How to Eat French Food Like a French Person
In France, gourmet food is called gastronomique. And there’s a lot of it. (How French people stay skinny with all this rich food and sans exercise is another question for another story.) But this is the question Yahoo Travel set out to answer: How do you eat French food like a French person? Hint: You’ve been doing it all wrong. Here’s the scoop from French insiders.
There’s an art to eating croissants.
Not so petit dejeuner plus detox shot at Peninsula Paris. (Photo: Ko Im)
The first meal of the day is sweet, generally including an espresso, some juice, and (score!) a chocolate croissant or pain au chocolat. Kerry Saretsky of French Revolution says though in America croissants are used for sandwiches, she’s never seen it done in France. Here’s how to eat them the French way;
1. Enjoy them sitting down — croissants are not meant to be eaten in motion.
2. Use your hands to pull apart the croissant instead of biting off chunks. Begin at one end, then move to the other so you’re eating from the outside until you reach center. Once at the center, fold the larger pieces in half so you create even more flaky layers. Or, if you prefer, tear the pastry in half first and eat from the inside out. Either way: tear, eat and repeat.
3. You can keep your croissant au naturel or paint on jam, honey, or butter, using a knife to smear each bite as you go. Tear, smear, eat — repeat.
4. Share your crumbs with the sparrows.
Related: Cheap and Chic Paris
Dip your baguette and butter.
How crispy is your baguette? Benjamin Setiawan of Hungry Editor says beware of the bread rules:
1. Dip your baguette into your coffee, especially in the morning.
2. Use your day-old baguettes to make… French toast.
3. Rip it; don’t slice your bread unless it’s lengthwise for a sandwich.
4. For a treat, slather your bread with Nutella for for a late afternoon snack with le gouter (afternoon tea).
Pro tip: Follow the crowd to a good, legitimate boulangeries. The best ones have long lines out the door.
Pair your crepes.
A crepe Suzette, a traditional triangular shaped crepe flambeed with Grand Marnier alcohol and filled with sugar with orange juice. (Photo: Delice & Sarrasin/Facebook)
French-born Christophe Caron of Delice & Sarrasin, a family-owned creperie, says crepes have been conceptualized as a fast-food import in America. But the French way is to have a savory crepe (a.k.a., a gaullet) followed by a sweet crepe. And they’re not supposed to be unhealthy — the batter shouldn’t be made with sugar and the crepe should be filled with ingredients that have fiber and protein. Here’s what else to know:
1. You can find crepes to go in Paris, but it’s just for the tourists. The French enjoy their crepes sitting down, using a fork and knife.
2. Pair both your sweet and savory crepes with a fresh, dry, mildly alcoholic cider.
3. Don’t fold your crepes like a slice of pizza or roll them like a burrito.
Know your dairy.
Cheese is everywhere in France. Frenchman Dylan Glynn says it’s a daily staple for locals. Melted cheese counts as a meal, while a plate of cheese can also be dessert. Here’s a primer on French dairy:
1. Eat your fromage in small, bite-size pieces.
2. Cook with creme fraiche, which is similar to sour cream.
3. Spread fromage frais and fromage blanc on bread or crackers; they are creamy, soft cheeses.
4. Yaourt (yogurt) is also a fave. Eat it with a spoon.
Hit the market for a picnic.
Pack a picnic of mini rolls and ham juice for the train. (Photo: Ko Im)
Picnicking in Paris can be amazing. Try sitting along Canal St. Martin with the hipsters or in the green grass below the Eiffel Tower with the fashion bloggers. According to Marjorie R. Williams, author of Markets of Paris:
1. Rotisserie chicken, olives, and wine are French picnic staples you can get at the markets.
2. Don’t touch the produce on the stands — unless a basket is provided, let the vendor pick it for you.
3. Don’t forget a corkscrew if you want to drink wine at your picnic. (You can also buy them at the markets.)
4. Buy your cheese last and pack it with some ice for freshness.
5. Some public parks don’t allow grass seating. Look out for signs.
Dinner has rules.
Truffle fries on truffle fries on truffle fries during a late dinner at Bagatelle in Cannes, France. (Photo: Ko Im)
Tom Meyers of Eurocheapo explains “eating is a cherished, revered part of the day and if someone has prepared dinner for you, eat it… all.” Here’s how to tackle dinner:
1. As we mentioned, finish everything on your plate.
2. Under no circumstances should you complain about foods you don’t like. Expressing a distaste for a particular food or even an allergy is seen as a weakness.
3. Diner will be eaten late (around 8 p.m.) and will have multiple courses. So don’t snack and save your appetite. Luckily, the portion sizes will be smaller than we get in America.
Savor some cognac.
For 300 years, Martell’s cognac has been fermented with fine grains and aged in old barrels. (Photos: Ko Im)
Cognac is a special brandy dating back to the Age of Enlightenment, and it currently serves as the drink of choice for the older, elite French crowd. According to the Martell Cognac’s cellar master Benoit Fil, the barrel to bottle concoction can sipped on its own or taken in cocktail form (e.g., an Old Fashioned). Actress Diane Kruger serves it at special dinner parties. Wealthy Chinese are known to throw back shots. Fil provides these tips:
1. Do: Smell it like you would a fine wine. Sip it to smoothly coat and warm the throat.
2. Don’t: Hold the glass itself, as that will warm the alcohol unnecessarily; instead take it by the stem.