The French are passionate about their food. They consider it to be one of life's greatest pleasures. Food, to the ordinary Frenchman is and integral part of his heritage, his region, his upbringing, his ritual.
French food cannot be pigeon-holed. It cannot be said to be one thing. Rather it is as diverse as the landscape itself, with each region having its own specialties, and regional dishes. Traveling in France, therefore, is an extraordinary culinary adventure where every stops turns up something new and exciting. The average Frenchman eats the food of his own region where he grew up.
In Normandy we have visions of black and white cows grazing in green meadows under apple trees in full blossom with the chalky cliffs of Etreta in the background. Apple orchards dot the landscape,hence the prevalence of apple cider and calvados. Apples and pears are also widely used in French cuisine for pastries such as pommes bourdaloue which is poached apples baked with almond cream and crumbled almond macaroons. Delicious!
Think of Alsace and the first thing that comes to mind is cabbage. Alsatians are also well known for their breads and pastries. Bakers here tempt their customers with pretzels, brioche, Bredele, gingerbread, Springerle, Bierwecke packed with dried fruits, strudel, fruit tarts, cheesecake and Kougelhoff. One can immediately see that the French food in Alsace has a strong German influence.
Brittany has always existed in a bit of a time warp; steeped in history and tradition. Its proximity to the coast has given it sea salt. It is also a region famous for its 20 plus varieties of strawberries in Plougastel, and apples from the Saint Malo area. Traditional fruit pastries are mouthwatering, with gateau Breton celebrating the liberal use of local salted butter, and the far Breton; a rich prune flan that is a signature dish topping the list, and of course not forgetting the crépes. It is also a region blessed with a wonderful coastline that allows the Bretons to harvest the sea. Shellfish and fish are an integral part of the Breton diet.
Auvergne is a land of magnificent landscape and one of France's most rural areas. The French food fits the landscape - hearty French cuisine that is invigorating. Even today, the Auvergnats continue their focus onsimple, rustic food; big on flavor and big on taste. In this region you could expect to see blueberry tarts, prune tarts, walnut cakes or chestnut flans. Other delicacies include Cadet-Mathieu, a thick apple pie flavored with orange blossom water; Millard, the Auvergnat version of a clafouti, Bourioles which is a sweet crépe made with rye flour, and Fouasse, similar to brioche and often studded with candied fruits.
Burgundy is not a region just famous for its wine. French food in this region is hearty and rich and they are passionate about their food. For desserts fresh fruits can be found in abundance; cherries, plums, strawberries and currants. And of course there is the Burgundy clafouti with marinated black cherries. Don't leave this region without trying pain d'epices; a dark, moist golden loaf made with honey and spices.
Provence Food is a delight. This region is famous for its mild climate, rich history and its wonderfully alluring Mediterranean-style cuisine. The motto of Provencal cooks is "cook with the seasons" and "less is more".Provencal desserts focus on nuts, fruit and honey. Provence is also famous for its nougat of Montelimar, and its orange date cookie with a lemon glaze.
French food in the mountainous Basque region is influenced by its Spanish neighbour. They too boast a gateaux, this time the cakes are layered with black cherry jam. In Bayonne, one can find legendary macaroons form Patisserie Adam in Saint Jean de Luz or the tourons a marzipan/nougat confection often paired with candied fruits, walnuts or prunes.
And so we see from the above that French cuisine is really no one thing. Even though each area may grow the same produce, each region has used that produce differently, resulting in unique dishes only originating from a particular region. Come to France on your next farm holiday and experience fantastic food found in your area. And if you want to practise your making some wonderful French dishes visit our Quick and Easy French Recipes page for some ideas.