Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fun France Facts: Sippin' and Grubbin'

From the interesting to the trivial to the the mundane to the hilarious, here's an ongoing list of things that I have come to learn or realize during my months spent in Lorraine, France. Come back next time for 3 more.

Fun France Facts, Volume III: Sippin' and Grubbin'

Yes, what a surprise: talking about eating and drinking as a part of French culture is like mentioning drinking beer and eating donuts as the culture of Homer Simpson. It goes without saying, right? This is something that I love about the French: they are all about soaking up every ounce of pleasure while wining and dining. To ensure that this happens, they do the following...

1) C'est pas l'heure/ Il faut s'attabler:
 In America, you eat whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. In America, it's about convenience and swiftness. In France, it's about taking your time, sitting at the table, and having a proper meal at the proper time. One way that they ensure this happens is that restaurants and shops close down during the afternoon between lunch and dinner. In addition, grocery stores only stay open til around 7:30 or 8:00. That's right, no late night trips to the grocery if you have a hankering for Doritos. No Cheesecake Factory staying open til 11pm to eat a late dinner. Not only do the French view this  "eating at the right time " as a great way to enjoy a meal the most, it's also seen as a way to maintain a proper healthy lifestyle (to stay thin) and keep the family together. Almost every night, French families eat together, whereas, I believe, this part is deteriorating in the US.  
2) Wine Country: "Everything in Moderation, even Moderation." I've often heard the French joke about the fact that their are viewed as alcoholics from abroad. However, I find it to be the contraire, mon frère (sorry, I had to). Yes, of course you have your alcoholics, but apart from that, I really respect the French's moderate attitude towards alcohol. In fact, alcohol is really just another vessel to better enjoy the meal (what a suprise!). You have an "aperitif" like white or port wine before the meal. During, you usually drink red. Then, sometimes after, an eau de vie or a liquor as dessert. As it is usually only consumed with a meal (which usually lasts for a long time with many courses), alcohol is more moderately consumed. In this sense, I believe it is a more "healthy" approach. Alcohol is something one can enjoy instead of just getting schmammered.

3) Les règles: OH MY! The rules of eating. There are so many that I doubt that I have them all down. If a French person is reading this, feel free to correct me. Okay, here we go...
  • Eat with both hands: fork in the left, knife in the right. Use the knife to "shovel" the food nicely onto the fork. This is actually something that is customary in many countries in Europe, but is not present in America. In the USA, we normally only eat like that while cutting a steak. Otherwise, it is polite to leave the hand you are not using resting under the table in your lap. Yet, in Europe, you are seen as poorly brought up if you eat like this.
  • Keep you hand on the table at all times: This goes along with the point above. You must keep you wrists and hands on the table during the whole meal...even in between courses when there is perhaps a long break. In America, we are taught to keep your hands nicely folded in your lap in between courses. In Europe, as I have been informed, this is seen as peasantry.
  • The bread stays on the table next to your plate, not on the plate. Bread is a huge part of the French diet, but it has it's own place during the meal. It will be used to eat with the meal (shoveling the food a bit) and after to render the plate clean.
  • The salad is eaten after the main course. Not before.
  • The appetizer is called "l'entree" where as an "entree" is the main dish in America (just one example of a false cognate from French).
  • After the meal, one can be offered cheese to eat instead of dessert.
  • A part from drinking wine, I have noticed that, in general, the French barely drink anything while eating. In fact, they barely drink any water at all. Just coffee and a lot of wine.
AH! Okay, that's all. Now go eat some Macaroons (another obsession of mine while in France)... ...and come back next week for 3 more Fun French Facts!


    1. I love your Fun France Facts (F cubed?). They are seriously enlightening. They are the same way in southern Switzerland, taking their time eating, and the grocery shops close at 6:00. Do you take a long lunch, also? I definitely don't have time to indulge in this wonder every day, sadly!


    2. I'm learning French right now, so I love reading your French facts!

    3. I love these posts of yours (especially the bit about Chuck Norris in the last version - who knew?) There's so much Americans can learn from the French, like getting more vacation days, eating decent meals, etc. Some of our habits and customs here are so unnecessary. Like partially hydrogenated oil in Nutella - if the European version is fine without it, why can't the US version do without it as well? Stupid example, but you catch my drift...


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