What French People Never Eat

Salut!

French cuisine is renowned throughout the world. While we have many iconic dishes, we’re also known for some weird and unusual foods, too.

But do French people really eat frog legs?
Can you order des escargots in any French restaurant?

Today, let’s talk about what French people actually eat. So you can learn more about French culture, and expand your French vocabulary at the same time.

C’est parti.

1) Les cuisses de grenouilles

Les cuisses de grenouille = frog’s legs.

I’ve never eaten frog’s legs, and almost all the people haven’t either. It’s not something French people usually eat.

However, it’s not totally a myth. On some rare occasions, you might find some frog’s legs to try out, with garlic and parsley. Like for a special theme dinner for le 14-Juillet, the French national day. Or in special “French-themed” restaurants, that really want to lean on the most stereotypical parts of French culture, for fun or to impress travelers. So if you’re in a big French city, you can probably find some restaurants where you can try les cuisses de grenouilles. It’s said they taste like chicken!

Une jambe = a leg
Une cuisse = a thigh
Une grenouille = a frog
Un crapaud = a toad (silent “d”)

2) Les escargots

Les escargots (= snails, escargots) are another cliché of weird French food.

But this one is actually true! It’s much more common to eat escargots than frog’s legs. I enjoy some escargots from time to time, maybe twice a year.

Un escargot = a snail
Un escargot de Bourgogne = escargots from Burgundy, the most famous ones

You’ll find them in most French supermarkets above a certain size. Especially as un surgelé (= frozen food.) You can also order some in some restaurants.

Escargots are cooked with:

  • du beurre (= butter,)
  • de l’ail (= garlic)
  • du persil (= parsley.)

We eat them by une douzaine (= a dozen,) and we eat them in their shells, with une fourchette à escargot (= a special fork for this dish.)

It’s kind of weird to eat cooked snails, I guess. Many French people don’t like eating escargots, in part for that reason. But really, I don’t think it’s much weirder than un fruit de mer. Un escargot is basically un bulot (= a whelk) but on land.

Oh yeah, and in French, un fruit de mer (= literally “a sea fruit”) is seafood that’s not fish or mammals. Like une huître (= a clam), une crevette (= shrimp), un crabe (= a crab), etc.

3) La viande de cheval

  • Un cheval = a horse
  • Les chevaux = horses (silent “x”, it’s a famously irregular word!)
  • La viande de cheval = horsemeat
  • Une boucherie chevaline = a butcher’s shop selling horse meat

Eating horse meat used to be relatively common, but consumption has fallen by 90% since the 1970s. Nowadays, it’s very rare to find horse meat in stores or at the restaurant.

** Le truc en plus **
There are several different adjectives for “horse” in French:

  • Équestre, like un sport équestre / l’équitation (= horse riding, but fancy)
  • Chevaline, like la boucherie chevaline (= horse meat butcher)
  • Équin like un dentiste équin (= a dentist for horses, donkeys…)
  • Hippique,from the ancient Greek “hippos” (like un hippodrome = a racetrack stadium) → mostly for horse racing where you can bet: la course hippique
  • Équestre / équin , from the upper-class ancient Latin “equus,” for fancy horse riding like you see at the Olympics or as upper-class hobby: le sport équestre (l’équitation)
  • Chevalin, from the popular ancient Latin “caballus,” mostly for boucherie chevaline.

**

Anyway, in some local markets or butcher’s shops, especially in Northern France, you can still find un saucisson de cheval (= a horse meat sausage.)

In the video lesson, I mention a song filled with puns about horses and horse meat. You’ll find a full breakdown of the lyrics at the bottom of this page.

4) La viande

Meat is very much a big part of French cuisine. It’s even more pronounced for eggs and especially dairy (like cheese!)

However, there are more and more options in French restaurants for vegetarians, vegans, or simple people who don’t want meat.

  • Végétarien – Végétarienne = Vegetarian
  • Végétalien = Vegan (old-fashioned)
  • Végan (ending in “ann” sound) = Vegan (trendy)

Vous avez une option végétarienne ? = Do you have a vegetarian option?
Vous avez un plat vegan ? = Do you have a vegan dish?
Vous avez un plat sans viande ? = Do you have a dish without meat?

5) Le foie gras

  • Le foie gras (= “fat liver”)
  • Une oie / Les oies = A goose / Geese
  • Le gavage = force feeding, through a tube

A recent poll suggests that up to 40% of French people refuse to buy foie gras for ethical reasons, regarding force-feeding.

But to be honest, foie gras is still alive and well in France! It’s delicious, and it’s very common to find some foie gras at your dinner table sometimes in the holidays, around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Of course, foie gras deserves special attention and care, it’s a delicacy.
It’s not a regular le pâté, a pork or beef ground meat like a terrine that you can spread heartily on your baguette !

6) La tête

Some other French cuisine delicacies are just icky, though, I have to say.

Like:

  • La langue de bœuf (= a beef’s tongue.) More common than les cuisses de grenouilles, but still a very unusual dish.
  • La cervelle d’agneau (= lamb’s brains), la cervelle de veau (= calf’s brains), used to be a common dish but nowadays it’s almost completely disappeared.
  • La tête de veau (= a calf’s head), “typical” French dish that almost doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the rare restaurant that serves it.

→ Of course you don’t eat the whole head in une tête de veau. It’s only the fat and meat. But it’s still a weird texture.
→ Consumption of la cervelle took a big hit in the late 1990s, because of la crise de la maladie de la vache folle (= mad cow disease outbreaks.) And it never recovered, because… well, because it looks like eating brains.

7) La viande crue

Le steak tartare / Le tartare = raw meat of beef, tartare dish

It’s actually a regular dish in restaurants. I never eat it, because it’s not my cup of tea, but many French people would pick the option on a restaurant’s menu.

Niveaux de cuisson (= cooking levels) :
Cru (= raw) → La viande crue (= raw meat)
Bleu (= “blue”) → “Very rare”
Saignant (= “bloody”) → “Rare”
À point (= “on time”) → “Medium”
Bien cuit (= “well cooked”) → “Well done”

Actually, as an extra mile for the written lesson, I can also mention that Cru / Crue can have other meanings as well. Such as:

  • Cru = “crude,” rudimentary → Un dessin cru = a crude drawing
  • Cru = obscene, very impolite, direct → Des mots crus = obscene words
  • Une crue = a flood → La rivière est en crue. = The river is flooding.
  • Le cru = the local area. → Especially du cru = local, from around here. Un vin du cru. = A local wine.
  • De mon cru. = Fancy way of saying “that I made myself” (or de ton cru etc.)

And most of all, “cru” is also the participle of croire (= to believe):

  • Tu m’as cru ? = Did you believe me?
  • J’ai cru que c’était Antoine. = I thought it was Antoine, “I was believing” it

8) Ris & Andouillette

Just to clear up a common misunderstanding:

  • Le riz = rice (silent z)
  • Le veau = calf
  • Le ris de veau = sweetbread

Le ris de veau has nothing to do with rice. It’s a common dish, a special gland from the calf, and it’s indeed delicious.

And to finish, another pair of things that sounds like each other:

  • L’andouille = smoked delicatessen sausage, that you can eat cold.
  • L’andouillette = a sausage that’s not smoked, eaten warm, and it stinks

Both are made of pork meat, including especially small intestines. But while l’andouille can make for a fine appetizer, l’andouillette stinks and is more of a special dish, with a bad reputation.

Extra mile, exclusively for the written lesson :

L’andouillette can taste very bad when it’s not well-prepared. So a special label was created, so at least you know if you can trust the sausage. It’s called :

L’Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentiques =
Friendly Association of Lovers of Authentic Andouillettes (AAAAA (5A) for short)

It’s a non-profit created by five friends (food critics) in the late 1950s. It’s got a goofy aesthetic, doesn’t take itself too seriously, but nonetheless serves an important role for the sausage today. In a restaurant, a 5A andouillette will always be marked as such.

** Le truc en plus **
The most famous andouille sausages come from Western France:

  • L’andouille de Vire (in Normandy)
  • L’andouille de Guéméné (in Brittany)
    The most famous andouillette sausage comes from the plains East of Paris:
  • L’andouillette de Troyes

And “Andouille !” is also used as a common, light insult, meaning “Dummy!
**

9) The Extra Mile: Song Analysis

La chanson (= the song):

Boby Lapointe (1922-1972) is a French singer, who mostly recorded in the 1960s. His songs are cult-classic, made with puns and witticisms and difficult wordplays.

Les paroles et explications (= Lyrics and explanations) :

Hu ! (= Neighing.)

Eh ! Y a des paroles là-dessus, // Ouais, des paroles, des vraies
= Eh, there are some lyrics on here, yeah, some real lyrics.

C’est un saucisson (de ch’val)
= It’s a dry-cured sausage (of horse)
[“Ch’val” is a fast spoken French pronunciation for “cheval,” we wouldn’t write it this way in written French.]

Un saucisson que (de ch’val)
= A smoked sausage that
+ pun : “(une) queue de cheval” = a poneytail
[Starting here, the lyrics in parenthesis aren’t part of the sentence / story – they’re only there to add un jeu de mots (= a pun.)]

Que je viens de faire (à ch’val)
= That I just made
→ + Un fer à cheval = a horseshoe (literally “iron for horse”)

C’est une chanson (de saillies) / Ah ! chanson de saillies (de ch’val)
= It’s a song of witticisms
Une saillie = a spontaneous witticism + Une saillie de cheval = a horse service, for breeding

Moi qui suis esthète (de ch’val) / Ah je trouve ça beau (de ch’val)
= As an esthete, ah, I find it beautiful
(une) tête de cheval = a horsehead, (un) sabot de cheval = a horse’s hoof

Génial admirable (de lapin) (= Genius, fantastic.)
(Le) râble de lapin = saddle of rabbit

Hu… c’est le refrain (= Neigh… That’s the chorus.)
→ “Hue” also means “Gee up!,” an injonction for horses

Moi qui viens de Grèce (de ch’val) (= As I come from Greece)
La graisse de cheval = horse fat, horse grease (for leather)

Je m’appelle Oreste (de ch’val) / Tapaboufélos (de ch’val)
= My name is Oreste Tapaboufélos
(Un) reste de cheval = An old horse
“T’as pas bouffé l’os de cheval.” = You didn’t eat your horse bone (rib)

Je débarque à Paris (de veau) / Oh, quel régal, oh ! (de ch’val)
= I arrive in Paris, what a treat, oh,
Ris de veau = sweetbread), le galop = gallop canter, with a silent “p”.

De prendre le métro (de ch’val) / Quand on ne connaît pas (de ch’val)
= To take the subway when you’re not accustomed to it.
Le trot = trot, silent “t”, le pas = walk.

Oh ! ce qu’on s’amuse oh ! (de bœuf) (= Oh, what fun we’re having!)
Le museau (de bœuf) = snout (beef)

Et refrain, hu ! / Le refrain c’est toujours: hu ! (= Chorus is always “hu!”)

Mes enfants ma foi (de ch’val) / Sont de vilains grognons (de ch’val)
= My children, I have to say, are nasty complainers
(Le) foie = liver / (Les) rognons = kidneys (meat)

Quand ils pleurent en chœur (de ch’val) / J’essaie d’les distraire (les vaches)
= When they’re crying all together, I try to distract them
(Un) cœur de cheval = horse heart, traire les vaches = milking cows

Je viens à bout d’un (boudin de cheval) / Mais les autres aussi sont (de ch’val)
= I manage to reassure one of them / But the others are also
(Un) boudin (de cheval) = (horse) blood sausage / (Un) saucisson = dry-cured sausage

Toujours dans le besoin (de ch’val) / Ça ne peut pas être pis (de chèvre)
= Always needy / It can’t be worse
→ “Besoin de cheval” = Needing horse? I don’t get that pun! / (Un) pis de chèvre = A goat’s udder

Bêê… Non, hu.. Le refrain c’est “Hu!””
= Baah… No, “neigh!” Chorus is “Neigh!”

Quel est cet aztèque (de ch’val) / Qu’on vient de voir filer (de ch’val)
= Who’s that guy / That we just saw running away
(Un) steak de cheval = horse steak / (Un) filet = fillet

Du haut de la côte (de ch’val) / Dans le précipice ? (en moto)
= From the top of the hill / Towards the precipice? (on a motorcycle)
(Une) côte de cheval = a horse rib
+ No pun with “en moto” – the joke is that he doesn’t want to be rude by saying “pisse de cheval,” horse piss!

Peut-être bien est-ce Thomas (de ch’val) / Qui vient de me vendre (de ch’val)
= It might very well be Thomas, who just sold me
(Un) estomac = a stomach / (Un) ventre = a belly

Un complet à carreaux (de ch’val) / Et un gilet pied (de poule)
= A plaid suit and a houndstooth waistcoat
→ He makes “carreaux” sound like (le) garrot = horse’s withers / Pied-de-poule = “chicken’s foot” = houndstooth

Hu… Allez maintenant, ça suffit comme ça. Maintenant je vais m’asseoir. J’en ai marre, je vais m’asseoir.
= Neigh… OK now, that’s enough. Now I’m going to sit down. I’m fed up, I’m going to sit down.

Je désirais m’asseoir (de ch’val) / Et tu m’amenas au (de ch’val)
= I wanted to sit down / And you brought me to the
→ Pronounces it like “(la) mâchoire” (= jaw) / (Le) naseau = horse’s nose

Canapé en rotin (de ch’val) / Et mon cœur vous fumiez (mes cigares)
= Rattan couch / And you smoked my heart (like my cigars)
→ ~ (le) crottin de cheval = horse dung / He avoids saying “(le) fumier de cheval” = horse manure

N’étais-je pas l’affreux niais (de ch’val) / Qui, fourbu, s’affaisse ? (de ch’val)
(Le) palefrenier = a horse groom! / (La) fesse de cheval = horse buttock

Ça fait rire les groupes (de ch’val) / Ah ! comme l’écurie… est gaie !
= It makes the crowds laugh / How happy is the whole stable!
La croupe du cheval = horse’s behind.
L’écurie = the stable, sounds like “les culs rient” (= “the butts are laughing”), so he adds “est gaie” (= is happy) to clear up the ambiguity he created!

And now, you can take a look at other misconceptions of French culture!

Click here to learn more about French culture and vocabulary:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!


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Join the conversation!

  • Salut Géraldine
    La tête de veau est toujours un plat très apprécié dans le sud-ouest de la France. je l’ai eu la semaine dernière !
    Bises
    Brian

    • LOL! I caught that too! I live near where they grow the oysters, in Bouzigues. They grow the best Huîtres et moules !

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