If there is one thing the French can be proud of, it’s their food! French cuisine is appreciated across the globe as a culinary leader.
While Tokyo is the city with the world’s most Michelin starred restaurants, this is largely down to their mimicking of French gastronomy and to the western cooks that have brought their knowledge there.
From its spot in Western Europe, France has made its gastronomy known to the four corners of the world, and each region has had a role in this worldwide notoriety.
Take the Foie gras from the South West for example, or the Bresse chicken, the pâté from Le Mans or the Breton Lobster, French regional specialities are appreciated by everyone up to top international chefs!
Don’t forget of course, that even the word restaurant, comes from the French!
Gastronomy in France is varied and it plays a central role in its heritage and its culture.
And it’s in Paris that French cuisine has fixed its Capital where service has long since changed from ‘French style service’, where plates are brought out all at once, to ‘Russian style service’ where plates are brought out sequentially when they are ready. Meaning the French can spend even more time at the table!
In fact, studies show that the French spend a lot more time at the dinner table than their European counterparts. And they are certainly miles away from the eating habits of the English who only dedicate 39 minutes a day to their food compared to France’s 2 hours.
Given the importance of food and eating in the lives of the French it’s no surprise that in 2010 French Gastronomy officially earned a spot on the UNESCO world heritage list which highlights the world’s respect for the nation’s cooking culture.
The French meal recognized by UNESCO must consist of an aperitif, a starter, a main dish with meat or fish and a side, cheese, dessert and a digestive. Without forgetting a good wine of course!
For the record, it was actually Mexico who first had the idea of putting its national cuisine on the UNESCO heritage list. But it seemed unjust that France, with its classic world-renowned cuisine, hadn’t thought of it first so they made sure to get themselves on the list in the same year!
Find out more about the history of French food.
French cuisine is an art and is recognised worldwide (Source: Campus France)
In the 18th century, it’s fair to say, that nearly all of the elites of the western world could speak French. However, this great era is over with French struggling to maintain its rank as a diplomatic international language against the forces of English, Spanish and Chinese.
But when it comes to gastronomy, France still shines as a leader. Without a doubt, French cuisine is appreciated across the globe, even if it does not play a part in their daily diet.
French cuisine is a guarantee of quality, luxury, diversity, of health and deliciousness!
French cuisine has been brought to every continent thanks to its inimitable ambassadors: French chefs or just those who love France and want to fly the flag for its great cooking.
World rankings speak for themselves: Out of the top 10 chefs in the world, 6 are French, (and 26 in the top 100). Renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire is on top, followed closely by Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Michel Bras, Éric Frechon and Yannick Alleno. All playing a vital role in the great history of French cuisine!
Over the years France gastronomy has had to fight its way to the top against its rival, the Mediterranean diet, favoured by those in Italy and Spain. But this seems to have been to its benefit and now French cuisine enjoys more variety and spreads across different climates, something that is rarely found in the cuisine of its European neighbours.
The greed of the Neapolitan or Roman restaurateurs in France is well known, while the poverty of the Spanish communities at the time deprived them of this refined cuisine.
Take the Spanish vineyards for example, which are concentrated in the Rioja area, while the French vineyards are much more spread out.
France’s neighbours in Italy may have it good with this million and one varieties of pasta, their pizza and their wines, but it is the more quality, elegant food that sets France apart.
Moreover, with one of the longest standing cultural and political unities in Europe, France’s regions have been sharing traditions and cuisines for decades, making the country’s gastronomy even richer with diversity.
There is another way in which France excels in relation to Europe: its desserts! The best ones are French of course!
Around the world, and particularly in America, specialised restaurants are not rare: pizzerias, Chinese restaurants, Mexican restaurants, the list goes on.
It is no surprise then that we can find restaurants championing regional French cuisine across the Atlantic.
The French restaurants are of course some of the more posh addresses in America, and surprisingly you will find menus full of dishes from various regions in France.
I bet you didn’t think you could find buckwheat pancakes, the pride of Brittany, in the creperies of New York!
Or even sauerkraut, a dish synonymous with Alsace and memories of warming up by eating it in the winter, can be found in the bistros of the Mid West. And you will easily find duck confit, cheese fondue or beef bourguignon on the menu of restaurants across America.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and America has certainly taken a fancy to French cuisine. Apart from regional specialities, you may very well find some French imitations on the menu. Like the different cheeses of the West coast, or the ‘Champagne’ (sparkling wine!) of California.
So wherever you are in the world you’ll be pleased to find a dish representing France even if you’re thousands of miles away.
A French favourite that has travelled across the pond (Source: Real Simple)
Many foods have crossed the Atlantic over the years and have since become American favourites. Some have been modified for the American palate but others have become popular without any changes.
An egg-based dish created in the 17th century has long-standing popularity in the US: soufflé! Other popular dishes include meringue, crème brûlée, mousse and crêpes. Although the meringue has taken on a more American style in the form of tarts and pies, the other dishes have preserved their original taste.
Many of the appetizers popular with Americans have their origins in France: pâté, foie gras and the 1960s classic, fondue. Today, although the concept remains the same, fondue has transformed from a pot of cheese to a stream of chocolate! And instead of dipping in bread we use fruit. Pâté and foie gras however, are two favourites that have kept their French origins.
Sauces like hollandaise and bernaise, and even cutting techniques have strongly influenced popular American dishes. So even the so-called American classics have the basic flavours of France.
Certain foods are more appreciated than others of course. Snails and frogs legs aren’t the most appetizing things to eat so it’s not surprising that others are more popular than these more ‘French’ dishes.
This is how Le Journal des Femmes (an online women’s magazine) picked its top 30 most popular French dishes that both represent France but are enjoyed by people across the globe.
On the list you’ll find mainly the classics: mussels with fries, veal ragout, leg of lamb, beef steak with fries, salmon steak, endives with ham, potato dauphinoise, roast chicken, rabbit with mustard, ratatouille (which lends its name to a famous animated film!), pork tenderloin… the list goes on.
These dishes are made even better with a good alcohol, and French wines and spirits are enjoyed around the world. In China, they prefer Bordeaux or Bourgogne wine, while the Japanese and Koreans prefer Beaujolais. And of course, there’s Armagnac, the oldest brandy in Europe which is still popular on the continent today.
It’s not uncommon to see France fall behind in fields like economy, education or sport so it’s all the more pleasing to see them excel in the culinary field! Their success in gastronomy is unbeatable.
Mussels and fries – a popular dish across France (Source: telegraph.co.uk)
Learn how to cook these dishes for yourself!