French food is really important in France, and the significance of meal time in France is now recognised by UNESCO, under the intangible cultural heritage category. From the tradition of matching food to the appropriate wine, of setting the table, to the many traditional recipes that are favourites for the French.
Meal time in France represents a simple pleasure that unites the country. I am impressed by the French I have met, who know by heart at least a dozen recipes, taught by their parents as they were growing up.
France is the only country I know who take their lunchtime seriously. The pressure of working in Paris was to be in the brasserie by 12.30, otherwise people risk been turned away from their favourite restaurant which would be full by 12.45! It seems normal in France to have a one and a half hour lunch break. Perhaps the French are right in taking their extra long lunch as people always work better after a proper break from the office.
In fact, the government add an incentive to eating out with the ticket-restau cheque normally offered in large organisations. This is a voucher of cheques that is 50% funded by an employee’s company and 50% from an employee’s salary. The companies receive good tax benefits in offering these vouchers, and the French workers receive extra money to eat in restaurants. What a great idea!
I for one spent a lot of times in cafés with friends or lunching with colleagues. It’s definitely something worth doing and doing well in Paris; a simple pleasure of good food and great company.
Tourists find it hard to get used to waiters in Paris. It’s also a tough gig for waiters, Paris cafes make use of every bit of space to cram everyone in and waiters work hard as a result. Some can be rude but on the other hand, some waiters can be very cheeky or flirtatious and create a fun environment in the café. In fact, I think it’s quite normal for French waiters to try and chat and impress young women, seeming to be a perk of their job.
Do you ever wonder why the French bread is so good? In 1993, a law was passed that obliged bakers to use only 4 ingredients in their baguettes; flour, water, salt and leavening, so no nasty preservatives are added. Only the French would insist to have a law to protect the quality of the bread.
I discovered the café gourmand in Paris, and normally order this when I am undecided about what dessert to order. The café gourmand is 3 mini desserts, ie chocolate mousse, crème brulée and a strawberry tart, plus an expresso.
‘The steak tartare’
I also discovered that I really like the steak tartare which greatly surprised me. I thought the idea of raw meat initially put me off. The dish normally comes with onions, capers and seasonings, consisting of fresh pepper and Worcestershire sauce. I now prefer this dish to traditional steak.
Since returning to Australia, I have a new found love of cooking, and so the French culture has definitely rubbed off on me in a positive way. So, time to put my apron on, and think about ‘le repas’ for dinner. If you want to see my blog about Paris and travel, please visit A Paris Diary.