Is cheese really France's national dish?
Having just started working as an English Language Assistant in the Franche-Comté region of France, I am currently staying with French friends, who my dad met over 30 years ago whilst he worked as a language assistant in the same area.
Staying or living with people from another culture gives you a great insight into their daily lives, their routines and of course their eating habits – a great opportunity to see if the stereotypes about French food are really true!
As well as yoghurts and fresh fruits, breakfast consisted of fresh bread and a variety of different homemade jams and honeys. We didn’t eat on a plate but rather on the place mats or the tablecloth. Although I opted for coffee, our French friends dipped their bread and jam into cups of tea!
It was time to cut the baguette again! This time a variety of local cheeses – soft, hard, goat and sheep milk cheeses were presented on a cheese board. My favourite was the Comté, a hard cheese from the Franche-Comté region where I am living and our friends suggested that it would make a great Christmas present for everyone back home!
Dinner with the whole family
After an aperitif of Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine, we headed to the table to share a fondue, a traditional dish of melted cheese and white wine from the mountain regions, served in a big communal pot heated by a small flame. You might have heard of this as a famous alpine Swiss dish, but in the Jura we are only a few kilometres from the border. What do you dip in the fondue? You guessed it, bread! And what do you drink with the meal? A local white wine from Arbois, of course! Normally a French meal is followed by a cheese course, but we skipped to the dessert and coffee followed by a digestif, an alcoholic drink served after a meal to help with digestion. The local speciality is Gentiane, made from the roots of a flowering plant found in the High Jura.
I can’t deny that this week I have been spoilt with lots of traditional French food. I think it’s fair to say that cheese really is an important part of French cuisine. However, good cheese should always be accompanied by fresh bread and a French meal should always be accompanied by good wine!