Strangest French Foods

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As is true when you visit any foreign country, when visiting France, you are going to be exposed to food that you have never seen before. This does not mean the food in France is any better or worse than food anywhere else, but it does mean that you may see something new. You could hate it, but maybe you will discover that you have a palate for something different you had never expected before.

Something I want you to keep in mind as you peruse this list is the history of France. The country is one of the oldest in the world and has seen more than its fair share of war and struggles. A lot of the cuisine they eat is a result of hard times and struggling to put food on the table. Even as recently as World War II, people were scrounging just to have one meal on the table, meaning you would not want to waste anything that has the potential for being edible. When it comes down to it, starvation is a terrible way to die and most humans will end up eating things they may not have otherwise considered as an alternative to dying slowly. That is not the case for all of their foods of course, but just consider that the culture was built around a lot of hard times.

Here is a list of some of the strangest French foods that people eat in France.

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  1. Boudin Noir: This dish is not so weird for Europeans, but it is very weird for Americans. Also known as “black blood sausage,” boudin noir is comprised of congealed pork blood. When a pig is slaughtered, the blood is saved and mixed with vinegar to preserve it. They then mix the blood with other things like onions, rice, apples, or anything else you can think of. There are many different ways to prepare it though and no two ways will be exactly the same.

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  1. Escargots de Bourgogne: While we all are familiar with the fact that the French eat snails, it does not make it any the less strange. Imagine going out to your garden, plucking a snail off a leaf, boiling it, and eating it. It seems pretty gross once you really get to thinking about it. I do not personally find snails appealing in any sense of the word, but that does not stop the French from enjoying them.
  1. Oursins: Oursins, or sea urchins, are pretty standard in seafood faire in France. They are not as common on the other side of the pond, given their odd appearance, strange texture, and very strong seaside smell. To be honest, most Americans will find them repulsive. They are also hard to prepare, so I really recommend having someone else make them if you are interested in trying them.

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  1. Tête de Veau: I cannot get my mind around this one either. Black pudding? Sure. Snails? I at least tried them. Calf’s head? No I do not think so. Granted, it is certainly not something you will find daily, but it is still, albeit bizarrely, held dear by the French. They literally boil the head of a calf and serve it with mayonnaise and fat. It is definitely for the brave and those not weirded out by eating calf’s brains.

 

  1. Ris de Veau: In the same vein as tête de veau, ris de veau uses the thymus gland of the calf. It is more popular and easier found than the calf’s brains, but also not exactly the most appealing dish that you can find in France. But I will say it is less gross than diving into a calf’s head.

 

True or False: Best and Worst French Food Stereotypes

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I have heard so many stereotypes over the years about French cuisine that it has become a running joke. Some are so ridiculous that you could not imagine who thought of it, but at the same time, some sound ridiculous but are entirely true. So let’s play a little game called Vrai ou Faux?

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Everyone Eats Stinky Cheese

Verdict: Vrai

I have to admit that while I still cringe at some of the more potent French cheeses, and even some of the French do not eat the very stinkiest, most French people will eat stinky cheese without a second thought. Aged cheese, including both goat and cow cheeses, is a common delicacy and a normal dessert after dinner. The reason that their cheese is stinkier than the cheese we have here in the United States is due to the regulation on pasteurization and the aging process. The French take their cheese seriously and will not sacrifice flavor for pasteurization.

 

The French Walk around Carrying Baguettes

Verdict: Vrai

This is an unfortunately true and still comical stereotype about the French. Most people will purchase a fresh baguette every day and nibble on it while they walk home. You will often see them poking out of bags, purses, and backpacks in any French location you can imagine. Baguette is a definite staple.

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Everyone Eats Croissants Daily

Verdict: Faux

Without a doubt, croissants are a French necessity and something that you will easily find all over Paris. They are made fresh daily from boulangeries across the country. Yet, that said, most French people are not indulging in them daily. Have you heard about the stereotype that “French women don’t get fat?” Well they are not gorging on pastries daily, but usually once in a while or as a weekend treat. They know that they are fatty (and delicious).

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Everyone Eats Croissants Daily

Verdict: Vrai

Saying “everyone” of course is a pretty broad scope on things, but I will say that most people in France drink coffee. Bistros and cafes are scattered everywhere, making coffee easily accessible. People often drink it in the evenings as well after dinner. You will not see many people will coffee to-go cups, however. That is more of an American stereotype since the French like to take their time with their coffee. I am also pretty certain that French coffee tastes a lot better.

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The French Eat Snails

Verdict: Vrai

Snails or escargot, are not a staple in French cuisine, but they will eat them once in a great while. It is not going to be on a daily menu, but perhaps something on tap for a birthday. On a tangent, I once stayed with a French family who boiled the snails themselves and served them with mayonnaise. On the whole, I have an open mind when it comes to cuisine, but boiled snails with mayonnaise is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten, easily beating out congealed pig’s blood.

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French Fries are a French Thing

Verdict: Vrai and Faux

French fries, or frites as they call them, are not actually a French food. Frites originally came out of Belgium and were adopted into French cuisine. That said, you can find French fries on everything. Whether stuffed into a gyro, on top of a pizza, or alongside of your croquet monsieur, French fries make their appearance in French food in unexpected ways. I honestly had never had a gyro before my travels through France so I did not know that it was not the normal way to eat one. I also was completely dumbfounded when I received a pizza covered in them. But more on my pizza questions later.

 

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