This post is sponsored by Ulysses Press all opinions are my own.
It was such serendipity that I was contacted to review The Farm to Table French Phrasebook by Victoria Mas just before I left for Paris. I read the book on the plane and felt well prepared to order food along with getting a basic understanding of French food tradition.
Each section of The Farm to Table French Phrasebook not only tells you how to ask about or order a certain food, it explains the manners and customs of partaking in all types of eating and shopping experiences in France.
It was so important for me to understand that when you order "un café" in Paris you get a shot of espresso. Great for my husband... too much for me. I learned to order a "un café allongé" which is a little more watered down than an espresso. Milk does not come with coffee; you have to ask for "avec un peu de lait"
Breakfast at our hotel included an American/British option of getting eggs. The French find this tradition of ours a bit strange. They only eat sweet, not savory at the start of their day. Toast and jam, a croissant and of course coffee. Eggs mostly in omelets are a very common lunch item especially in cafes.
There are three main types of restaurants in France. The café which would be the equivalent to our diner, but with a much smaller menu and a lot more style. The food is simple and inexpensive by Paris standers, still a lot more than we would pay for a cheap lunch in New York City. A café lunch is about $20's plus a person, compared to about $12 to $15 in a diner. But you don't usually drink wine in a diner...or do you get to sit in an outdoor terrace even in the winter, they have overhead heaters that are really quite warm. People watching is easy to do since the seats face out to the street. Cafés are open through out the day, sometimes closing for just a little while in the late afternoon.
|Me sittingin a cafe in Paris.|
The next step up in restaurants are bistros and braisseries these are family restaurants with good hearty classic French food. A little more expensive than cafes, but the food served usually requires a lot more preparation than café fare. These establishments have set dining hours.
The top line of restaurants "le haute restaurant" are what we usually think of when we think of French food. Fancy, elegant atmosphere, intensive service and a several course meal. The last night we were in Paris my husband and I celebrated my 50th birthday at a restaurant in the famed Le Meurice Hotel. This establishment has been catering to Brits/Americans since the 1800's. The restaurant called "Le Meurice" is owned by the renowned restaurateur Alain Ducasse. Our meal was seven or so courses: Champagne and oysters to start, lobster, vegetables steamed over Himalayan salt, lamb, duck, a cheese tray to die for along with spectacular desserts. They sent us home with a box of their handmade chocolates and a bag of Fleur de Sel the most amazing tasting salt on the planet.
|My husband and I before our big night out.|
There were just so many little things about French food and how to behave in shops that I learned from,"The Farm to Table French Phrasebook." You always say, "Bon Jour" when you enter a shop, and you DO NOT touch the fruits and vegetables in a French produce store. You tell the shopkeeper what day you want to eat the fruit and he will select the pieces that will be ready, say two days from now, etc.
The French tend not to snack between meals, but lunch is eaten at 12pm and dinner is not until about 8pm... even with a cheese course at lunch a person may need a little goûter (snack) about 4pm. A small pastry or a crêpe on the street filled with Nutella may be your choice especially for children... adults may just snack on some nuts and have a cocktail at this time.
My husband and I took a food walking tour with the company CONTEXT. I was so happy that I had read, "The Farm to Table French Phrasebook" before we went on the tour. I was better able to ask good questions and get more interesting information from our tour guide because I had a good knowledge base from the book.
My husband is a big bread baker, so he especially enjoyed learning about how bakery's are certified in France. Bread has to be completely, start to finish, prepared in the establishment for the shop to be certified as a "boulangerie". My husband was so thrilled to visit the famed bakery Poilane that he had read so much about. The bread lived up to it's reputation...fabulous.
A really interesting tradition we learned about on our food walk, which happened to take place on my actual birthday was that it is fairly common in France to give someone a good bottle of Armagnac or Cognac engraved with their name for their birthday. My husband surprised me with one from the wine shop we visited on the tour. It has been aged since my birth year 1964. I don't know if I ever drank anything so old... some things do get better with age!
So take a trip to France if only through the pages of The Farm to Table French Phrasebook. This book is not just for someone learning French or planning a trip to France. It would make a terrific gift for anyone who enjoys French cooking or is just into learning about the food customs and traditions of other cultures. I guarantee you will enjoy the journey.
Weekly Menu Plan:
Sunday: Artichoke and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breast, Roasted Potatoes
Meatless Monday: Beatrix's Red Kuri Soup with homemade Rustic Bread
Tuesday: Blackened Salmon with Broccoli Rabe and Raisins over Rice
Wednesday: Salsa Spiced Shrimp over Saffron Rice with Spinach
Thursday: Thanksgiving Meal
Saturday: More leftovers