The French get a lot of flak for, well, being French. They’re teased for acting pretentious, and they’re accused of displaying feelings of superiority. We’re not going to take sides on the matter, but we will say this: When it comes to their food, the French have good reason to get high and mighty. At one time, not that long ago, French food is what all other cuisines aspired to be. (And for us, it’s pretty much what we want to be eating all the time.)
Between their rich buttery sauces and the artistry they’ve brought to pastry, it’s easy to understand why French food has long been the envy of the world. But it’s not just the food they make that’s so special, it’s the way they think about their cuisine. In our food-forward minds, this means that the French are winning at life. Here are the 17 reasons why — though we’re sure we could have come up with 100.
France gave the world Champagne.
While many countries make sparkling wine, only France can make Champagne. Sparkling wine that bears the Champagne name must be made in the Champagne region, which is located close to Paris.
The French eat chocolate croissants for breakfast.
Flickr: You As A Machine
Enough said, but we’ll elaborate anyway. Big breakfasts are not served in France. Instead, they eat a small breakfast of toast with jam (which they call tartines) or a pastry — croissant, chocolate croissant, apple turnover, etc. They save the big meal for lunch.
Lunch is a two-hour endeavor…
Flickr: Rachida Dukes
…Not a 15-minute break eaten over your keyboard while watching cat videos. While it’s true that this leisure practice is slowly becoming less common in France — you won’t find many people taking a long lunch in major cities where modern life is taking over — in small towns and in the country, it is still the norm for people to return home to eat a leisurely, three-course lunch.
A glass of wine is common at most meals.
It isn’t unheard of to drink wine at lunch AND dinner in France. That doesn’t mean that each person drinks a bottle — just a glass (or two). Wine is thought to complement and enhance the flavors of the meal, so the two go hand in hand.
Butter is more important than water.
PhotoAlto/Francis Hammond via Getty Images
That’s the secret to fine French cuisine. Their sauces are based on butter. Their pastries are layered with butter. But, it’s all with good reason, because some of the finest butter in the world is made in France. Particularly, the butter made in the Normandy region, which is bright yellow thanks to their fine dairy cows. And, guys, the butter is almost always salted, the way butter is supposed to be.
THIS is their wedding cake.
Flickr: Oli Hege
A tower of cream puffs, held together by strings of caramel. Let us repeat: Strings of crispy, crunchy caramel. Towering fondant cakes have got nothing on this beauty.
France makes around 350 to 400 distinct types of cheeses.
Flickr: Jean-Michel VOLAT
That’s a lot of cheese. Some claim that France makes even more than that — close to 1,000 — because of all the varieties within each type of cheese. Simply put, France makes so many kinds of cheeses that Charles de Gaulle, the legendary French general, is famously quoted for saying, “How can you govern a country that makes over 256 kinds of cheese?” Little did he know it was way more than that. SO. MUCH. CHEESE.
Despite the rich and decadent food, the French eat in moderation.
It’s how they get to finish every meal with a cheese plate. (Note: The cheese plate doesn’t include a whole block of cheese, but three reasonable slices. Take note people, take note.)
There’s a reason everyone uses French terminology for restaurant staff.
Flickr: Glyn Morgan
Because they invented fine cuisine — we owe them everything.
They have a thousand-layer pastry.
Flickr: Hana Selly
It’s called a mille-feuille. We don’t have to say they’re the king of pastry, right? That’s implied, right?
Their Nutella jars are bigger than ours.
That’s a 2.2 pound jar your looking at on the left. They need big jars because Nutella is a topping on toast in the morning for kids, and sometimes a snack in the afternoon, too. Also, it’s a common filling for crepes, which you can buy on the side of the street almost anywhere in France.
Flickr: Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France
France’s history with wine dates back to the 6th century BC. They really know what they’re doing.
Macarons are their cupcakes.
Flickr: Irina Lapko
Aren’t they lovely? Macarons are a meringue-and almond-based confection made in all kinds of flavors and beautiful colors. The most common flavors are pistachio, coffee, chocolate and vanilla, but they get very creative. Think, passionfruit, lychee rose and tahini sesame.
The greatest hour of the day is “l’heure du gouter.”
Flickr: Frédérique Voisin-Demery
It literally translates to “the hour to taste.” It’s a four o’clock snack that almost all kids enjoy — usually Nutella is involved — but it’s not just restricted to children. L’heure de gouter is for whoever is in need of a little pick-me-up in the afternoon.
They throw an awesome party every year for the release of the young wine, Beaujolais.
Flickr: Lindsey Turner
They regulate their food more strictly than their visas.
Since 1411 France has had a system in place called the AOC — which stands for “controlled designation of origin” — to keep their food products up to the highest standard. France takes great pride and goes to great lengths to guarantee the quality of speciality and regional foods. From butter to lavender to lentils to honey, rest assured you’ve got the best and most authentic product if it’s got the AOC seal.
They firmly believe that everyone deserves a great baguette.