Following on from Part 1 of our mythbusting 'True of False' series on French food and drink myths, it's now time for part 2! Does wine really outdo every other alchoholic drink in France? Is it true that vegetarianism is unheard of across the channel? And is there more to the simple 'baguette' than meets the eye? Let's find out!
Myth Number 4: The baguette
It’s no myth that there is nothing better than a freshly-baked French baguette, and once you’ve crossed the channel it won’t take long to spot the satisfying sight of someone returning from the bakery with a baguette held under their arm or poking out of their shopping bag.
However, overseas we tend to not be aware that not all baguettes are created equal. Rather than referring to the type of bread, the word baguette literally refers to the shape of the bread and means ‘stick’, ‘baton’ or even ‘wand’ (as you will know if you’ve ever watched the French version of Harry Potter). The two most common types of baguette are the ‘baguette classique’ and the ‘baguette tradition’. The ‘tradition’ is usually slightly more expensive as it requires a longer fermentation time and has a slightly more crunchy/chewy texture.
You also might be asked the all-important question of how well-cooked you want your baguette: ‘bien cuite’ or ‘pas trop cuite’, a choice that might be unfamiliar to visitors from the UK. In 2013, a French newspaper reported that the nation was moving towards less well-cooked baguettes (supposedly due to the influence of mass-produced bread), something that local bakers saw as a sad slide away from tradition.
However, despite the importance of baguettes in French culture, there’s also no shortage of sliced bread on offer in the supermarkets if you’re craving something a bit more familiar (or easy to toast)! This kind of bread is known as ‘pain de mie’, or sometimes even ‘American bread’, following a rumour that it was popularised by American soldiers after the war.
Top Bread tip! If you are staying in one of our parks in Vendée, make sure to try the famous Vendée brioche.
Myth Number 5: Wine is the only alcoholic drink on offer
Of course, wine is an important part of French culinary culture, however it doesn’t mean it is the only alcoholic beverage enjoyed in the country. More of a beer drinker? You won’t feel too out of place... in 2019 alone, 33 litres of beer per capita were consumed in France. Whiskey, rum and ‘pastis’ (an aniseed flavoured liqueur) are also high on the list of favourite alcoholic drinks of the French population. However it is true that wine does take the top spot (naturellement).
Myth number 6: There are no vegetarians in France
The French are known for their delicious meat dishes… however is it really true, as someone once said, that fighting for the rights of animals in France is like fighting for the rights of the Brussel sprout?
Actually, according to recent studies, vegetarianism and vegan lifestyles are on the rise in France. Obviously, it depends on where you are in the country and the restaurants you are frequenting, but revealing that you are a vegetarian might not raise as many eyebrows as you think. In Paris (like in any big city) you are bound to find a range of vegetarian or even vegan options, whereas in more rural areas it might be more of a struggle!
Although not quite as well-established as in the UK, vegetarianism is no longer an alien in concept in France (for comparison, recent studies suggest that vegetarians make up around 2% of the French population compared to around 6% of the UK population). In addition, meat consumption has fallen by 12% in France in the past 10 years, and 34% of the French population refer to themselves as ‘flexitarian’. That being said, a recent outcry in Lyon when the meat option was removed from state-provided school meals, shows that vegetarianism is still far from being accepted as a cultural norm.
So, although not all of our foreign ideas about French cuisine quite hold up to reality, it is no myth that there’s nothing like French food and drink. From the delicious rich flavours of Provence to the broiche of Vendée, the world-famous wines of Bordeaux and the crêpes and fresh seafood of Brittany, a stay at one of our self-catering holiday parks in France gives you the perfect opportunity to sample all the delicious delights of this unique country. Bon appétit!