For far too long, many people have developed this odd notion that French people are eating unsavory and disgusting things. But the culinary history of France might just surprise you about the ideas that American’s still believe about French cooking.
The difference between stereotype and prejudice
To be completely honest, there are two types of people in this world that have two points of view. As education is an important part of a culture, higher learning doesn’t always mean you will have the right opinion. In fact, some people who hear about history might just have their facts totally wrong. The perpetuation of rumors isn’t always as it seems, just as a factual record of French history gives a clear truth about what is true and what is not.
A stereotype is essentially a step toward discrimination without learning any factual reason for a possible truth. It’s forming an opinion about a race or culture, in this case, the food that’s enjoyed by French people.
This is how derogatory words such as ‘Frenchie’ or ‘Frog’ sum up the lack of understanding of a cultural background whatsoever.
Those who are uneducated about French food that’s considered weird, also feel all French people are alike.
Moving onto Prejudice, any statement that is considered prejudice is 100% testable based on the argument of presented facts. When facts become truths, these are very hard to question after that. Prejudice offers a look into cultural differences that allow for the argument to help justify the truth based on cultural preferences and practices. This is why stereotype claims fall short of actually being proven correct at all.
What do most Americans hear about French cooking?
For most Americans, the French people have been a punching bag since the very inception of America itself. Many of these stereotypes are perpetuated in movies and television, so you have to wonder why these are started in the first place. In other words, name one disaster film where the world was ending, that the entire city of Paris was immediately wiped off the map- at some point…
Despite this, we have less appreciation when hearing about French waiters and their lack of seeming to care about customer service. The truth is that many hired French waiters are paid a good salary. There are perhaps one or two waiters if the restaurant can afford a second employee. They aren’t working for tips (as American waiters do), so there is an emphasis placed on being cheerful or friendly toward the customer.
With that being said, here are good examples of French foods that are misunderstood and considered disgusting.
You only have to understand the issue of why frog, or in this case, frog legs are considered a favorite of French cuisine. It should be noted that frog legs have been long enjoyed in Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish, and Vietnamese dishes for many centuries before. It was only until the Middle Ages that frog legs made their way to French monasteries. Perhaps the most famous mention came from Alexandre Dumas who wrote the original Three Musketeers!
Frog legs are hard to distinguish from chicken or even quail, yet- for most folks, this thought is so horrific. Perhaps it’s because the idea of eating an amphibian rather than accepted forms of meat is crossing the line. Many frog legs are popular when they are soaked in buttermilk and then breaded and fried. More often than not, they are served in tomato sauce or cooked in butter, garlic, and parsley.
Another fine example of cringe-worthy delicacies is the consumption of snails. Not this is truly a French invention and was first introduced in 1814. The introduction actually came by a last-minute decision when a visit by the Russian czar Alexander the First with Napoleon’s chief diplomat. While this was during the war, food was scarce and the Inn where the dinner was to take place was out of food.
The innkeeper has to think creatively to find something to cook from his garden. He spotted plenty of garden snails which sparked an idea. What he concocted later went on to become a sensation that evolved into a very specific cooking method.
These days, snails go through many steps of purging, salting, and boiling long before it gets to any dinner plate. The addition of creamy butter, garlic, and parsley along with baguette makes this delectable.
Yes, it’s true without any wincing involved, French people love eating horse meat.
While the UK had placed sanctions on their citizens eating horsemeat in the 1800s, this didn’t stop French and German people from enjoying it. At a time when many families were struggling throughout Europe, many outside the UK were lining up in droves to purchase a cheaper source of meat. By 1866, France finally legalized horsemeat by popular demand.
Just when you would like to think again, the UK also now allows a certain amount of mixed horsemeat into beef. Since 2012, Taco Bell across the UK now serves 50/50 blends of beef and horsemeat in their tacos! Before you knock it, horsemeat often tastes better than beef in many ways. For others, it might have a gamey taste similar to venison. It depends on how it’s prepared so not every recipe will have a gamey flavor left-over.
Goose liver (Foie Gras)
If you’re into fine dining, you probably have heard of Foie Gras, which is the height of high living! Goose liver is specially prepared by overstuffing geese through a standard feeding method. The upstanding ethical terrorists at PETA will tell you how terrible these geese are being treated, but it’s hard to believe that PETA would be buying Foie Gras anyway. When a goose is ready to be slaughtered after 8 to 10 weeks, all parts of the goose are used.
This includes the meat, various body parts, and organs are used after a goose is selectively cut apart by trained butchers. These days, Foie Gra is an ethical issue for animal rights activists, but somehow the practice of making Foie Gras dates back 4,200 years, tells a different story.
It might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up on end, but steak tartare is a tasty French starter. All of the stories you’re told in America seem to crumple apart about eating raw meat, but that’s where steak tartare is very different. Getting fresh meat from a trusted butcher will ensure that your meat is free from bacteria. Often, high-end French restaurants practice the same process, so no one ever gets sick.
Now here’s the real fun part about steak tartare in France. It’s often a favorite when it’s made from horsemeat, so you’ll understand how embedded this dish is for French culture. This dish isn’t actually French and comes from the Tartars that originated from Central Asia and eventually moved westward. The meat originally used was either camel or horsemeat, so once again, across Europe, horses have also been considered a good source of meat.