After one dining experience in France, you know why the Frenchies are known for gastronomy and why I cannot get enough of all this yumminess. In the US, our introduction to French dining takes place at a fancy restaurant, but the experience is not far from the truth. The biggest difference is most French people don’t dine out; they eat at home.
|The experience you get from eating at home in France and dining out is not much that different, except that it’s not fancy and you are the chef and the waiter. To understand what I mean, I’m going to walk you through a typical French dining experience at home and you can decide for yourself.|
The Courses of a French Meal
You should always be prepared for all the courses of a French meal, as it can consume a lot of time. While the number of courses may vary for each meal, it contains a subset of the following.
Apéritif or Apéro:
As a warm gesture and to stimulate the appetite, an alcoholic drink is first served. You can’t go wrong with Champagne as it goes well with many things. Other great options are Pastis, kir, or even beer.
Before you take your first sip, make sure everyone has finished toasting to one another.
Entrée or Appetizer(s):
On a French menu, you may mistake entrée for the main dish, but it actually means appetizer. This can be anything small, but keep in mind, sweet foods are saved for the last dish.
Wine is served throughout the meal. Red wine is usually paired with meat dishes and cheese while white wine goes better with fish and seafood.
Most of the time, the main dish includes meat or fish, served with side dishes. This is when you can see the different cooking styles as the main dish tends to reflect dishes of that local region. I was once served horse meat and it was not that bad.
There is always cheese, regardless if it is lunch or dinner. Watch how others cut the cheese and do the same.
I learned my lesson early on when I randomly cut the cheese and everyone looked at me as if I butchered the poor cheese.
Now comes my favorite part of the meal, the sweet part. For lunch, it may be something light, like yogurt or fruit. For dinner, I always secretly wish it were crème brûlée, but whatever it is, it’s going to be delicious.
Now to start the winding down process, there is the option of coffee.
I’m always impressed with those that can drink coffee for dinner, as I won’t be able to sleep if I do. And keep in mind, coffee in Europe is never served in a giant cup, but instead in a tiny or small (alongee in French) cup.
I can never make it to this point, but to signal the end of dinner and to aid in digestion, a stronger alcoholic beverage is served. Many love to make their own liquor (out of pear or other fruits) and it is quite tasty, but too strong for me.
French cuisine contains all the ingredients and thought into making your mouth feel all the sensations that leave you completely fulfilled. The meat, vegetables, and ingredients are fresh and almost organic, so you can immediately taste the difference. Since there are seasons for everything, you will find what’s in season on your plate. For me, I can’t wait for the figs to ripen this month so we can go pick them!
“No elbows on the table, no slouching.”
In a formal dinner, you should not do these things, but it is forgivable table manners. Just try to maintain good posture and chew slowly (to enjoy your food), and you will be okay.
The big NO’s for Table Manners:
No chewing with your mouth open.
No eating with any noise (I learned I make loud slurpy noises when drinking soup or other liquids).
Remember, start eating ONLY when the owner of the house says “Bon Appétit” or “Bon App”!
Conclusion of Everyday Gastronomy Experience in France
The courses of a French meal sounds like a lot of food? While France is not for Bargain Holidays, it is worth it. After your first gastronomy experience in France, you may want to say oh-la-la because you are so full, but then you want to repeat the experience again and again.
Do you think this sounds much different from your French dining experiences?