French food is legendary, in fact French cuisine even has UNESCO status for ” World Intangible Heritage”. We take a look at ten very French foods…
The French are the biggest consumers of snails in the world – munching their way through a staggering 40,000 tonnes per annum. High in protein, low in fat and to many people a very tasty meal…
Ever thought about running a snail farm?!
Popular myth has it that macarons, the pretty little crunchy, soft biscuit cakes, came to France from Italy in 1533 when Catherine de Medici arrived from Italy to marry Henry II of France.
The Madeleine cake of France is small, delicious, simple to make and a national favourite. This shell shaped cake has been around for centuries and like the croissant, its origins are hazy.
Just who the first baker was to make them is not certain and there are several legends. In one story they were invented by a young maid at the court of King Stanislas of Lorraine. She stepped in when a chef in a fit of pique refused to prepare dessert and the King and his guests were so taken with the little cakes the maid produced, they called them after her – Madeleine.
“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” famously asked President Charles de Gaulle. Actually there are many more cheeses than that in France. Some recipes date back hundreds of years, some are very new and many of them come with fabulous legends like Roquefort apparently discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort. Scientists in France are working with this cheese to create new beauty products – allegedly its super anti-inflammatory qualities could delay the ageing process.
For most people, a trip to France is not complete without tucking into a warm crusty baguette or a buttery croissant, and bakeries are as common in France as a corner shop in England. There are various local types of bread specific to different parts of France, and no two bakers are the same. The French bread you are used to, however, has not been eaten in France since time immemorial as you might think.
Long wide loaves have been around since the time of Louis XIV, and long thin ones since the mid-18th century. Some of them were much longer than we see today: “…loaves of bread six feet long that look like crowbars!” (1862). It was the increasing availability and cheapness of wheat from the 19th century that meant white bread was no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich.
6. Butter with salt crystals
I’ve never seen it anywhere else and it’s absolutely delicious on bread and for cooking with!
History has it that croissants originated in Austria. There are several stories of how it came to be from a 17th Century baker in Vienna invented them after foiling a raid by Turkish soldiers to Marie-Antoinette bringing it to France from her homeland of Austria and commanding the royal bakers to make the pastry for her.
8. Frogs legs
In the English-speaking world, this dish is most often associated with French cuisine, and hence a commonly used insult for the French is the Frogs.
Frogs legs or cuisses de grenouille are a tradition in certain parts of France. The British calls the French by the affectionate term “frogs” because of it. That said I have never, in many years of visiting France been offered frogs legs and have only seen it on the menu in the Chinese restaurant – “deep fried crispy frogs legs” and I have seen bags of them in the chiller cabinet in the supermarket!
9. Beer, wine, Champagne
Beer from the North, wine from the south and Champagne from Champagne – France has it all…
10. Foie gras
Love it or loathe it, foie gras is a French staple.