French figures: The only vegetable allowed for raclette

This might be the only respectable vegetable for some French dishes.

French figures: The only vegetable allowed for raclette
Photo: AFP

The cornichon – a pickled gherkin – is often the only green thing accompanying some French food classics.

Order a planche of cheese and charcuterie (assorted hams) and it will normally come together with small, firm, crunchy cornichons.


Tart in taste, the cornichon is at the heart of several French salads, but it alsgoes well with paté, egg salad, tartare – anything heavy, really.

It's essential to raclette, a hearty French dish consisting of melting cheese and pouring it over potatoes and hams. The cornichon has traditionally been the only vegetable (apart from the potatoes) allowed for a raclette, its vinegary taste and crunchy texture perfectly breaking up the greasy cheese.

An employee stacks cornichon jars at a factory of the French-Swiss company Reitzel, in Connerre northzestern France. The company tried to revive the cornichon business in France. Photo. AFP

Despite its key place in French cuisine and its status as a household item – jars of cornichons are found in any French supermarket and most French fridges – most cornichons are produced abroad.

In fact, 80 percent of the 60 million jars of cornichons consumed in France every year come from India, while most of the remaining 20 percent are shipped in from Eastern Europe.

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 


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French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.