Did you see the movie "Ratatouille"? I loved this animated film which was an Oscar winner. It reminded me again that French food is about much more than sustenance. For the French, cooking and eating is a philosophy, a way of life and an expression of self.
But succulent foie gras and airy soufflés, truffles and hundreds varieties of cheese, champagne and butter croissants haven't always been the fare of choice in France. French cuisine has evolved over the centuries of social and political changes. Classic haute cuisine was made famous by its intricate preparation, by using the finest ingredients, by emphasizing the cooking techniques and artful plate presentation.
The Middle Ages were dominated by lavish banquets at the royal and regional courts with ornate, heavily seasoned food. Seasonings and decorations were quite often used to disguise food that had spoiled. At the same time, French peasants lived mostly in poverty and survived on a nutritionally limited diet of grains, root vegetables and wine. Over the centuries, the national cuisine developed primarily in Paris with the chefs to French royalty, but eventually it spread throughout the country and was even exported overseas. The era of the French Revolution saw a move toward fewer spices, more liberal usage of herbs and more refined techniques.
Eventually the French cuisine turned into a magical art of beautiful presentation and innovative flavors. Modern French cooking is dominated by nouvelle cuisine, introduced in the 1970s. This trend is characterized by simpler, less time-consuming dishes, lighter sauces, smaller portions, and a greater emphasis on local, high quality, seasonal ingredients. It involves flexible preparation methods and experimentation with non-traditional flavors. Mastering the art of French cooking is considered by many to be the pinnacle of culinary achievement, accomplished with a few practiced cooking methods, signature ingredients, and just a dash of panache.
French cuisine is a unique, cultural experience. Preparing and savoring French food is an art that takes a lifetime to master, yet requires that time stand still to appreciate its splendor. French cuisine is an art, a tradition and a way of life. It is a pure, nearly religious, sensory experience. What once was subsistence is now an object of daily, living art.
France is blessed with sunny weather, beautiful countryside, a beaches, historic cities, ornate churches, picturesque chateaux, and some of the best food and wine in the world. The French take there meals seriously, but having a relaxed, impromptu meal is part of the culinary scene. If culinary delights are what you enjoy, then France is definetely the perfect destination for you. From bustling markets with the freshest selection of produce, to intimate shops specializing in just certain kind of bread, cheese, and wine, the gastronomic perfection of food in France is spectacular.
There are thousands of great restaurants in France. All of them seem to boast about one chef or another, which is good, but for most of us we want to get down to eating. Walk around the city, peruse the menu, and sit down for a meal. Parisians eat lunch at noon, and take their dinner late, around eight o'clock. Restaurants in France can be a pricey affair, but fortunately French law dictates that prices must include service. Rounding off the bill and leaving some change is good practice.
Eating in France is an exciting and rich experience. Food in France has many different styles. There are staples, like bread, cheese, and coffee. Bread, especially the baguette, is very common, but there are dozens of different styles and sizes of bread. Each with their own name, own texture, and varied use. As it is with cheese. Hundreds of varieties are produced all over France, including delightful ones by small factories. Then of course there is wine, produced in the seven distinct wine regions of France. Food in France goes so far beyond the basics, where sometimes a simple meal can stretch on for hours, or maybe a dinner that last past midnight. Such is the passion of the French palate.
As France is known for culinary delights, Paris is the capital. Choices for food in Paris are all over town, from upscale hotels to intimate restaurants. Paris has a lot to offer. It's important to note the time when dining. A typical breakfast includes coffee and a bagel or fruit. The serious food in Paris isn't served until lunch, from about noon to two o'clock. Walk out of a museum at three, and you'll be hard pressed to find a full meal. Many restaurants close to prepare for the evening after two or two-thirty. They open again for dinner around five or six.
In addition, food in Paris is not restricted to traditional French delights. Cuisine from all over the world can be found in Paris, including Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and other international tastes. Fast food chains are rising in popularity due to convenience and there family oriented style.
Parisians take their meals seriously, and when dining in Paris it helps to show up in a relaxed frame of mind, and not be in too much of a hurry. Plan your meal times, don't rush, and dining in Paris and France will be a pleasant and tasty experience.