What is it They eat in France for Lunch?
It is an understatement to say that the French enjoy their food! The people consider mealtime a pleasure and a chance to come together with others. As a culture, their tradition dictates every aspect of the culinary experience. Very few deviate from the norm. The pillars of this ritual include three meals at a set time, format, and sharing - in a communal atmosphere. In Paris, gastronomy is an art form. This is what is so special about french cuisine. Beginning with the chef and ending with the conviviality of the meal.
Everything surrounding their cuisine is coordinated to bring richness to their lives. This ingrained structure has kept them thin, happy, and bonded together with mass commonality. The French tend to have a light breakfast - such as a croissant or pastry, bigger lunch, and small dinner (of course, unless they go for the full blown gourmet multi-course kind). Let’s focus on lunch, which is collectively had between 11:30 to 2:00 p.m.
Many establishments will have a Menu du jour available only at lunchtime. An usual French lunch will include: an appetizer (une entrée), such as a mixed salad, soup, terrine or pâté; main course, (le plat principal), choice of beef, pork, chicken, or fish, with potatoes, rice, pasta and/or vegetables; cheese course (from a local selection) and/or a sweet. You can also find places offering less expensive alternatives that include a two course option with an entrée and plat, or a plat and sweet.
It is not unusual to go for a four course lunch, but other times - bread, spreads, cheeses, cold soup, salad and a plate of charcuterie are enjoyed with family or friends at home or on the go. Remember, the French do not like to eat alone, so every meal is almost always had with others. When on the go, there’s also the inexpensive sandwiches consisting of a fresh baguette, ham and fromage, purchased from street carts (for those who enjoy socializing in the park). A sweet or savory crêpe also makes an enjoyable lunch.
Sample Menu du jour
- Entrée: Smoked herrings/potatoes with oil/roasted almonds.
- Plat: Burgundy beef palate with Bourguignonne.
- Fromage: Ripe local selection.
- Dessert: Chocolate / creamy chocolate mousse.
Choices on the Menu
- Mixed Salad - mixed greens with tomatoes with blue cheese.
- Salade Niçoise - mixed greens tossed with potatoes, green beans, tuna, boiled egg, olives, and topped with anchovies.
- Soupe à l’Oignon - onion soup with croutons and burnt Gruyère on top.
- Bouillabaisse - fish and shellfish soup originating from the port city of Marseille.
- Terrine or Pâté - similar to meatloaf, served cold or at room temperature. Made with game such as pheasant, hare, and pork mixed with fat. Pâté is similar with more finely chopped ingredients.
- Ratatouille - sautéed eggplant, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes.
- Burgundy beef palate with Bourguignon - Beef braised in Burgundy and beef broth, with garlic, onions and a bouquet garni.
- Moules Marinères - Steamed mussels with white wine, shallots, and butter.
- Coquilles Saint Jacques - Sautéed scallops, finished with a garlic-tomato concassé.
- Pineapple, passion salad, pomelos.
- Chocolate, creamy chocolate shortbread, passion.
- Apple crumble with crème fraîche.
- Paris-Brest is a choux (light) puff pastry filled with a mousseline cream flavored with hazelnut praline, topped with a crunchy crumble with a sprinkle of sea salt. Absolutely delicious. Find out what shape a pastry Paris Brest is and why it has that name.
Plateau de Fromage
- A soft ripened such as Brie or Camembert, both made from cow’s milk.
- Crottin de Chavignol or a Tomme de Chèvre made from goat’s milk.
- A hard variety such as a Comté, a Cantal or even a Gruyère.
- A blue Roquefort is made from sheep's milk originating from the south.
A beautiful plate of charcuterie is its own art form. There is a smorgasbord of cuts, cures, and flavors. Terrine, pâté, and mousse. Boudin - savory sausages made from ground, spiced meat packed in natural casings and then boiled, poached, or blanched. Saucisson - dry-cured, fermented salami. Dry-curing is done with only salt. As saucissons age, natural, healthy molds develop on the casings that prevent bad bacteria from contaminating it. Accompaniments include mustard, pickles, and crusty baguettes. Fruits such as grapes, figs, apples and almonds are usually included. Finally, fig jam or sweet onion confit or lavender honey.
Ham and Emmental on a fabulous baguette or sourdough.
Crêpes are a very thin pastry or pancake. They are made by pouring a wheat batter onto a circular hot plate, often with butter on the surface so it will not stick. It only takes a minute or two to cook. Sweet crêpes are generally made with wheat flour while savory crêpes are made with non-wheat flours such as buckwheat. The batter is made of simple ingredients such as butter, milk, water, eggs, flour, salt, and sugar.
Savory crêpes served for lunch are filled with cheese, ham, and eggs, ratatouille, mushrooms, artichoke, and various other types of pork or beef. The fillings are placed in the center and the edges are folded over the filling.
The sweet version can be filled and topped with chocolate spread, preserves and jam, sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream, custard, and sliced soft fruits.
Water and wine are the drinks of choice. Although everything in moderation! It may seem like they drink a lot of Burgundy, Chablis, or Beaujolais, but in all honesty, modesty is more the French lifestyle. Due to their adherence to dining hours, they do not snack in between. The French attitude toward food and drink is so much a part of their culture that they do not overindulge at any given time. This is probably why they remain so fit and trim while still eating and drinking whatever they choose. Dining is a happy affair, full of socializing and communion with their countrymen.
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