5 myths about French food

In this article, I list 5 myths about French food

Since 2010, French gastronomy, more specifically meals and the rituals, have been listed as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. French gastronomy is known around the world both for its history and for the variety of products & dishes. 

However, there are many misconceptions about French gastronomy. The origins of specialities, histories and culinary traditions are sometimes misunderstood.

Let’s look at a few of these common myths!

1. The croissant is actually Viennese! 

The star of traditional French breakfasts, the famous croissant turns heads and makes everyone salivate! Plump, shiny, golden and flaky with a good taste of butter, the croissant can be eaten as is or dipped in the morning coffee. 

Although it can be found in every bakery in France, it actually comes from Austria, and more particularly from Vienna! In 1683 Vienna was besieged by the Turks who decided to enter the city in the night through an underground passage. The bakers who were working at the kneading trough decided to raise an alarm, which made it possible to prevent the attack. To thank them, Leopold I, Archduke of Austria, decided to grant them privileges. In gratitude, the bakers made a pastry in the shape of the Ottoman crescent. 

It is said that Marie-Antoinette brought croissants to France via one of her cooks who came with her to the French court from Austria. However, it was in 1838 that a former Viennese officer, Auguste Zan, opened a Viennese bakery in Paris. He marketed the croissants, which at that time was a brioche. In the 1920s, French pastry chefs took over the Viennese croissant, which then became flaky. 

However, don’t think that the French eat croissants every day! Yes, they are part of French gastronomy. But no, the French do not queue up in front of the bakery every morning to buy them !

2. French fries are not French, they are Belgian!

Steak-frites are one of the dishes that the French like to order in restaurants. The Anglo-Saxons call the fries “French fries”, but in reality they are not French, but Belgian!

So why are fries called “French fries”? There are several theories, although none of them are proven. However, there is one that is more likely than the others and it is linked to the First World War. Anglo-Saxon soldiers met Belgians and mistook them for French because they spoke French. When they saw them eating potato sticks, the soldiers naturally called them ‘French fries’. 

Today, Chips are served in many French restaurants and brasseries in France. They are the traditional accompaniment to meats and stews. However, it was in Belgium that the fries were born! We have dispelled another one of the myths about French food!

3.The French don’t always eat frogs’ legs and snails 

In France, some dishes are reserved for special occasions. This is the case with snails and frogs’ legs, which are often eaten at parties or restaurant meals. The belief that French eat snails and frogs’ legs often is one of the common myths about French food.

Today, it is rare to prepare snails, frogs’ legs or even calf’s head at home! These dishes are eaten from time to time, depending on individual tastes, and especially outside the home. 

Although frogs’ legs and calf’s head are now rare on restaurant menus, certain dishes such as snails are often offered as starters. 

However, although French, Your Online French Teacher does not eat these dishes. Their benefits are credible but I simply cannot eat them. To each his own taste!

Image of cooked snails. The French don't eat snails often. I discuss this in my article 5 myths about French food.
Escargots are reserved for special occasions

4. Royal couscous, a Parisian invention

Couscous is the emblematic dish of the Maghreb countries. With its meat and vegetables delicately cooked in spices, it makes the senses and taste buds travel! What a delight! It is certainly one of my favourite dishes!

In 2020, the traditions of couscous were inscribed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.  

In France, this Berber dish is one of the favourite dishes of the French! Today, couscous knows no borders and adapts to the tastes and culinary identities of each country.

This is why it is possible to taste the so-called “royal” couscous in France. In fact, there is no such thing as royal couscous in North Africa. It is a Parisian invention popularised by the Chez Bébert restaurant in Montparnasse. 

Unlike traditional couscous, Parisian couscous is called “royal” because it includes several meats, including chicken, lamb, meatballs and merguez. 

5. Brandade de morue is not Portuguese, but French!

Brandade de morue is often attributed to Portugal, when in fact it is French. Although Portugal has many cod recipes in its culinary repertoire, the recipe for brandade comes from Occitania and more precisely from Nîmes. 

The traditional recipe does not include potatoes. But mashed potatoes were added to the recipe for economic reasons. The real Languedoc brandade de morue is made with cod meat emulsified with olive oil and milk. A little garlic, thyme and bay leaves can be added for extra flavour. 

It is a very tasty dish that I highly recommend! 

With globalisation, the history of French gastronomy, its products and its recipes are sometimes misrepresented and distorted. I hope you enjoyed this article on the 5 myths about French food and that you learned something. 

If you want to read this article in French, check it out here: Les fausses croyances sur la gastronomie française

Do you want to study French, prepare for an exam or participate in grammar workshops or conversation classes ? Contact me for a quote or for the programme of individual & group French classes. 

Sincerely yours,

Élodie – Your Online French Teacher

French tuition, French course for groups, private French lessons

Language stay in France – Limousin – Nouvelle-Aquitaine

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