8 Interesting Facts on French Cuisine

French cuisine has been gaining fans for centuries now. And there’s really no puzzle about it. French food is amazingly rich, both in flavor and tradition. And they can be really stylish as well, especially if you go to one of those fancy French restaurants. So for all those French cuisine aficionados out there, here are 8 interesting facts on this wonderfully popular cuisine.

1. Dinner has four parts

French cuisine is noted for its painstakingly careful preparations and dinners could often be a whole evening affair. In fact, a typical dinner in France consists of four parts; a) appetizer, b) main course, c) cheeses and bread, and d) dessert. Sometimes, an alcoholic drink called a digestive is even offered after dessert. Amazing, right? But then, if you were forced to have dinner with annoying relatives, it could be quite an excruciating ordeal. Haha.

2. Lunches last at least two hours

For the French people, food should be consumed with as much care as they were prepared. In fact, lunch breaks are no less than two-hour midday breaks for people in the cities. Yes, most offices in France give employees two hours every day for lunches. And if you work in a small town, you could be even luckier because breaks there could be more than two hours. Lucky employees! I mean, who wouldn’t want to have two-hour lunch breaks?

3. Wines are as important as meals

During main meals, the French typically puts two glasses for each plate. Why? Well, one is for water, the other is for wine. Yes, they would more often than not have wine with their food. And yes, that story about children in France being allowed to drink wine with meals might very well be true. You see, the French believe that wine is an integral part of meals. But of course, they make sure they serve wine that would complement the meal. I believe the old rule of “white wine for seafood and poultry, red wine for red meat” applies, most of the time.

4. Aperitif is served with appetizers

When I first heard about this, I thought it could just be any drink that you serve to guests while they wait for the appetizers, such as soda or juice. I know! I could be such an ignoramus sometimes. But actually, aperitif is an alcoholic drink, usually a cocktail. And it is served along with, not before, the appetizers. Cocktails that could serve as great aperitifs are martinis, gimlets, and manhattans.

5. Truffles are fungi, not chocolate confections

In France, when you mention truffle, people wouldn’t be thinking about a flavorful chocolate ball. They would be thinking of an aromatic fungus that would be perfect for an omelette. You read that right! Truffles are fungi. They are found mostly in Western Europe and they are collected in the wild by sicking pigs, or dogs, on them. I’m not joking. Pigs and dogs are used to find these fungi because they’re the only animals that could smell and find them, as these are usually buried underground.

6. Dishes are often regional

I have read somewhere that one of the reasons French cuisine has excellent dishes is because most French chefs use only fresh ingredients. This means that their recipes have ingredients that are readily available at local markets. For instance, towns near the sea would most likely serve seafood dishes. On the other hand, places in the south of France would often use fruits and vegetables in their recipes because, due to their mild climate, those are the ingredients they have in abundance.

7. There are three types of French cuisine

Apparently, French cuisine is a category with its own subcategories. Stylish, right? Now, the three types of French cuisine are; a) Classical French Cuisine – mainly regional dishes; rich and filling dishes, usually uses cream-based sauces, a-1) Haute cuisine – the more expensive and classier type of Classical French cuisine, most often served in French restaurants outside France, b) Cuisine Nouvelle – simpler and lighter recipes, portions are smaller, heavy cream sauces are avoided, mainly seasonal dishes using local ingredients, c) Cuisine du terroir – mainly regional specialities, strictly uses local ingredients, and food traditions are the main focus when cooking.

8. Italian influences

According to experts, and I’m not sure if this has really been confirmed by meticulous fact checkers, French cuisine is believed to have started right around the time Henry II married the Italian royal consort Catherine de Medici. It is said that Catherine was very fond of parties and festivities. And when she came to France to marry the king, she brought with her an entourage of the finest chefs and pastry makers from Italy at that time to help her organize all the lavish feasts she wanted to hold.

Well, do you know of any other interesting factoids about French cuisine? If you do, don’t hesitate to share. You can never know too much about something as delectably rich and intriguing as French cuisine.

 

French Culinary Revolution

Being genuinely interested in the history of French cuisine, I have recently researched how the French Revolution, in general, and the personality of Napoleon Bonaparte, in particular, influenced the culinary future of France. Even now, two centuries later, many gourmet innovations brought forth by both the Revolution and the glorious conquests of “Empereur des Francais Napoléon I”, have not lost their popularity among connoisseurs of French cuisine from all over the world.

Historical chronicles show that Napoleon Bonaparte, apparently, loved good food and ate well… His reign in the beginning of the 18th century witnessed the refinement and rise of modern-style French cooking, which was enriched by Napoléon Pastries, Chicken Marengo, and Lobster Thermidor. The famous layered Napoléon Pastries, also known as Napoléons, were created by chef Marie-Antonin Careme, who is often referred to as the father of gourmet French cuisine. Careme is also famous for their invention of puffy “chefs’ hats” and the introduction of soufflés into French cuisine of the Napoleon era.

At the same time, that period was also noted for the onset of some questionable methods of cooking and preserving food, such as canning  – a truly revolutionary way to supply French troops fighting in Prussia and Russia with “quality ration”. During early military campaigns of Napoleon, scurry, starvation, and malnutrition were raging among his soldiers. Later, one of the first celebrity chefs of France, Nicolas Appert, invented the method of boiling bottled or canned food in water to stop its spoilage, for which the French government awarded him with a prize of 12,000 francs. His first commercial cannery established in Paris became a thriving business, even though the opening methods of these early preserves were far from modern. Usually, soldiers had to just smash the “cans” open with heavy rocks…

When Napoleon became a dictator of France, he also introduced a strict control over the food prices, which was a good measure to make basic staple foods accessible for the masses. The lessons of the French revolution led by hunger were obviously still fresh!