Happy Monday, everyone!
I’m very excited for the first day of this Bon Appétit series. As I mentioned yesterday, each day will highlight my own lunch as well as one facet of French school lunches. Let me know what you’d like to hear about in the comments below!
First things first: what is lunch in France? Lunch is typically the biggest meal of the day, eaten between noon and two o’clock. If you happen to stroll along a typical French sidewalk between these hours, you’ll find yourself in a ghost town. Shops, offices, and any other businesses (besides cafés, of course) will feature a locked door and a small FERMḖ sign. Le déjeuner
truly is sacrosanct in French culture as the time of day for everyone to pause and enjoy a nice meal with family and friends-even on weekdays.
In a typical high school cafeteria, students line up to collect a tray, water glass, and silverware before circling around to the food. The school chefs, professionally trained experts in French cuisine, serve the hot main course. This usually consists of a choice between meat or fish (which somehow doesn’t count as meat here) and three side items. Then, they keep sliding that tray along the line to pick up a choice between two or three cold sides, desserts, cheeses, and fruit. Everyone’s favorite station is the giant basket where slices of fresh baguette are dumped into piles for the taking.
And finally the main attraction: today’s meal! Note the various little dishes dividing each course. The French love the order and regularity that comes with eating food in separate courses. They get a strange satisfaction out of sliding each new plate directly in front of them while making a little “tac!” clicking sound to indicate a new act in the performance of the meal. Most people eat an entrée, or appetizer, before moving on to the main dish, cheese, fruit, and dessert. (You read correctly; the entrée is the first course, not the main. Anglophones have been getting it wrong for ages.) Personally, I like to save my fruit for an afternoon snack.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s edition of Bon Appétit! Again, let me know what you’d like to learn about French lunches and if you think you’d enjoy eating in my cafeteria!