Want to learn more about French cuisine? This post will show you all the interesting facts about French food that you probably didn’t know about before!
French cuisine is world-renowned, but, like all other cuisines, even the French one has peculiarities that might surprise you.
France is famous for lots of food items and has many popular dishes to its name so, it’s no wonder that French gastronomy is considered one of the best in the world.
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With unique and somewhat weird foods, French cuisine is full of surprises, creativity, and some weird dishes that other countries frown over!
But even with that, there are so many interesting facts about French food that makes it unique and popular worldwide.
So whether you want to learn more about the history of French food or just want to educate yourself on French food before you travel to this beautiful country, here are some of the interesting French food facts you’ll enjoy reading about.
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WHERE TO STAY
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Fun Facts About French Food
Some of these are famous French food facts that you might have heard of before, but I bet there are a couple of facts in here that you might find odd or intriguing.
Read on to find out …
1. There are different cuisines throughout France, one for each region
This is one of the important pieces of information about French food you should know.
France has as many different types of cuisines as there are regions, while Paris being a central region, has almost all the cuisines from across the country.
Some foods are even named after the region they originate from, like Champagne from Champagne, Bordeaux wine from Bordeaux, crème Chantilly from Chantilly, and Dijon mustard from Dijon.
These foods are protected and are considered authentic only if they come from that particular region.
2. French meals are usually very long
Dinners usually last longer especially if they have more than 3 courses. Even with the usual 3-course meal of appetizers, mains, and cheese/dessert, the French take their sweet time as they talk and catch up with each other about the happenings of the day.
A traditional French meal can last anywhere between 2 to 4 hours especially if it’s a Sunday meal or a special day where guests have been invited!
Mealtimes in French are taken very seriously and are seen as a way of enjoying good food while creating great memories and connections with family and friends.
No wonder the Parisian quote “Everyone is serious about Dinner in Paris” is becoming popular.
3. Baguettes are served as a complementary side
Like French Fries or mashed potatoes in USA restaurants, baguettes, and pain (bread) in general, are complementary, i.e., served for free, in restaurants in France.
They are presented in a bread basket upon being seated at a table. Bread is actually inexpensive and costs between €0.50 to €1 in a French bakery hence it is as good as being free.
4. The French have a special bread law
One of the interesting France food facts is that France has a bread law.
Yes, the French have a special law for bread known as “Le Décret Pain” (the Bread Decree), which states that homemade bread (pain Maison) must be fully kneaded, shaped, and baked at the same place where they are sold.
It also goes on to state that traditional baguettes can only be made using 4 ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast.
Passed in 1993, this bread law has been governing French bakeries ever since!
5. Baguettes from vending machines? Oui, oui!
You can buy baguettes from vending machines in France even in the middle of the night. But this was not always the case.
Up until 2015, bakeries in France needed government approval to go on vacation. This was in place to ensure that not all bakeries were closed simultaneously thus affecting the supply to the neighborhoods.
As a way of making things easier and “allow” bakeries to close without asking for permission, baguette vending machines were introduced! So regardless of the time of the day, you can just put a few coins in the machines and viola, a fresh baguette.
Though the idea has mixed feelings among locals, it’s still one of the interesting facts on French food.
6. Snails and Oysters are common delicacies
Escargots (Snails) and huîtres (Oysters) are some of the beloved dishes in France even though some countries consider them weird.
To give you an idea of how Escargots are loved in France, it is believed that over 500 million snails are eaten every year! That’s a lot of snails if you ask me!
Escargots are usually served as appetizers and just like Oysters, they’re commonly eaten on special days like Christmas.
7. French Entrée is an Appetizer/Starter
American people call their mains entrées, while the French refer to appetizers or starters as entrées.
It is derived from the French word “entrer”, meaning to enter hence considered an appetizer.
In a 3-course meal, an entrée is a smaller course preceding the main one. Common entrées include escargots, salads, or soups.
8. France Has Hundreds of cheeses with thousands of varieties
The French can eat a different type of cheese every day for a whole year! This is because France has close to 400 types of cheeses that are traditionally made in the country.
And if you add the variations and sub-varieties, the number increases to thousands!
I bet Charles De Gaulle, a former French president had no idea it would get to this when he said “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”! He would be blown away by the current types of cheese available today if he were still here.
9. Blue cheese was discovered by accident
Blue cheese was discovered in France by accident. According to a French legend, a young boy was eating bread with ewes’ milk cheese and left his meal behind in the cave when he saw a beautiful girl in the distance.
A few months later, when he came back to the same spot, mold had covered his cheese and formed one of the first blue cheeses, what we now know as Roquefort.
10. Crêpe Suzette was also prepared by accident
Here is another one of the fun French food facts! Crêpe Suzette was also created as a result of an accident!
It is believed that a 14-year-old waiter was preparing crêpes for Prince Edward VII when they accidentally caught fire.
But, the Prince ended up loving it, and he named it after one of the guests at the table, a French woman whose name was (you guessed it) Suzette. And what seemed like a catastrophe at first led to the birth of Crêpe Suzette.
11. French Fries are not actually French
Among the facts about French food, this is probably the most surprising, at least to a number of People! French fries are actually NOT French.
French Fries, locally known as Frites, originated in Belgium. It is written that poor villagers in a small village of Meuse Valley in Belgium used to fry fish to eat it but during the winter when the river froze, they resorted to frying potatoes since they couldn’t fish anymore.
The story goes on to state that during World war I, Americans who were deployed in Belgium were introduced to this delicacy and since the language spoken in the region was French, they dubbed this snack French fries.
This crowd favorite dish was probably believed to have originated from France because of the French in its name but alas, there is no connection to France whatsoever when it comes to its origin.
12. Neither is French toast
What the world knows as French toast, the French call it “pain perdu”, which translates to “lost bread”.
This is because, originally, the French used stale bread to make this dish as a way of making use of it rather than letting it go to waste.
The origin of French toast dates back to the Roman empire, with proof of its original recipe written in the book of Apicius from the 5th century.
However, most people confuse it to be French because of its name, but, the word French was added as a verb “to french” which meant to slice in ancient Irish, and hence the name “French toast” or “sliced toast” which was coined by England.
13. And… wait for it… Neither are Croissants
This is one of the heartbreaking facts about food in France, right? One of the commonest and most beloved French pastries didn’t originate in France.
Croissants came from Austria in the 13th century when an Austrian baker opened a store in Paris to sell Viennese goods and specialties.
The Austrian version of croissants was known as kipferl or kifli. The French loved it so much that they made their own version, and the croissant was born.
Another school of thought suggests that Queen Marie Antoinette, former wife to King Louis XVI was the one who introduced croissants to France when she came from Austria! However, a number of food historians dispute this theory!
But regardless of which theory you believe, it is evident that croissants didn’t originate from France though they’re a nationwide favorite and France’s croissants set the standards of how croissants should look and taste like.
14. The French eat their burgers with cutlery
One of the interesting French food culture facts is that French people eat their burgers with cutlery, or at least at restaurants!
The French love their burgers, but they do not eat them by lifting them up with their hands as most people do. Instead, they use a knife and fork (in a propah manner) except in McDonald’s, which doesn’t serve cutlery.
The same goes for pizzas, so don’t be surprised the next time you see this at a French restaurant.
15. French eggs are brown
Unlike in the USA and some other countries where chicken eggs are white in color, the French breed of chickens lays brown eggs.
The chickens in America are mostly of the “leghorn” breed, which lay white eggs while in France they have “French Marans chickens” which lay the very brown eggs.
However, there is no change in taste or nutritional value; the only difference is the color.
16. Milk is not refrigerated in France
If you visit a grocery store in France, you will notice that the milk is not stored in the fridge but kept outside on a shelf.
The French pasteurize milk at a higher temperature than in other countries hence this possibility.
And another fun fact in case you didn’t know, the process of pasteurization was developed by a French scientist, Louis Pasteur.
17. Wine is cheap in France
This is one of the less surprising French cuisine facts! Unlike in most countries where wine is expensive and only drunk on special occasions, wine is relatively cheap in France.
The price for a bottle of wine can be as cheap as €3-4 but can also be much higher for fancier wines!
This is probably true because France has low alcohol taxes, and it is one of the top wine-producing countries, so most of the wine is local which makes it a tard bit cheaper compared to other countries.
18. Legal drinking age in France is 16 years old
Speaking of wine, the legal drinking age in most countries is 21 years old like in the USA, but in France, to have wine, cider, and beer, the minimum drinking age is 16 years old.
For hard liquor, though, you still need to be 18 years and above. Hard liquor is any liquor with 21% or over alcohol content.
19. Wine is had at lunchtime
While still on the topic of wine, let’s look at this rather interesting fact! In France, having a glass (or bottle) of wine with your meal at lunchtime is normal.
In fact, sometimes, the French have a glass of wine before AND after their meal. The one had before is called an aperitif which prepares your palate for the upcoming meal, while the one had later is called digestif, to aid in digestion.
No doubt this is one of the interesting facts about French food that would make any wine aficionado want to move to France.
20. French chips come in quirky flavors
French chips are usually had during happy hours or as apéritif (pre-meal) with a cocktail.
The flavors might leave you perplexed. From Vico’s Grilled chicken, Brets’ Côte de boeuf grille (grilled beef ribs), Pringles’ Roast Beef and Mustard, to Lay’s Piment Basque (Basque Pepper). There is a variety to choose from!
21. The French don’t share their favorite drink with the rest of the world
The French love a drink called Pastis, which is usually had as an aperitif. Their love for it is so much that it is sometimes called the national drink of France.
It is an anise-flavored liqueur that tastes like licorice. The drink is made in Marseille and is now a favorite across the country.
22. French people don’t eat macarons as dessert
Macarons are some of the most delicious French pastries and a delicacy now loved worldwide.
Though it’s common practice (in most countries) to have sweets for dessert, in France, Macarons are reserved for special occasions or offered as gifts but not eaten as desserts.
An additional fact about macarons is that they originated in Italy. Catherine de Medici, who arrived in France in 1533 to marry Henry II, brought them with her, and the rest, as they say, is history.
23. The French like their steaks rare
One of the other fun facts about french cuisine is that French people like their steaks rare. Yes, you read that right!
The French ask for their steaks to be made rare (saignant) or medium-rare (à point). They do not eat out of necessity but they eat for pleasure and to enjoy their food.
This way, the meat flavor stands out since the more you cook the meat, the more it dries out and loses its juiciness and tenderness.
24. Cheese course after dinner is a must
This may be one of the less surprising french facts about food since France is known to be a Cheese haven!
A cheese plate is traditionally served after the main course in France and is considered a course by itself.
You could even have as little as 2-3 types of cheeses with some bread for 3-4 people but this number will change depending on how many people are at the table.
25. France comes 2nd in wine producing nations
Italy tops the list of wine-producing nations with France coming in a close 2nd but, it surpasses the other countries in wine exports.
France produces between 37 to 47 million hectoliters per year. Wine production in France started in Roman times, and now its wines like Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, and Champagne are known worldwide as some of the best.
France is also the 2nd largest wine-drinking nation, behind the USA; but to be fair, the USA has a population of over 4 times that of France!
26. Epiphany has its own special cake
Epiphany (L’Epiphanie) or Three Kings’ Day (La Fête des Rois), which is observed annually on January 6th, may not be widely celebrated, but the French celebrate it with a special cake called Galette de Roi (King cake).
If you don’t know what it is, it is a pancake-type pastry filled with fruit compote and frangipane in which a tiny figurine is hidden by the baker called feuve, and whoever finds it is crowned King or Queen for the day.
27. French Gastronomy is a part of UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list
French gastronomy is considered one of the best in the world. It is so popular and revered that, in 2010, UNESCO added it to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
French gastronomy goes beyond just sitting at the table and eating but it is part of the country’s culture, tradition, and as a form of building relationships!
With so much diversity, artisan and craftiness, UNESCO saw it fit to inscribe it. You can read more about it on the UNESCO website. This is truly one of the interesting facts about French cuisine.
28. Throwing away leftover food is illegal in France
Leftover or spare food is usually donated to charities and throwing it away is considered illegal in France.
Even supermarkets are not allowed to throw away any edible, unsold food products. The French prefer to feed it to the poor.
If all countries could come up and implement such a law, probably starving would be a problem of the past.
29. Customizations or Substitutions in French restaurants is a no no
When you’re eating at a French restaurant, it is not good etiquette to ask for substitutions since the French consider a dish to be perfect when it leaves the kitchen.
At Michelin star restaurants, they even consider it an insult if you ask for any changes. The chefs believe that the amount of salt, seasoning, or level of cooking is just right to fully enjoy the dish as they intended it to be enjoyed.
This, of course, does not apply if you have any food allergies.
30. Crêpes have a special day dedicated to them
Crêpes are some of the most loved streets foods in France if not the most! They’re loved so much that there is even a day to “celebrate” them.
February 2nd is considered as the Day of Crêpes or Jour des Crêpes. It is also the day when French and Belgian people celebrate Candlemas or La Chandeleur.
On this day, almost everyone in France eats Crêpes whether with a savory and/or sweet filling in them.
So, if you find yourself in Paris in February or any other French city, be sure to fulfill this tradition but eating a number of Crêpes.
31. Breakfast is NOT considered an important meal in France
Forget the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”! Not in France.
Breakfast in France is called le petit déjeuner (which translates to small lunch), which they consider to be a light meal hence, it is usually smaller in size when compared to lunch and dinner, which they give more importance to.
The meal times for lunch and dinner last longer too, while breakfast is sometimes even skipped.
32. French food isn’t spicy at all
Here’s an interesting fact about French cuisine; French food is not spicy at all.
The French love eating and they like to enjoy their food in a simple way that highlights the main ingredients.
For added flavor, the usual additions to French cuisine are herbs like parsley, thyme, etc but not spices.
33. Care for a morning cup of coffee? Make that a bowl
Yes, French people drink their coffee and other hot beverages in bowls.
This is because the French take their coffee with bread or any pastry, which they dip in their hot drink before eating it. This practice is only for breakfast, though.
34. Butter is not an accompaniment with breads in France
French people don’t have butter with their bread.
Bread is a complementary accompaniment served with meals and to be used for the sauces in the dishes or to “clean” your plate with.
Final Thoughts on the Fun Facts About Food in France
With all those facts, French cuisine is truly special and one you should taste if you get a chance! Hopefully, you will also find these tips and facts useful the next time you visit France.
Did you learn something new today? What did you find the most interesting from the 34 facts about French food? Leave a comment below and let me know.
And if you know any other food facts about France that are not on this list, still do share them with me.
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Check out these posts to help you plan your trip to Paris
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