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The many, many ways you can commit food sacrilege in France

There are so many ways you can offend the food gods in France.

The many, many ways you can commit food sacrilege in France
Photo: Katherine Lim/Flickr

One way to get on the wrong side of the French is to mess with their food and indeed wine. Here's a list of food sins to avoid if you want a happy life in la belle France.

1. Put an aged Beaufort cheese in your fondue.

This might appear controversial to those who always put Beaufort in their fondue and live by the principal the stronger the cheese the better the fondue, but apparently it's sacrilege. To understand more, read about the cheese lesson The Local editor received from his local Paris monger.

2. Ask for a well done steak

At best, you'll get a look from the waiter which says “typical” and at worst the chef will storm out of his kitchen and lecture you on why he refuses to over cook (kill) a piece of quality meat. Just order the chicken.

3. Put a 1989 bottle of Burgundy in your Boeuf Bourguignon

Pour a vintage Burgundy wine into your stew and cook it for four hours and you'll likely be deported. Use a cheap bottle.

4.  Ask for Ketchup

Unless you are having a burger with chips or you are under 11, Ketchup has no place anywhere near a dining table in France. Dijon mustard however…tuck in.

5. Cutting lettuce

Those lettuce leaves might be as big sheets of A4 paper but don't be cutting them to make it easier to get it in your mouth. Neatly fold them, over and over again, even it takes you 15 attempts. Then get it in there.

6. Cheese sins

There are so many cheese sins you can commit in France and they are not all related to fondue. For example don't cut the best bit off the brie (the narrow end of the wedge), don't leave your rinds on the cheese board and don't serve it with crackers (or beer). Make sure you have some red wine left. Don't serve it after the dessert. Nor with grapes and port. The list goes on. Here's a link to learn how to be on your best Briehaviour.

7. Bread sins

Don't put it on your plate during dinner. Don't butter it (unless it's for breakfast). Don't walk down the street nibbling the end…oh wait that is actually totally allowable.

Baguettiquette: Weird things the French do with bread

8. Beer with dinner

It's wine or water. So no Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Irn Bru, Ginger Beer or normal beer with your Cassoulet.

9. Wine sins 

Here we go: Don't fill the glass to the top. Don't pour your own glass if you are guest. Don't mutilate the metal around the cork to open the bottle – neatly cut the very top off. Don't serve red wine with fish. Don't serve white wine with Boeuf Bourguignon and definitely don't serve a Bordeaux wine (Regional dish goes with regional wine! DON'T under any circumstances turn up with a bottle of Californian wine at a French dinner party. Here's a little more on the winefield in France.

10. Don't spread the foie gras

Leave it as a lump on your toast and get it straight in your mouth. It's not a pâté,as the French will say. Spreading it risks imprisonment in a French jail.

11. Buttering your croissant

Are you mad? It's made of butter! And don't even think of putting jam in there. Or peanut butter. Or bacon (although that sounds amazing).

12. Use an expensive Chablis to make a Kir 

It's just a waste to use a good wine for a Kir (popular aperitif made with wine and crème de cassis). And many people will be left upset.

13. Ask the waiter for the Coq au vin to come with no coq or and no vin

In other words don't start picking and choosing what you want. A dish is a dish. Unless you're allergic and likely to collapse in which case they will be more sympathetic to your dietary requirements.

14. Spray your hosts with crab shells

If you get served crab, you are going to need to fnd a way of opening it up without sending shrapnel all around the table because you don't want to put your host's eye out. And make sure you get all the meat out of those legs. Leaving good crab meat behind is a costly sacrilege.

15. Refuse food

If yo get served up pigs entrails, cow's tongue or calf's brain you arejust gonna have to get it down you. Granted, it's rare and your hosts will probably realise you have a sensitive stomach, but you will be given some weird and wonderful dishes in France and it's best to eat them.

READ ALSO: French food delicacies foeigners just can't stomach




Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?