by Carmen Allan-Petale
Ah, French food. Try as I might, I haven’t found anything that quite beats it. When we recently visited the country the food once again didn’t disappoint – we didn’t have a single bad meal.
One of the best things about French food is that it’s so simple. The French have a way of cooking nothing but meat and two veg and yet it’s still a very tasty delight.
In fact, in the 17th century when spices were popular, French modernised cuisine by moving towards fewer spices and more herbs and creamy ingredients.
And if you’re a vegetarian you may as well steer clear from French cuisine altogether as the French love their meat! Before I did my exchange programme in France the exchange organisation advised against any vegetarians making a trip to the country because of difficulties housing them with a non-meat eating family.
So without further ado, I thought I’d write about some of our recent foodie experiences on our latest trip to France.
Raclette is very popular in the Alps and is also a Swiss tradition – back in the day farmers used to melt cheese next to the campfire and before eating it with bread.
Now days when you eat raclette you take a slice of cheese, put it on a tiny tray and hold it under a raclette grill. The cheese melts and they you can pour it onto your plate and eat it with sliced meats (charcuterie), potatoes and gherkins. Delicious.
Raclette is perfect after a winter’s day skiing on the slopes of the French mountains. It’s a hearty meal and warms you up to the tips of your toes – and not to mention fills you up!
Galette des rois
Translated as ‘cake of kings’, this is a traditional cake the French eat on the 5th of January to celebrate the Twelfth Night – 12 days since Christmas eve. But the local people love the cake so much that it’s sold in the shops until the end of January.
The name of the cake is derived from the Three Wise Kings who brought presents to Jesus when he was born.
In the north of France, the cake consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a centre full of frangipane. It gives it an almond taste and as a result the cake’s quite rich.
Not only is the cake traditional – the method of eating it is traditional too. First of all, the youngest – me in this case – has to get under the table and delegate which order each guest is served. Then everyone eats and the person who finds a little trinket in their slice, normally a tiny baby Jesus, is crowned the King and gets to wear a golden crown for the rest of the day.
Typical French restaurant
Of course, French food is steeped in tradition but go to any typical French restaurant and so too is the service. We went to the Boullion Chartier on our recent trip to Paris – un restaurant typique de France.
The restaurant is over 100 years old and the food is simple French fare. Think roast duck with honey, lamb chops with frites and snails as an entree. Unlike some pretentious French food, the price tag isn’t high at around €10 for a main meal. If you go, make sure you enjoy the homemade Chantilly cream alongside one of their desserts – it’s delicious!
The waiters are typically French – they’ll take your order without any fuss and write it down on the tablecloth in order to remember it. Your food is brought to you quickly and without fanfare. But don’t ask for ketchup or you might be pooh-poohed for eating like a child. When you ask for the bill they add it up with a few more scribbles on the tablecloth. Typical French style – voila!