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Handy Phrases and Vocabulary Words about French Cuisine

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 3/2/2012

If you are interested in the French language, you probably are also interested in French food. The French love food, so almost inevitably, conversations will revolve around this topic. Feeling savvy with the vocabulary of French cuisine will also help you be comfortable ordering in a restaurant

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    It will make your experiences speaking French more pleasant to be able to speak about a subject with confidence.

    Food is important to the French, and you will enjoy both understanding expressions relating to food, and being able to use them correctly in conversations.

    Cuisine (cook) itself is a French word; one that has become a loan word in English. In English it also is used to mean cookery, and food, depending on the context.

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    Some Useful Expressions

    When you pick up a menu in a French café or restaurant, you will feel proud of yourself when you can understand and even explain to friends or family that plat du jour means today’s special dish, and menu du jour means today’s menu.

    You will know how to get the attention of the waiter or waitress by addressing them as Monsieur or Madame, s'il vous plaît, instead of the outdated Garçon and Mademoiselle.

    It is good to know what you are ordering when you ask for (vous commandez) crudités (raw vegetables) or charcuterie (sausages, pâté, ham and pork products).

    Know how to use the indispensable Bon appétit to tell others to enjoy their meal, and L’addition s’il vous plaît, to request your bill at the end of the meal

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    Some More Useful Expressions

    Here are some useful expressions which describe the manner in which French food is cooked:

    à la jardinière means with assorted vegetables, like une salade jardinière (a garden salad).

    à la normande-in a cream sauce

    au gratin-baked in a milk, cream and cheese sauce

    rôti au jus-a roast dressed in its own pan juices

    au vin blanc-in white wine

    Boeuf bourguignon-beef cooked (stewed) in red wine

    Carottes Vichy- - carrots in butter and parsley

    en cocotte-cooked in a covered baking dish or pot; for example, oeufs en cocotte

    aux fines herbes-a mixture of minced, fresh or dried parsley, chervil

    tarragon and chives (sometimes), used to season salads,omelets and other dishes, for example, omelette aux fines herbes

    mousseline-sauce to which whipped cream has been added

    à la mode-in the style of

    baguette - a long, narrow loaf of French bread

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    Knowing What You Order (and Eat)

    Armed with this vocabulary you can now confidently order a lunch consisting of an entrée au jambon ( ham and eggs appetizer), have a plat du jour of cotelettes du mouton (mutton côtelettes), some légumes (vegetables) such as épinards (spinach), and finish up with a dessert of pancakes (crepes).

    You can also accept an invitation to a French home, and understand what is a potage julienne (vegetable soup), have some gigot de mouton (leg of lamb), and enjoy une salade niçoise (a salad typical of the south eastern French town of Nice, comprising lettuce, tomato, hard-boiled eggs anchovy fillets and olives); followed by a dessert of tarte aux fruits (fruit tart).

    You are probably also now ready to dine in a fine French restaurant with confidence.

    salade-nicoise ~934604 

    Bon appétit!

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    More information

    You can also find more information on French cuisine in French as Spoken in the Caribbean