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La Belle Vie: Why the French eat snails and idioms to sound like a local

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: Why the French eat snails and idioms to sound like a local
Mie Escargots Development Laboratory president Toshihide Takase serving a dish of Burgundy snails at the canteen area of his farm in Matsusaka, Mie prefecture in Japan in May 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

From idioms to learn to sound more French to why French people eat snails and readers' least favourite French dishes, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

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La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

I have a specific ritual in place when family and friends come to visit me in Paris - I always take them to a 'Bouillon' restaurant.

Bouillons are restaurants from the late 19th century and early 20th century that were known for cooking inexpensive traditional French plates. They were sort of akin to dining halls and catered to the working class. These days, there are several Bouillons in Paris, including the Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse, which first opened in 1903.

Revealed: The hot French dining trend that is traditional, cheap and delicious

In my opinion, they are a great way to introduce people to the French classics - from œufs mayonnaise to bœuf bourguignon and plenty of 'gratins' - at an affordable price.

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And of course - escargots are on the menu, and I always encourage my friends and family not to turn up their noses, but instead to taste the delicacy in its delicious butter-garlic sauce.

Don't ask Google, ask us: Why do the French eat snails?

Les escargots are quintessentially French, but interestingly enough they have long been considered 'impossible to breed'.

But recently a Japanese man took it upon himself to crack the code to farming escargots, and after four decades of trial and error, he now calls himself the 'only person in the world' to have discovered the secret to farming snails.

Japanese man, 76, discovers secret to farming French snails

While I wouldn't eat snails every day, I have come to really enjoy them, so I was delighted when only 13 percent of our readers ranked them the 'worst food in France'.

The winner - with over 34 percent of the vote - was the stinky sausage andouillette. Of course, andouillette fans say if you get past the smell, the sausage itself is delicious. I count myself among those who struggle to get past the smell.

Readers reveal: What are the worst foods in France?

While they may be classics, I have never been offered andouillette or snails at a French person's home. Perhaps my sample size is not representative of the whole of the country, but I get the impression that these foods are more common in restaurants than as everyday dishes.

As such, you'll have no issue avoiding them if you want to, but it will be difficult to avoid meat and cheese altogether in France. 

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The country has become more vegetarian friendly in the last few years, and many stores now offer meatless burger patties and even vegan cheese. In my personal experience, there still remains a bit of confusion between pescetarianism and vegetarianism. 

'Call the restaurant': Your tips for being vegetarian or vegan in France

Those concerned about animal welfare may be turned off by some of France's favourite idioms, namely the expression avoir d'autres chats à fouetter (to have other cats to whip). 

Don't worry, this shouldn't be taken literally. It's just the French equivalent of 'having other fish to fry'.

Fat mornings and whipping cats: 10 idioms to help you sound more French

And finally, this edition of the Belle Vie newsletter is coming out in a unique moment in French history, as the country gears up to vote in snap parliamentary elections following a startling victory by the far right in the European elections.

As the next few weeks unfold, you may want to review our helpful vocabulary guide to follow along. 

10 essential French phrases to help you understand France's snap election

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Comments (1)

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M.J. Wilkie 2024/06/14 16:15
Why do the French eat snails? Because they don't like fast food.

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