Bon Appétit: An Introduction To The French Lunch

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.


Entrée: sliced grapefruit
Plat Principal: roasted zucchini and tomatoes au gratin, macaroni noodles with vegetable sauce
Fromage: camembert and a banana
Dessert: chocolate mousse cake

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!




5 comments on “Bon Appétit: An Introduction To The French Lunch

  1. Rhonda Catanzaro says:

    Yes, please!! SO much more attractive–and nourishing–than the typical US lunch–pizza, tater tots, etc. If we eat with our eyes first, then I am very satisfied with this meal! Now, let’s go for a walk……

  2. Lara says:

    Food looks good and plentiful! Would most people eat the cheese on bread? Do you see food wasted like in a typical US high school cafeteria? So junk food and soda /candy machines exist for students or not?

    • kcenroute says:

      I sure is! I have trouble finishing everything on my plate. Yes, the cheese is usually spread onto the bread as the final course before dessert. Most people clean their plates, and kids get an evil eye from the staff if they waste bread. Vending machines do exist, but kids are far less dependent on them for main meals. They get frequented during breaks, though.

  3. […] Day One: An Introduction to the French Lunch […]

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