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.

 

7 Easiest Recipes from French Cuisine

One of the common misconceptions about French cuisine is that it has expensive and uncommon ingredients and that it involves really complicated preparation and cooking procedures. Well, that might be true for some dishes but most experts say that French home cooking is not actually riddled with complicated recipes. Now, here are the seven easiest French cuisine recipes.

1. Vichyssoise (Potato Leek Soup)

Recipe: delish.com
This is quite a popular French soup. It takes just about an hour to prepare and the ingredients are quite easy to find, too. It is usually served cold. I know that sounds a bit unusual but it is delicious. It could be because I just love potatoes and butter but trust me, it really is.

2. Aubergines frits (Fried Eggplant)

Recipe: easy-french-food.com
One of my favorite vegetables is the eggplant. And to find a very easy, albeit a little messy, recipe for it is a rare gem. The recipe only has a few ingredients and it’s unbelievably easy to follow! Whoever said French cuisine is complicated have surely never tried this recipe before.

3. Canapes

Recipe: easy-french-food.com
Now who doesn’t know these pretty little things? These things are one of the most popular hors d’oeuvres people serve in parties. This recipe has everything you might need to know to prepare lovely and delicious canapes. It has a list of classic combinations and tips on how to make your canapes the talk of the party. All right, that might be a tad exaggerated. But still, this recipe rocks! And it’s quite easy to follow, too.

 

7 Best Books on French Cuisine

ime of mine since high school. And when I grew older I collected more hobbies; such as photography, knitting, and of course cooking. So to be able to combine two of my favorite activities (and about a favorite subject, too!) is pretty much a great blessing. And what favorite subject is that? Why, French cuisine of course! So ladies, here are 7 books on French cusine that are “must reads” for any Francophile out there.

1. La Bonne Cuisine by Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange

La Bonne Cuisine by Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange
product link: amazon.com
Price: $29.20
It is one of those time tested books about French cuisine. It was first published in 1927 in French and was finally translated into English in2005. It contains detailed recipes, and cooking techniques and preparations of many classic French dishes. It is even cited as among the favorite books of famous chefs, expecially the renowned Ms. Julia Child. According to her, this tome greatly influenced her studies of French cuisine. And if you’re going to believe anyone about French cuisine, it would be the late Ms. Child, wouldn’t it?

2. Bistro: The Best of Casual French Cooking by Gerald Hirigoyen

Bistro: The Best of Casual French Cooking by Gerald Hirigoyen
product link: amazon.com
Price: $12.99
Bistro, according to the dictionary, means a small restaurant or bar. This means that the recipes here are of dishes that you could get from typical small restaurants in France. This book gives out simple cooking instructions of fifty-six recipes that are quite easy to follow. And it has full-color photos of dishes, so at least you know how they’re supposed to look when you’re done. Lastly, it has recipes for almost all parts of dinner, from appetizers to desserts. What more could you ask for?

3. La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking by Francoise Bernard

La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking by Francoise Bernard
product link: amazon.com
Price: $29.70
For those who love French cuisine, this book is quite a delightful treat. First off, it was written by one of the most notable names in the field of French home cooking, Madame Francoise Bernard. Second, if you are acquainted with Madame Bernard’s other books, you will know that she loved simplifying French cuisine, which means the recipes would be relatively easier than what most people think of typical French cuisine. Lastly, the book contains a thousand recipes, which would cover you for over two years of simple French homebcooking, and that is if you don’t find a favorite that you might want to make over and over again! So if you love French cooking as much as I do, this book is definitely a “must read”.

4. Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
product link: amazon.com
Price: $24.82
Dorie Greenspan is a great lover of French home cooking and she has quite the credentials for it since she lives in Paris some parts of the year. Actually, she has three houses, one in New York, one in Westbrook, Connecticut, and another one in Paris, France. She says she travels to the three homes often. Quite dizzying, don’t you think? Anyway, her book, which was just recently published, does not just contain 300 recipes but also some stories about her life in France. So this is sort of a double treat. You get to learn some French home cooking, and you get to read some stories of how it is to really live in France at the same time. Tempting, right?

5. French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David

French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David
product link: amazon.com
Price: $23.07
Elizabeth David was, according to critics, not just an expert on French cooking but also a really good writer. In fact, she won many awards ofr her writing. Now, in this book you would see that knowing the recipes was not the only concern of Ms. David. Aside from her deliciously simple recipes, she also included histories and traditions behind the said dishes. And her narratives for each region’s cooking style or recipe ingredient is quite delightful to read. It is also interesting to note that Ms. David was a contemporary of Ms. Julia Child. In fact, Ms. Child wrote forewords for two of Ms. David’s cookbooks, including this one. Clearly, these two great ladies were in agreement when it came to French cuisine.

6. The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan

The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan
product link: amazon.com
Price: $45.00
This tome is another unique treat for Francophiles out there. Why? Well, just like Elizabeth David’s book, this one not only talks about recipes, it also gives background histories about the dishes and the regions where they came from. And it doesn’t just have lovely photos of delicious dishes but also of everyday life in French villages, public markets, and homes. All in all, it is a delightful collaboration of Anne Willan, an award-winning cookbook author, and France Ruffenach, an equally award-winning photographer.

7. Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

product link: amazon.com
Price: $51.97
Now, who wouldn’t have this two-volume set in their list of great French cookbooks? These tomes are among the great cookbooks of French cooking in America today. It is no wonder these are among the bestselling cookbooks out there. Well yes, the set is a bit pricey. But these two books are worth every penny. Believe me. This set is a collaboration of three great women who were not only authors and cooking teachers but were also the forerunners of French cuisine in America and founders of L’école des Trois Gourmandes, a cooking school in France in the 1950s. The set has over 700 recipes of French dishes and cute illustrations of instructions on how to prepare them. If I were to buy these as a gift for a friend, I’d probably end up keeping them and buying my friend something else. Most probably!

Do you already own or are still planning to get one of these French cuisine gems? Or are you one of those who just recently discovered the interesting world of French cooking? Well, whichever one you might be, any one of these gorgeous cookbooks would be an excellent reading material for you.

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!

Best French Chefs Will Share Their Expertise with Students

In accordance with PARIS -AFP, one of the best and most popular French chefs, Alain Ducasse, and a well-known in France chocolate and pastry chef, Yves Thuries, have decided to take over the top national higher school of pastry (Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Patisserie, or ENSP). The school, located in the southern part of France, in Yssingeaux, faced a possible closure due to declining enrolment of students, which “saddened” the famous chefs. The school was established in 1984 as the only culinary college in France that offered a complete and advanced curriculum in order to teach established chefs the art of making pastry. Last year, only 750 students were enrolled in the program.Ducasse, the celebrity chef of the top-ranking Michelin restaurants in Paris, New-York, and Monaco, believes that the school can be resurrected to become a French “seedbed of creative pastry”. He already has his own culinary school, named “Alain Ducasse Formation”, which not only trains professional chefs but also provides consulting services to create balanced meals for astronauts of the European Space Agency!

The chefs’ educational plans include attracting international students to enrol in the training, as well as exporting the French pastry art expertise by establishing the school branches outside of France. It is planned that, by the year 2010, about 1,200 culinary students will attend a full-time school program, while amateur chefs from both France and other countries will learn the art of making pastries at the regular weekend courses.

Basil – an Indispensable Herb of French Cuisine

In many cultures, basil is treated as a sacred herb. In India, it is an object of veneration, which is planted in temples and monastery gardens. It is believed to have a power to cure diseases and kill both mosquitoes and demons thriving in the open air. In ancient Persia and Greece, basil was associated with the world of spirits, and therefore, was often planted on graves. In ancient Rome, the herb was considered a sexual stimulant eaten by lovers to promote the “fire of love” and boost fertility…Today, basil is an important plant of Mediterranean cuisine, and especially it is praised in both French and Italian cooking. The French call basil the “royal plant” – “l’hebre royale”, and there is a good reason for that. In accordance with research, the scent of basil has a salutary effect on people’s disposition and outlook. Brewed into a tea, basil is great for the gastrointestinal tract as it can relieve gas and even combat dysentery. Just like mint, the basil’s closest relative, it is easy to cultivate in a garden or in a pot at home. And, of course, it has a pleasant and unique taste, which makes it an indispensable ingredient for the preparation of many dishes. Especially beautifully does basil go with tomato, fish, and meat dishes.

In French cuisine, basil is one of the most important herbs. Very often, the French put torn basil leaves in salads of sliced tomatoes, lightly seasoned with Celtic sea salt (very healthy unrefined sea salt harvested in France), freshly ground black pepper, and virgin olive oil, and accompanied by crusty baguette. Perhaps the most famous basil dish is pesto – and the French have their own version of pesto, called “pistou”, which is made from garlic, cheese, and pine nut. Pistou can be used as a marinade or a condiment, and it is able to turn humble spaghetti into a true feast! To prepare authentic French spaghetti with pesto, first make pesto by combining together (better with a help of a mortar and a peste, but a food processor will go, too) a bunch of basil, 4 cloves of garlic, a handful of pine nuts, 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of Celtic sea salt. Toss hot spaghetti with the pesto and enjoy with a glass of light dry Chardonnay. Bon appetite! :)

Roquefort the king of French Cheeses

Roquefort is a delectable ewe’s-milk blue cheese from the South of France, and is one of the most famous of all French cheeses. In accordance with the European law, only those cheeses aged in the natural Cambalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon have a right to be named “Roquefort”, this is why when you buy this cheese you can be absolutely sure in its authenticity and the highest quality.

Legend states that Roquefort was first discovered by a young shepherd, who left a piece of fresh ewes’ milk cheese in a cave. When he returned a few months later, the cave mold had transformed his plain cheese into wonderful Roquefort. True or not, but in France, Roquefort was honoured with a royal patent already in the thirteenth century. In the medieval times, this pungent blue cheese was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, the fact which even was noted by the world’s famous lover – Casanova.

Roquefort is always made from fresh, unpasteurized milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep and has a white, crumbly and slightly moist texture with veins of blue mold (Penicillium roqueforti). Roquefort has no rind. An average head of this cheese is about 5 pounds, which requires 4-5 times the amount of fresh milk (about 13 litres!) in order to produce one head. After 4 to 9 months of aging, all vitamins and enzymes of the milk remain intact in Roquefort – it is very high in fat, protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals, especially calcium. Its odour is strong and has a notable hint of butyric acid, the taste is rich and smooth with a sharp, astringent tang. The overall flavour sensation begins slightly mild, then turns into sweet and smoky, and fades to a prominent salty finish. The cheese fully exhibits its rich flavour if combined with red wine from Burgundy.

More information about Roquefort in English can be found at:

Roquefort Societe
French Cheese Guide
Recipes with Roquefort