind of dumpling)
amann (a form of shortbread made with a
very large proportion of butter)
- Brandade de
morue (puréed salt cod)
(tripe 'parcels' in a savoury sauce)
sautéed with garlic and young "tomme" cheese)
(mashed potatoes blended with young "tomme" cheese)