Before moving to France I took for granted all the things we call “French” in English. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve become curious to find out exactly what those things are.
I mean French bread—loosely refers to a baguette, although much larger and wider in most grocery stores in America. A French braid, I’m very familiar with, as my girls have spent hours plaiting each other’s hair. We all know what a French kiss is, and as teenagers became familiar with “Frenching”, the verb. But what exactly are French lentils or French vanilla? What does French blue mean? And why do we refer to a disgusting mayo, ketchup and sweet relish dressing as “French”, when I’ve never, ever seen it in France?
Donc, whenever I have a long bus ride, or am bored, I’ve been looking up these curious items to figure out what is what. This is what I’ve come up with so far. Some are more obvious than other. As I’m on a diet, today’s post focuses on food, of course…corrections welcome, svp.
- French bean—le haricot vert—a long thin green bean that is eaten whole.
- French endive—as far as I can tell, is just endive. I think some of us call it chicory.
- French fry—la (pomme de terre) frite—fried potato sticks, originating in Belgium, thank you very much.
- French lentils—les lentilles du Puy—lentils from the French town of Puy. Delicate, earthy, and peppery they hold their shape well, take a little longer to cook, but are perfect for salads.
- French dip sandwich—beef sandwich dipped into beef juice (au jus)—has anyone ever had one of these in France?
- French dressing—la vinaigrette – I think this is what the French would call French dressing; in the UK “French dressing” is usually vinaigrette, none of that nasty tomato-relish-mayo stuff.
- French roll—un petit pain –I think this is just a generic term for a small single serving roll; also refers to an updo.
- French roast coffee—named because of the roasting style in France; a double roasted coffee; intense and smoky.
- French vanilla ice cream—made using an egg custard base and having a caramelized and slightly floral taste; also more yellow in color than regular vanilla ice cream.
- French silk pie—a pie with a chocolate mousse or pudding filling and whipped cream topping; it appears to have originated in the American south. I have never seen it in France.
- French toast – le pain perdu—literally “lost bread”; it did not originate in France and soon will be a subject of another post.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to open my French door to use my French press after taking out my French twist before I have a lie down in my French bed under my French roof…
…to be continued…