France has some special characteristics when it comes to eating. For example, a typical French dinner is rarely served before 8 p.m. While restaurants abound, many locals eat at brasseries, small cafes serving basic lunch and dinner fare at affordable prices. Eating is often an “occasion” in France and people lounge around the table, having extensive conversations while eating dinner or lunch.
Bread and Pastries
The typical image of eating a croissant in Paris exists for a reason. The French are not afraid of carbohydrates and items like baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat, crepes and waffles are staples of the diet. A platter of bread slices and cheese often begins a meal and sometimes accompanies a glass of wine in restaurants and at home.
Forty-five percent of the black truffles sold around the world come from France. This expensive mushroom is typical of southeast France and is harvested from the wild using dogs and pigs, both of which can distinguish their aroma and locate them easily.
French cuisine is very regional, which means foods traditional in the north of France might not be part of the diet in southern France. Foods common to the west of France include seafood, as this area is largely coastline. The center of France is famous for its fruits and mushrooms, while the Lyon-Rhône-Alpes area produces sausages and poultry dishes. The Poitou-Charentes and Limousin areas are famous for their mussels, which are used in a variety of dishes. While Bordeaux is best known for its wines, fish dishes are also a staple of the area.
Restaurants in France serve all types of food, from local Mediterranean dishes to exotic Middle Eastern and Asian dishes. When it comes to traditional French dishes, however, the options are almost limitless. Three traditional French dishes are escargot, bouillabaisse and chariot de fromage. Escargot is a dish of snails cook in butter and garlic. Bouillabaisse is a fish stew served with bread and chili sauce. The chariot de fromage (or chariot of cheese) is just what it sounds like: a trolley full of cheese selections that is rolled to the table so restaurant patrons can choose what they want to eat.