First, most of French traditional dishes are regional. Quiche Lorraine, boeuf Bourguignon, bouillabaisse Marseillaise…They are all named after the region they come from. Did you know that crêpes come from Brittany?!
My region, Alsace, has its own dishes as well. We notice the German influence by the importance of meat and deli meat. The most popular Alsatian dish is the choucroute, prepared with sauerkraut (sour cabbage), sausages, meats, deli meat and potatoes.
The tarte flambée (or Flammekueche in our dialect) is another favorite. It is composed of rolled bread dough, covered with fromage blanc or fresh cream, thinly sliced onions and small strips of pork. Tired of pizzas? Try it!
They are also more elaborated Alsatian dishes. We love to cook meats with a sauce made out of our delicious regional wines. My favorite is a fillet of duck breast, with a creamy sauce of Pinot Noir and prunes… All those ingredients are the perfect match, I think they where made for each other!
Who’s taking the baguette?
It is a daily question in most households. It has to be bread, fresh, daily. It’s part of our lives and it’s always on the table! What do we eat it with? Butter & jam or nutella for breakfast, and cheese , leftovers of sauce or deli meat for lunch and dinner.
You’ll be able to find a boulangerie (the French word for bakery) even in the smallest villages. Their enchanting smell spreads on the streets and invites you to come in… hmmm, can you smell it?
And of course… the cheese!
Bread leads me to talk about cheese. Another big protagonist in our food culture. Cheese is one of the three steps of the meal. We don’t want to miss it! Right after the main course and just before dessert!
On my way from Paris to New York, as my flight was operated by Air France, the lunch was composed of a main course, cheese and bread, and a dessert. I thought “how French this is!!” and realized I wouldn’t see that for a while.
My favorite cheese is called “munster”. It is produced in the valley next to mine and named after it. It has a nice and strong smell and a mid creamy texture. As a child I didn’t appreciate its character. Here in the United States I found some munster, imported right from my little region, at Whole Food Market. I was so happy, I asked the saleswoman: “can I have the Munster please?”- she said: “Yes, how much do you want?” – “I want the whole thing!!” – I answered. – “It will be $24” – “Oh…okay, so maybe half of it…”
Food from home taste even better once you’ve been away for a long time. There is a little taste of nostalgia that comes to it. Those who studied abroad will know what I mean.
I have to say that not every French are so found of cheese as I am though. Do you like cheese? I am sure there is a French cheese made for you. Did you know that each region of France produces a particular type of cheese? There are from 350 to 400 distinct types of French cheese. There can be many varieties within each type, leading some to claim close to 1,000 different types of French cheese!!!
How do French people eat?
We like to take time to eat. Spend a nice part of the night chilling at the restaurant, chatting between the courses. Wouldn’t you like to linger on in a traditional restaurant of Ribeauviller, a medieval village of Alsace?
How did I adapt myself to food in the United States?
While I travel, I try to be curious and open minded, but I often realize that I am not so adventurous when it comes to food. I am very used to the quality of the food due to the strict legislations in France.
So I adapted myself by changing some habits, and that’s not a bad thing at all! I buy a lot of organic products, and I became vegetarian (I have no hope I will keep this habit back in my German-influenced region though). Wow!!! They are so many vegetarian options here! I even challenged myself and went vegan for a week!
My crêpes recipe!
Before letting you eat (I’m sure you’re as starving as I am after reading all this), I want to share an easy crêpes recipe for 5 people. It will impress everybody, and it’s actually pretty simple, and cheap. It is a good option to keep in mind when the fridge is empty. Eggs, milk and flour? You have alsmost everything you need!
500 grams of flour (it is about 4 cups I suppose?)
Beat 4 eggs (Organic<3) separately before adding them to the flour
Add 1 liter of Milk little by little while mixing (34 oz)
A pinch of salt
If you’re not starving you can let it rest half an hour.
Then add two tablespoons of sunflower oil!
Take a nonstick frying pan that is not scratched!
Place the pan on the stove and turn the burner to medium heat, and let the pan get hot.
To avoid that the crepes sticks with the pan, put a teaspoon of oil into it and spread it with a paper towell and absorb the rest. (do that again after cooking 5 crêpes if it starts to stick)
Pour some of the batter into the center of the pan. Not to much! A good crêpe is thin. You shouldn’t cover all the pan by pouring too much batter, but spread the batter by lifting the pan and moving your hand in a circular motion to swirl the batter form the center of the pan around the sides.
Let the crêpe cook. Once done, flip the crêpe using a spatula. Don’t overcook the crêpe. The first one is always a fail.
You’ll notice the crêpe is neither salted nor sweet. That way you can either eat them with, nutella, suggar, jam (…) without it being oversweet. But you can also eat it with salted toppings! I like to add grated swiss cheese in the frying pan, as the batter is still completely wet, so that the cheese is really incorporated into the crêpe. Or, once it has been cooked on the first side, flip it, and add carved ham. Goat cheese with honey are my favorite toppings!!
So, add your toppings, and enjoy!