How to Dine Like the French

July 28, 2015

How to Dine Like the French | Alyssa Pacaut



Sitting Down to Dinner

All to often we find ourselves eating on the go or in front of the TV. Something of which the monsieur and I are totally guilty! But most nights, we try to make it a point to sit down and eat dinner at the dining table.

Whether we spend 20 minutes or an hour at the table, I’m always happy that we take the time. It gives us a chance to enjoy the delicious food together, have a few laughs, and go over the ups and downs of the day.

Setting the Table

The French are experts at cultivating beauty in everyday life. Take a page from their book and set your table with place mats, cloth napkins*, plates, silverware, and glassware. It doesn’t have to be perfect and blog-worthy, just the ritual of setting the table helps set the mood and makes your daily dining feel more sophisticated.

On a similar note, pay attention to the way you plate your food. Presentation is everything and by considering the composition on the plate, you can make your meal even more appetizing. Even if you are having Thai take-out, remove the food from the cardboard containers and transfer it to serving bowls to make it that much more sophistiqué.

Respecting the Process of a Meal

The very first time I cooked dinner for Arnaud, I served brie as an appetizer. As we talked and chatted, the cheese stood alone and untouched on the table. After 15 long minutes, I finally ate a sliver hoping he’d follow suit. No luck! He didn’t go for the cheese until the main dish was finished and it was almost dessert time.

As stalwart traditionalists, the French have many rules and rituals about food, most of which have logical reasoning and scientific backing behind them. For instance, an apéro* at the beginning of the meal whets your appetite while a light salad after the main course aids digestion.

Serving a small amount of cheese at the end of a meal keeps you satiated until the next meal and could potentially prevent tooth decay. Most importantly, it’s a nice decadent end to dining and something you can take great pleasure in.

*Bonus: Cloth napkins are not only chic but earth friendly too! Most meals aren’t that messy so you may only need to wash them once or twice a week.

** The apéro (short for apéritif) is similar to American appetizers but with more delicate fare and heavier drinks. It’s one of my favorite things about French culture, so much so that it deserves a blog post of it’s own. Stay tuned!

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