Eating Habits

The meals making up the day in France...

Breakfast: Often just a bowl of café au lait and butter and jam on yesterday’s bread. Croissants and pains au chocolats tend to be eaten at weekends or on special occasions.

Lunch: While still considered the main meal by some, in urban areas the midday grande bouffegenerally loses out to something in a baguette, a croque monsieur (ham and cheese toastie) or, deep breath, a hamburger.

Dinner: The French still enjoy an ornate evening meal when opportunity allows. It won’t begin until eight but, once it does, expect a minimum of three courses washed down with different wines (all of which will be French). If a main meal was taken at lunch, dinner is more liable to be a salad or quiche.

French Markets

Every French town or suburb has at least one food market a week, often more. Produce is local and seasonal, and some of the stalls will be staffed by the producers themselves. But browsing the market is about more than buying food: it’s a social experience, a place to catch up on gossip where no self-respecting French woman would be seen without her make-up. As for how to behave, watching the old dears is your best bet. They always know the best stalls, where invariably they will prod and sniff the produce before parting with any cash. Most markets are open by 08:00 and finished by 13:00; avoid the first hour or two, unless you want to compete with local restaurateurs.

Farm fresh

If you can’t wait for the farmer to come to market, go to him. Many farms sell direct to the public: everything from eggs to foie gras, honey to snails can be purchased where you see a vente directe sign.

Extract from Speak the Culture France, a Thorogood publication, recommended by the Institut Français Speak the Culture series website Buy online Copyright © 2009 Thorogood Publishing