Food is central to life in France, and each meal of the day has its own tradition. We know you love French culture, so we thought we’d give you the low down on French meals and meal times, starting with the very unique French breakfast. It is much lighter than in English-speaking countries, and savoury food is never served. Check out our definitive guide to how the French start their day.
Slices of bread or “baguette” with butter and/or jam on it are the staple of the French breakfast. The bread can be toasted or not, and French people love dipping their “tartines” (bread slices) into their coffee.
Croissants and other pastries
Freshly baked croissants are probably the most famous item of French food and are often eaten on Sunday mornings or on special occasions. French people never add butter or jam on them, and eat their croissants plain. The second most popular choice are “pains au chocolat” (also called “chocolatines”, depending on the region). “Pains au chocolat” are square croissants with chocolate inside. There are also “pains aux raisins” (round croissant with dried grape and cream inside) and “chaussons aux pommes” (semi-circle croissant stuffed with stewed apple). Each French region has its own traditional pastry, and it is often eaten for breakfast as well, like the “brioche” or “gâche” in Vendée.
French people have a worldwide reputation of big coffee drinkers – that is justified. Making coffee is usually the first thing many French people do in the morning. Fruit juice is served as well, and kids usually drink hot chocolate. Although tea is not traditionally served for breakfast, it is a quite popular morning beverage. Whatever they have, it is usually drunk out of a mug or a bowl and “tartines are dipped in”!
Younger French generations often eat cereals with milk instead of bread and butter. When they do have bread, it can be replaced by toasted sliced bread. As the French breakfast is considered quite poor from a dietary point of view, people now often add yoghurt and/or a fresh fruit.
Fun fact: the “pain au chocolat” or “chocolatine” mini war
Besides asking the number of “bisous” they do, French people coming from different regions will assert their local pride by fighting on whether this chocolate croissant should be called “pain au chocolat” or “chocolatine”. Roughly, people from the North will call the pastry “pain au chocolat” whereas those from the South will claim it is a “chocolatine”.
Bread = pain
A slice of bread = une tartine de pain
Pastry = pâtisserie or viennoiserie
Coffee = café
Tea = thé
Fruit juice = jus de fruit
Hot chocolate = chocolat chaud
Butter = beurre
Jam = confiture
Honey = miel
Yoghurt = yaourt