The world of French cuisine – where do we begin?
In this country of culinary delights, each time of the day is well catered for. The entire nation awakes to the divine scent of freshly baked baguettes and silky butter croissants, bitter black coffee brewing to clear away the cobwebs from the night before. Brioche is dipped into bowls of hot chocolate; creamy butter and fruit compotes are spread generously over crusty slices of bread. A nation of natural-born gourmands is ready to face the day.
When it’s l’heure du déjeuner, forget about picking up a cheap supermarket sandwich. Although they exist in France, it would be heresy to go for this option when you could be digging into a platter of regional cheeses, pâtés and cured meats. And don’t forget that (possibly, second) trip to the boulangerie! If you’re in Brittany, you’ll most likely be tucking into a buttered buckwheat galette, while in Normandy it could be moules marinières. Wherever you may be, remember that in France lunch is to be lingered over. Don’t ask for l’addition in haste – pour yourself a second glass of wine (you’ve ordered a carafe after all) and enjoy the amiable buzz of likeminded diners taking their time over a leisurely meal. What’s the rush?
Soon enough it’s time for the main event, and whatever you’re lucky enough to sample for dîner really hangs on which region you’re in. Rustic bistrots can often be relied upon to offer a two-course, prix fixe meal of regional specialties. Good old steak frites will invariably feature, but also expect the likes of cassoulet in Toulouse, bouillabaisse in Marseille and white fish au beurre blanc in Brittany. The secret to France’s world-famous gastronomy is its sheer variety – from light seafood on the Atlantic coast to hearty cheese fondue in the Alps, duck and goose overload in the Dordogne to juicy Mediterranean olives and fruits in the far south.
For more adventurous foodies, to explore this country’s eclectic cuisine – which is firmly rooted in the peasant food tradition – is to open the door to a wide range of ‘nose to tail’ culinary specialties that we’ve likely never dreamed of on this side of la Manche. We’re not just talking snails and frogs legs here – try tripoux, sheep’s belly stuffed with calf intestines; andouillette, sausage made from pork intestines; or if you’re really brave, cervelle, calf or lamb brains.
Holidays for foodies
Considering all of the above, it won’t come as a surprise that France boasts an unrivalled variety of gastronomic holidays. You might want to get stuck in and learn the art of French cuisine from a master chef, buying local produce from the market before taking it to your rented chalet to prepare. Maybe you’re more interested in consuming than cooking, and would prefer to allow an expert local guide to introduce you to all of the best markets and restaurants in your chosen destination? If your passion is wine, then you’ve certainly hit the jackpot – France is still the world capital of oenology, and there are seemingly endless options for holidays revolving around tastings at rustic caves à vin and guided visits to notable vineyards. And it doesn’t stop at wine. Some of the world’s favourite liqueurs originate in France, and you can tailor your holiday to discover the production of Cognac, Cointreau or even absinthe. France is the land of gourmet gastronomy, so throw aside any calorie-counting habits you might keep at home, and just enjoy the seemingly endless culinary pleasures it can offer. Bon appétit!