French Gastronomy, Cheese and Vocabulary

Who has never heard of French cheese, bread, or wine? Does French language, culture, traditions and tradition interest you? Then you must have came across beautiful pictures of french food, varieties of cheese and ham, and delicate appetizers. Do “Croque Monsieur”, “Croque Madame”, “Raclette” sound familiar? If so, let’s see them in detail. If not, then you are reading the perfect article at the perfect time to not only learn new French vocabulary, but also get to know what to order and try once in France (isn’t that great !). 

Did you know that the French gastronomy and its rituals have been inscribed in UNESCO’s cultural heritage in 2010? There is nothing a good French meal cannot solve. In all their happy circumstances, French people are gathered around a good meal. Whether it’s an “apéro” (short for apréritif, apetizer) among friends, a commercial meal or a banquet, “la nourriture” (food) is always present to create a mood for convivialité (conviviality), humanisme (humanism) and bien-être (well-being).

Top 5 French food you might want to try:

La tarte tatin 

Did you know that this pie was made for the first time by mistake in 1898? Stephanie Tartin was trying to make a traditional apple pie when she accidentally left the apples in sugar and butter too for long in the pan. In an attempt to cover for her mistake, she put the pastry base on top of the burning fruit and placed the pan in the oven. She supposedly served the upside-down tart to her guests at Hôtel Tatin and the result turned into the hotel’s signature dish. From that moment on, Tatin came to be known as an adjective used to describe food that is caramelized and baked in the manner of an upside down cake. So, la tarte tatin is simply an upside-down apple/pear tart. Its main ingredients are: 

  • Apple(s) – pomme(s)
  • Pear(s) – poire(s)
  • Sugar – sucre 
  • Butter – beurre 
  • Egg – oeuf 
  • Flour – farine 
  • Pastry – pâte brisée

Boeuf Bourguignon

If you are a meat and a wine lover, then this dish is the one for you. Also known as beef Burgundy, le boeuf bourguignon is a beef stew braised in red wine, often red Burgundy (obviously), and beef stock. Its main ingredients are: 

  • Beef – boeuf 
  • Bacon strip – lardons
  • Butter – beurre 
  • Onion(s) – oignon(s) 
  • Carrot(s) – carotte(s)
  • Garlic – ail 
  • Flour – farine 
  • Wine – vin 
  • Mashroom(s) – champignon(s)
  • Salt – sel 
  • Pepper – poivre 

And another important ingredient and new french vocabulary to add to the list is le bouquet garni which is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare stews, soup, stock and many other dishes. It can be translated to ‘garnished bouquet’.

Escargots de Bourgogne

Escargots de bourgogne.

Still in Burgundy, les escargots de Bourgogne is an iconic dish of that region and French gastronomy in general. Cooked in court bouillon*, the snail is then presented in its shell, which is filled with a mixture of butter, parsley and finely chopped garlic and placed in the oven. Its main ingredients are: 

  • Snail(s) – Escargot(s)
  • Garlic – ail 
  • Butter – beurre 
  • Shallot – échalote 
  • Parsley – persil 
  • Salt and pepper – sel et poivre 
  • White wine – vin blanc 

And last useful information concerning this dish; it often has bread for accompaniment. 

*Court bouillon is a stock made from wine (vin) and vegetables (légumes), typically used in fish dishes. 

La ratatouille

Ratatouille is a french dish.

This dish or the name of the dish might sound familiar. Did you watch the Disney movie Ratatouille? If not, what are you waiting for ! It is one of the most exciting, touching, and funny animated movies that were ever made. Bonus point, it deals with food, french gastronomy, and it also illustrates life in Paris. Do watch it whenever you have time, it will definitely help you in your learning journey. 

Now back to ratatouille, the dish. It is a vegetable dish as you can see in the picture above consisting of:

  • Onions – oignon 
  • Zucchini – Courgettes
  • Tomatoes – tomates
  • Eggplants – aubergines
  • Peppers – poivrons 

One usually fries these vegetables. Sometimes, one serves them cold. It is definitely worth the trial, especially for those who love vegetables and new flavors. 

Les éclairs 

Eclairs in French gastronomy.

Back to deserts. Les éclairs (plural)* are long, thin individual cakes of choux pastry. They have a cream filling and chocolate icing. Don’t they look beautiful ! The main components that we find in les éclairs are:

  • Cream – la crème pâtissière 
  • Chocolate – le chocolat 
  • Topping – la garniture 

*Singular is un éclair.  

France is famous for cheese. One can find an amazing variety of cheese in France. Crumbly cheeses, hard cheeses, moldy and grayish, soft and squishy, and yes-even properly “stinky” ones! Here are some of the most common ones: 

Le Camembert – soft cheese 

This is arguably the quintessential French cheese, with an earthy, slightly strong flavor. 

Le Port Salut – semi-soft cheese 

Le port salut,

This one is one of my favourites. It is one of several semi-soft cheeses from the pays de la Loire. It is a cow’s milk cheese with a bright orange rind and mild flavor. Yum! 

Le Comté – hard cheese: 

Gruyere cheese.

Comté or also called Gruyère de Comté originated from Eastern France. One uses unpasterized cow milk to make it. It is served as a cube, on a sandwich, melted in a fondue, folded with eggs, or grated and sprinkled on dishes.

This cheese is very delicious.

Le Roquefort – ‘stinky’ or blue cheese: 

Blue cheese in French.

Le Roquefort is the king of the Blues. It is Midi Pyrénées sheep’s cheese with blue mould veins. 

I bet you are starting to feel a little hungry with all this new French gastronomy vocabulary related to food. It might be time to go to the kitchen and fix yourself a tasty little dish. Why not a French one? And while you are at it, try to name the ingredients you will be using and saying them out loud to practice and remember them correctly. This would undoubtedly be a fun practice.