From Valerie’s corner
If you think of a typical French menu, you may picture creamy dishes, heavy cream pastries, butter sauce and cheese-flavored gratin all over your plate.
So can French cuisine be light?
Yes, it can because there is not one French way to cook, but different ways. The main difference is based on a geographical divide which can be drawn from the Northwest part of France to the Southeast.
In the North, the main fat used to cook is butter. Normandy is famous for its grazing cows under apple trees in picturesque fields. Therefore, cows mean butter , and to some extend high fat cheese such as Camembert or Livarot. As a result, the local cuisine uses butter as the staple fat. And it is the same for the whole Northern/Esatern areas.
The delicious crêpes from Brittany proudly are famous for their butter content. Parisians love adding a small piece of raw butter on top of their steak (already broiled in butter) and the sweet song of butter frying in their pans is their favourite tune.
In the South, oil is preferred to butter; in salads, people love rape seed oil, walnut oil or olive oil but sunflower oil remains the most common oil for frying.
Besides butter and oil, the weather conditions also tend to favor the southern regions for healthy eating habits. When it is cold and rainy, people in the North tend to rely on comfort food. They also maintain a social life by entertaining each other rather than by doing outside activities: having people over mean eating a lot of cakes, pastries and cookies.
In the East (Alsace) or in the Alps and Jura, snowy winter dinners often mean a Sauerkraut dish (cabbage nut always with potatoes and a lot of sausages) or raclette (cheese-based meal) and fondue .
In the South and the West, the weather being much milder, typical menus are composed of more salads, more fruit and more fish than in the Northern regions. Even when eating meat, the traditonal duck and goose meat from Gers is supposed to be healthier for the heart than other types of meat. Cheeses are often made with goat or ewe milk (Roquefort, Cabecou, Picodon), much lighter in fat.
However, French cuisine is more and more cosmopolitan and these traditional trends are not as defined as in the past. Fashion governs food trends and ingredients and dishes are not attached to one single territory as before.
By the way, I am from the South of France. Can you tell? If you want to taste my cooking, I am the chef on some fo the tours to France organized by French Escapade (the one called la Belle France, taking place in the Alps).
We also organize cooking tours to Provence with several professional chefs.
Our favorite Provence olive oil comes from Le clos des Jeannons in Provence, check their website at http://www.huile-provence.com/angindex.html and the best walnut oil in France, made like in the 19th century is made in Savoie, http://www.moulindechanaz.com/index_En.html
We visit both these places on our tours to France with French Escapade.
Pictures taken on our French Escapade tours and the chef is me.