Ok let’s be honest, one of our favourite things about the south of France is the food! Fresh, natural, colourful and always eaten intentionally and with the respect a good meal deserves!
Let’s start with the staple of the meal, bread. Often considered a dirty word in North American culture the bread served with literally every meal in the south of France is light, locally made and always purchased fresh. In fact, households often make two trips to the bakery a day to ensure the bread they are serving is fresh and delicious. This means that the bread does not have the same chemicals used for preserving that we often find in our bread here in North America. In fact, many people who struggle eating bread have indicated to us that the bread in France does not affect them the same way.
The French also have some interesting hidden rules about bread at the table. In fact, the Baguette and how it is eaten is almost a religion! Bread within families and friends is usually broken with your hands and passed around. This is strongly influenced by the Catholic belief that bread is the body of Christ and should not be cut by a knife. But is also said to be part of a shift of the French aristocracy in the 1800’s towards an elegant simplicity in manners and good taste. This is also where we get the colloquialism of “breaking bread” together. It is a symbol of trust and friendship.
Another norm that you will see quite often is that the bread rests right on the table rather than on a plate. Crumbs and all! While North American may be used to a side bread plate or putting the bread on their plate to be polite, the French will place it right on the table and they usually do not serve butter or put butter on it, cheese yes, but not butter! It is also considered polite to use that small piece of bread to clean up your plate, mopping up any last delicious sauce! Ah the fun we can have with the Baguette!
These cultural norms and more are just a small part of what we will share with you as we experience eating in the south of France together.