You can never have enough French cuisine in your life… but what actually is French cuisine?
French cuisine is like that one distant cousin of yours who always dresses in round sunglasses, black turtlenecks, and pleated dress pants: a little haughty, a little weird, and classy in an utterly incomprehensible way.
French food is definitely haughty. It can be weird, too… and it’s surely the classiest of all modern-day cuisines.
(Not to mention it’s got that UNESCO clout.)
But you know what?
It does not have to be incomprehensible.
A little searching will bring you plenty of resources to un-baffle French food and culture. Since I’m very fond of food, and also quite enamored with French culture, I thought I’d spread this information on to you…
Dig in to these fun and delicious ways of getting to know what French food is all about.
1. Go on a tour
If you want to get into the explanatory and historical side of things, there’s nothing better than an on-the-ground expert showing you around.
A guide who knows France and French food can take you shops and neighborhood you wouldn’t find on your own – and tell you why you’re there!
From the anecdotes you’ll hear to the shopkeepers you’ll meet, a food tour will arguably bring you closer to food culture faster than you could get to know it on your own.
Not to mention, culinary tours will give you the opportunity to taste the food you’re learning about.
It kind of goes without saying that the best place to take a food tour focusing on French cuisine is… in France. I know how much you all love Paris so, next time you’re in town:
PARIS FOOD TOURS WE LOVE
- Tickle Your Tastebuds – a fun and tasty romp through the oldest market street in the Latin Quarter
- The Sweet Street – sample Paris’ best and most famous desserts
- Eat Like a Parisian – get off the beaten path with this Real Paris food tour
- BONUS: get a 10% discount on any of the above tours with the discount code FRFOOD
2. Dine with the French
What better way to get to know French food than through a dining experience with actual French people?
On your next Paris vacation, you can arrange this!
There are plenty of positives you can get from mingling with the French, especially over a home-cooked dinner. Meals are such a time of connection for the French that they can last hours on end. Whether you want to learn as much as you can about Paris and Parisians, or practice your French, or just simply have a great homecooked meal in warm company… you should do this.
And as you might expect, the meals can be pretty delicious, too.
Don’t worry if you don’t know any French people in Paris. You can still dine with the French…
FRENCH DINING EXPERIENCE WE LOVE
- Voulez-vous Diner
- Dinners with (and cooked by) Real Parisians who want to get to know you!
- My tip: Not in Paris? Check out French clubs or conversation exchanges in your area to see about organizing an experience like this.
3. Take a cooking class
Julia Child knew there was nothing like getting your hands dirty to show you the inner workings of a new skill.
I totally agree. A cooking class is not only a way to learn a new skill, but it’s a great option for a fun afternoon or evening with a friend or loved one. You’ll discover that you can learn a lot about the culture of the food in cooking it, as well.
Mainly what a cooking class with a real chef will do is this: de-mystify the dish. Take a look at typical French-cuisine cooking classes – it’s all about learning the “French classics” (including desserts!). What makes these dishes classic? When you get hands-on and you discover the simple origins to many “authentic” French dishes, you’ll see that in many ways it’s a cuisine like any other.
Okay, so it might take you a few classes to make a perfect mille-feuille from scratch…
And I admit it may be more complicated than the North American go-to of “deep fry it” or “wrap it in bacon”…
But really, French cooking is tied into French culture, and the more you learn of one the more you understand the other.
There’s not really a tastier way of being taught, in my opinion!
FRENCH COOKING CLASSES WE LOVE
- In Paris: Cook’n With Class – cooking classes in English (they’re amazing, we’ve tested 6 different classes). BONUS: get a discount on most classes by using the code SSDELITE10!
- In New York: French Bistro through Coursehorse
- In Chicago: Simple French Food or Fabulous French Pastries through Chopping Block
- In London: French cooking classes through the French company Atelier des Chefs
- In Sydney: French Cooking Classics through Victor’s Food
- My tip: Search your city + “French cooking classes” online to see what’s available in your area!
4. Make French food at home
Would if you could just pop off to Paris periodically for a cooking class, huh?
Of course, that’s not an option for everyone. It’s not an option for most people, actually…
So what do you do? Why, start in your own kitchen, of course.
Though all French cuisine may seem impossibly complicated, trust me: there are easy dishes you can start with. It’s maybe not best to launch into the precision-heavy pastry scene, but between fun and quick appetizers, hearty main dishes, and 3-ingredient desserts… there’s enough to get started on.
These are a great way to learn about French food, build your own kitchen repertoire, and of course – arguably the most important – impress your taste buds (and your friends).
FRENCH RECIPES WE LOVE
- This list of 7 easy & fool-proof recipes to get started on
- This list of 65 classics by Saveur
- My tip: Want to host a whole French-themed dinner? You need this guide. There are recipes too!
5. Take an online course
Are you a little nervous in the kitchen?
Do you need something in between a (sometimes pricey) cooking class, and diving into French recipes totally alone?
An online course might be just the thing you need.
Unlike a one-time cooking class where you have anywhere from 2-5 hours with the chef in the kitchen, a French cooking course has more time. You can get a bit more in-depth in the food philosophies of the French, as well as learning things you should know when preparing for a recipe. You’ll also have time for far more recipes, with help and resources provided by your chef professor.
This particular course has 7 sections. If you tackle one per week, you’ll be very comfortable with French cooking in your kitchen in just a couple months!
Then it will be time to invite me over for dinner.
FRENCH COOKING ONLINE COURSE WE LOVE
- Learn to cook French classics through Udemy
6. Eat at a French restaurant
And I mean a real French restaurant… not the Pain Quotidien or Paul bakery in your neighborhood.
Hey I’m not knocking on either of those chains! They’re here in Paris too and have great food.
But if you’re looking to really learn about French food through the experience of eating it, a more traditional French bistro or sit-down restaurant will likely bring you a more authentic meal.
Taste your way through rich sauces, crisp greens, classic poultry or beef… and don’t forget dessert.
Okay, this might not be the most academic way of learning about French food, I admit.
But don’t underestimate what you can learn about a culture and a way of cooking, from eating it off a plate!
FRENCH RESTAURANTS WE LOVE
- In Paris: Here is a list of some of our favorite Parisian restaurants
- In New York: Le Coucou
- In London: La Petite Auberge
- In Sydney: Philippe
- My tip: Search your city + “French restaurant” online to see what’s available in your area!
7. Read all about it
I am a huge fan of reading so I wanted to put this as #1… however I thought I’d be remiss to not start off the list with eating.
There are a ton of French cookbooks out there, but those aren’t on this list. This is more focused on books that tell stories about or explain the culture in France around food. From regional specialties and their origins to reasons dishes are cooked a certain way, there is a LOT to learn in these pages.
The great part is, many of these books are also recipe books – two birds, one stone? Fine by me.
FRENCH CUISINE BOOKS WE LOVE
- Modern French Culinary Art
- Toulouse Lautrec’s Table
- Chateau Cuisine
- On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town
- French Gastronomy: The History and Geography of a Passion
- The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomical Culture
- The Fat Fallacy
- The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese
- Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris
- My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
So there you have it: 7 ways to understand French cuisine and what it’s all about.
Which do you think you’ll try first? Let me know in the comments below!