French Food Vocabulary Guide

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve settled at your table in a fine French restaurant, airily waved away the English menu, started perusing the French menu… and realized you’re completely lost.

 Sure, you know that porc is pork. But what is travers de porc? And what about joues de boeuf? Does that really mean beef cheeks? Do cows even have cheeks?

There’s no question that at many French restaurants, extra vocabulary guidance is in order. Certain restaurants will feature parts of the animal that you’d likely have trouble naming in your native language, much less French. And even if you’re able to figure out the kind of food offered, then the mode of preparation – often included in the description – may throw you off. And then there’s the simple fact that hundreds of dishes have names that simply do not translate.

 Be baffled no more. Here’s a short guide to common French foods, dishes and preparation styles that you might encounter in a French restaurant.

Bon Appétit!

 French Meats & Poultry Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les viandes et les volailles)

 Agneau = lamb

 Andouillette= tripe sausage (chitterling sausage)

Biche = female deer

Canard = duck

Caneton = a young male duck

Cannette = a young female duck

Cervelle = brains

Coq = Rooster

Entrecôte = beef rib steak

Escargots = snails

Faux-filet = Sirlon steak

Gigot d’agneau = leg of lamb

Jambonneau = Pork knuckles

Langue de boeuf = tongue of beef

Lapin– rabbit

Marcassin – young wild boar

Magret de canard = fattened duck breast

Sanglier – wild boar

Moelle – beef bone marrow

Os – bone

Oie Goose

Paleron = shoulder of beef

Pied de mouton = sheep’s foot – OR – a kind of wild mushroom, so watch out!

Pied de porc = pig’s foot

Pigeon – pigeon

Pigeonneau – young pigeon

Pintade – guinea fowl

Queue – tail (e.g., queue de boeuf – oxtail)

Ris d’agneau/ veau = sweetbreads of lamb/veal

Rognons = kidneys

Travers de porc = spare ribs

Volaille – poultry

 

French Seafood Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les fruits de mer)

Cabillaud = cod

Calamar = squid

Crevettes = Shrimp

Gambas = large shrimp

Étrille = a small crab

Flétan = halibut

Goujons = small catfish, usually fried

Huîtres – Oysters

Limande = sole-like ocean fish

Lieu = Pollock (a white fish)

Lotte = monkfish

Morue = cod (young)

Moules = mussels

Noix de St. Jacques = sea scallops

Palourdes = Clams

Pétoncles = small scallops

Seiche = large squid

Truite = trout

 

French Vegetables Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les légumes)

Asperge = asparagus

Aubergine = eggplant

Betterave = Beet

Carotte = carrot

Cèpe = porcini mushroom

Cresson = Swiss chard

Courge = squash

Courgettes = zucchini

Épinard = spinach

Fenouil = fennel

Mange-tout = snow peas

Navet = turnip

Poireaux = leeks

Panais = parsnips

 

French Foods/Dishes

(Cuisines française)

Acras de Morue = codfish cakes

Boudin noir = Blood sausage.

Charcuterie = various cold cuts, pork sausages and other salted, prepared meats

Cassoulet = a casserole of white beans, confit of duck or goose

Coq au vin = chicken slow-cooked in red wine, garlic and other seasonings and vegetables

Cuisses de Grenouilles = Frogs legs

Friture = a plate of small fried fish or other seafood

Galette – a crêpe made of buckwheat flour

Grattons – crispy fried pieces of pork; cracklings

Joues de Boeuf/Cochon = Beef cheeks/pig cheeks

Oeuf en meurette = poached egg in red wine sauce

Oeuf à la coque = soft-cooked egg

Pâté = a mixture of cook meat and fat, formed into a spreadable paste.

Quenelles = fish (usually pike) dumplings

Ragoût = stew

Rillettes = paté-like; salted pork (or other meat) cooked slowly in fat then formed into a paste.

Tête de veau = calf’s head.

French Preparation Terms

(preparation à la française)

à l’ancienne = in the old style

à la vapeur = steamed

à l’étouffée = stewed

à point = medium (cooked, as in a steak)

au four = baked

confit = meat (usually duck or goose) cooked in its own fat

coulis = fruit purée

croustillant = crispy

en croute = baked in a crust

farci = stuffed

feuilleté = cooked in a puff pastry /phyllo dough)

 fumé = smoked

mijoté(e) = simmered

papillote = cooked in parchment paper

Parmentier = with potatoes

 poêlée = cooked in a pan

 

 What’s the most memorable French dish you’ve eaten? Share with us below!


On y va! French Beach Vocabulary

These days in Paris, we’re experiencing une canicule (a heatwave). If you weren’t already thinking of heading à la plage (to the beach) for a refreshing getaway, you probably are now!

France has thousands of lovely beaches, from the sweeping golden shores found on the Atlantic Coast in places such as Bretagne (Brittany), Normandie (Normandy) and Biarritz, to the hidden coves and sparkling turquoise waters of la Mediterranée (the Mediterranean) in the South of France. The stunning island of Corse (Corsica) also offers extraordinary white sand beaches, and you’ll find amazing, plages sauvages (wild/unspoiled beaches) in the Poitou-Charente region.

If you’re really desperate for some sand-time but can’t leave Paris, there’s always Paris plage, an artificial beach created for one month every summer in the city center. This beach, which runs along the Seine, has several tons of imported sable (sand), chaises longues (beach chairs) and palmiers (palm trees), ice-cream stands, live music, and plenty of other activities. Although you’re not going to think yourself swept away to a beach in Cannes, it’s definitely worth a visit.

 French Beach Attire

If you’re going to French beach for the first time, you should there are a few things you should know – mainly about attire. Depending on where you are from, it may surprise you to see men of every age wearing tiny Speedos, and women of every age wearing tiny bikinis, and small children wearing nothing at all. In France, the body isn’t something to be hidden away in shame. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear as little as possible.

Which brings me to plages naturistes (nude beaches). You may have heard about France’s nude beaches, and it’s true that they are plentiful here. But that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable for adults to run around tout nu (fully naked) any beach they choose. If you want to get naked on a beach, here a few tips:

  1. Research French nude beaches first. With a little Googling, it’s easy enough to find plages naturistes in any region.
  1. Observe the locals. If you’re not sure whether it’s socially acceptable to go full monty or topless, watch what the locals do. If you don’t see it, don’t do it. As a foreigner, you shouldn’t be the one to try to change the local custom.
  1. Don’t be rude. Taking pictures, staring, pointing or speaking loudly about nude beach-goers is a gross breach of etiquette. If you’ve accidentally stumbled upon a nude beach or upon the random naturiste / nudiste (nudist) and it makes you feel awkward or offended, simply go elsewhere.

 

French Beach Vocabulary

And now, here are some beach words that may come in handy during your vacances balnéaires (beach vacation).

 La sable – the sand

Les lunettes de soleil – the sunglasses

La serviette de plage – the beach towel

 

Le parasol –beach umbrella

La crème solaire – the sunscreen

Le maillot de bain – the swimsuit

Coup de soleil – sunburn

 

Le château de sable – the sandcastle

La pelle – the shovel

Le râteau – the rake

Le seau – the bucket

 

L’eau – the water

La vague – the wave

Le courant – the current

La marée haute –high tide

La marée basse –low tide

 

Un poisson – a fish

Une étoile de mer – a starfish

Une algue – algae

Un coquillage – a seashell

Une mouette (a seagulls)

 

A few useful verbs

Nager – to swim

Plonger – to dive

Prendre un bain de soleil – to sunbathe

Faire un pique-nique – to have a picnic

Faire un château de sable – to make a sand castle

 

Will you be going to a French beach this summer? Where will you go? Share with us below!


Bastille Day: Background & Vocabulary

How quickly the year is passing! Another July 14th is just around the corner. You may know it as Bastille Day, but here in France, it’s called “La Fête Nationale” or “le quatorze juillet.”  

 What’s it all about? Simply put, it’s the date that marks the start of la Révolution française (the French Revolution) and represents the day on which France won her independence from the unchecked and absolute power of the monarchy.

 A Quick History Lesson

 In the 1700s, France was divided into three social classes, known as “États” (estates): the first estate was le clergé (the clergy); the second estate was la noblesse (the nobility), and the Third Estate was everybody else. While the third estate did consist partially of the bourgeoisie (middle class), its largest component was the poorest of society, known sometimes as sans-culottes (without britches).  

 Although the first two estates made up about 3% of the entire population, they were disproportionally wealthy, privileged and powerful, and subjected the vulnerable people of the Tiers État (Third Estate) to harsh and arbitrary laws.

 By 1789, the country was mired in a severe crise économique (economic crisis) and many among Third Estate were fighting starvation, while the other two estates thrived. Ras-le-bol (fed up), the leaders of the Tiers État created a new assembly to write a constitution, very much against the wishes of King Louis XVI.

 On 14 juillet 1789, a mob in Paris, spurred by rumors that Louis XVI planned to use force to destabilize the new assembly, stormed the immense stone prison la Bastille, killing numerous guards and releasing the seven prisonniers politiques (political prisoners) it held. The storming of Bastille gave heart to the masses as the Bastille was viewed as the ultimate symbol of the monarchy’s absolute power. That very night hundreds of people began to tear down the Bastille, stone by stone.

 Just over a month later, on 26 août 1789, the new assembly voted for the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens), a constitution that set out the individual and collective rights of all French people, regardless of social class.  

 And so la République française was born.

Celebrating 14 juillet in Paris

Le quatorze juillet has been a jour férié (national holiday) since 1790. And in Paris it brings quite the doozy of a celebration.

In the morning, an enormous défilé militaire (military parade) struts down the Champs-Elysées to salute le Président de la République (President of the Republic) and other high-ranking French politicians who greet the procession at the Place de la Concorde. Low-flying military jets roar overhead in a spectacular flyby, the tri-colors of the le drapeau français (the French flag) trailing behind them in clouds of smoke. Of course, everyone sings l’hymne national (the national anthem), la Marseillaise.

 When night falls, thousands of people swarm toward the beautifully-lit Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) to watch the feu d’artifice (fireworks), which burst into life just behind the legendary tower. Those not at the Eiffel Tower might be dancing the night away at the exhilarating bal des pompiers (Firemen’s Ball). These balls – hardly formal events – take place in firehouses all over Paris and are open to the public, usually with just a suggested donation.

 Sounds good, non? Come to Paris and celebrate with us!  Bonne fête!

Will you be in Paris for le 14 juillet? How will you celebrate?  Share with us (in French, if you like) below!

(photo: Sergii Rudiuk / Shutterstock.com)

French Health Food Vocabulary

The gastronomic delights of Paris can make even the most health conscious people want to fling caution to the wind and indulge in the many temptations available. The breakfast offerings alone – pain au chocolat, chausson aux pommes, croissant aux amandes, for example – can make you drool with desire.

But don’t think you’re “being French” by heedlessly scarfing down these goodies every day. Despite the so-called French paradox, most French people seek to eat balanced, healthy meals without excessive indulgence in the richest dishes.

If you want to eat healthy in Paris, there’s little excuse for not doing so. Paris’s legendary markets offer wondrously fresh and healthy fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. And every year, it gets easier and easier to find quality bio (organic) foods, whether at restaurants, market stalls or in supermarkets.

If you plan on preparing much of your own healthy meals, you’ll have no problem finding a chain organic shop, such as Naturalia, Biocoop or Bio C’Bon or even neighborhood boutique shops such as Le Carillon d’Olivier. In ordinary supermarkets, there’s almost always an organic products section – just look for packages marked with the green and white “AB” label.  (AB stands for “Agriculture Biologique,” which means that at least 95% of the products’ ingredients are organic.)

In terms of organic open-air markets, the best ones are Marché Raspail, Marché Batignolles, and Marché Brancusi. If you can’t make it those, be assured that you can almost always find at least one stall selling organic produce in any market.

While you won’t have trouble finding organic products in Paris, you may have difficulty finding exactly what you’re looking for, as Paris doesn’t necessarily have the same health foods as North America or the UK.  

To make things a little easier for you, we’ve provided below: (i) a translation of common health foods available in France, and (ii) common terms on packaging labels. Bon appétit!

 

French Health Food Vocabulary

Almond Butter – beurre d’amande

Almond Milk – lait d’amande

Buckwheat flour – farine de sarrasin / noir

Chickpeas – les pois chiches

Flaxseed /Linseed oil – graines de lin / huile de lin

Coconut Oil – L’huile de coco / l’huile de noix de coco

Coconut Milk – lait de coco

Gluten-Free – sans gluten

Grass-Fed beef – boeuf nourri au fourrage

Hazelnut Milk – lait de noisette

Oatmeal – Flocon d’avoine

Quinoa – Quinoa

Soymilk – lait de soja

Tofu – Tofu

Wheatgerm – germe de blé

Wheatgrass / Wheatgrass juice –   Agropyre / Le jus d’herbe de blé

 Whole wheat – blé complet

 Wild salmon – saumon sauvage

 Raw milk / Unpasteurised milk – lait cru

 

Terminology on French food packaging labels:

Valeur énergétique – Calories (energetic value)

Matières grasses – Fat

Lipides dont acides “gras saturés” – Lipids composed of “saturated fats”

Glucides – carbohydrates

Glucides dont sucres – carbohydrates included sugar

 Protéines – protein

Fibres – Fibers

Sel – Salt

Poids Net – Total Weight

Par Portion – By portion/ serving size

A consommer de préférence avant le [date]: Preferably consumed before the [date]…

 

Have any questions about French health food vocabulary? Ask us in the comments below!


How to Learn French Noun Gender: Part II

Last week, we wrote about the importance of learning French noun gender and presented multiple categories of words that tend to be either masculine or feminine.

This week, we want to give you 3 more important clues to use to assess whether a French noun is masculine or feminine. We use the word “clue” as opposed to “rule” because – alas – in every category, there’s almost always an exception. But once you memorize and internalize these clues you’ll get the gender right, let’s say… 8 out of 10 times.

Not bad, eh? Here we go:

Clue #1: Most words that refer to men are masculine; those that refer to women are feminine.

Le père (the father)

Le fils (the son)

La tante (the aunt)

La soeur (the sister)

 

Clue #2: Certain nouns are always masculine or feminine regardless of the gender of the person/animal referred to.

Always masculine nouns:

Un ordinateur (a computer)

Un témoin (a witness)

Un manteau (an overcoat)

Un cheval (a horse)

Un guide (a guide)

Always feminine nouns:

Une voiture (a car)

Une souris (a mouse)

Une maison (a house)

Une école (a school)

Une personne (a person)

Une victime (a victim)

 

Clue #3: Certain French nouns endings indicate that the word is either masculine or feminine. Exceptions abound, however. We’ve included the more common ones below, but be always be on the look out for more.

Typically masculine endings:

  • -age (le reportage, sondage, fromage, village)/ Exceptions: la plage, la cage
  • -acle (le miracle, spectacle) / Exceptions: la bâcle, la bernacle, la debâcle
  • -eur (un aspirateur, un ascenseur)/ Exceptions: la chaleur, la couleur, la fleur
  • (le café, marché) / Exception: la clé and words ending with té (see feminine)
  • -eau (bateau, réseau, drapeau) Exceptions: l’eau, la peau
  • -ème (le deuxième, le cinquantième) / Exceptions: la/le troisième, la/le quatrième,
  • -in (le vin, le train) Exception: la fin, la main
  • -ing (le shampooing, le jogging)
  • -isme (le tourisme, organisme, imperialisme)
  • -ment (le gouvernement, appartement)
  • -oir (le soir, le miroir, le devoir)
  • -oi (le tournoi, l’emploi)
  • -ou (le genou, le trou)

 

Typically feminine endings

  • -ade (la limonade, la façade)  Exceptions: masc & fem: le/la nomade, le/la malade
  • -ance (la croissance, la nuance, une ambiance)
  • -aille (la bataille, la taille, la paille)
  • -ée (une idée, la chausée) Exception: le lycée, le musée, le pygmée
  • -ette (la baguette, la courgette)
  • -euse (la chanteuse, la berceuse)
  • -ience (la patience, une experience)
  • -ine (la tartine, la terrine) / Exception: le moine
  • -rice (actrice, directrice) / Exceptions:  le dentifrice
  • -ssion (la passion, une emission) / Exceptions: le bouton-pression
  • -tion (l’information, la question, une ambition)
  • -té (la beauté, la fierté) / Exception: Le blé
  • -tié (la moitié, la pitié)
  • -tude (une habitude, la certitude, la gratitude)
  • -ure (une allure, la candidature)

 

HOMEWORK: Pick 3 masculine word endings and 3 feminine word endings and find 3 new nouns with those endings. Write your answers in the comments below! And, of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us below or contact us.


Learning the Gender of French Nouns: Part I

 

Assigning genders to French nouns is often one of the most daunting aspects of learning French. This is particularly true for Anglophones. Since nouns have no gender in English, it can be difficult for an English speaker to take seriously the idea of referring to a dining room table (la table) as a “she” or thinking of lipstick (le rouge à levres) as in any way masculine.

But learning the right gender for nouns is critical for speaking French fluidly. Because the gender of a noun doesn’t just affect the article preceding the noun (le, la), but can also affect the pronunciation and spelling of adjectives used to describe the noun. 

Not to worry – learning French noun gender isn’t as hard as you might think. You don’t have to memorize the gender of every French noun, one by one. The best way to go about it is by memorizing categories and ending patterns….and the exceptions to the rule.

In this post, we’re going to focus on several categories of nouns that are typically virtually all masculine or all feminine. Just by memorizing these categories, you will learn the correct genders of hundred of words!  (Don’t forget to tune into part II of this series to learn even more!)

 I.  Common Categories of Masculine French Nouns

  • Colors

le bleu (blue)

le rouge (red)

le rose (pink)

le jaune (yellow)

l’orange (orange)

Exception: “Orange” is only masculine as a color – as a fruit it’s feminine. Same thing for “rose.”   As a color, it’s masculine, but as a flower, it’s feminine.

  • Trees

le sapin (pine tree)

le chêne (oak tree)

le saule (willow tree)

le platane (plane tree)

Exception: Most shrubs are also masculine, but vines are feminine (la vigne).

  • Days of week / Months / Seasons

le lundi (Monday)

le dimanche (Sunday)

le mois de février (February)

le mois de juin (June)

le printemps (Spring)

l’automne (Autumn)

  •  Metals

le fer (iron)

le titane (titanium)

l’or (gold)

l’acier (steel)

  •  Wines / Cheeses

le Bordeaux

le Bourgorgne

le Chablis

le Brie

le Cantal

le Camembert

Exception: la tomme de Savoie is a cheese exception.

  •  Metric Units / Measures

le kilo (kilo)

le mètre (meter)

le joule (joule)

l’hectare (hectare)

le litre (liter)

le quart (quart)

Exception: la moitié (half)

  •  Numbers

le cinq (five)

le dix-neuf (nineteen)

le douzième (the twelfth)

Exception: La trentaine, la cinquantaine and other words describing a decade of age (in one’s 30’s, 40’s, etc.) are usually feminine.

  •  Language names

le chinois (Chinese)

le français (French)

l’espanol (Spanish)

 II.  Common Categories of Feminine French Noun

  • Sciences / Disciplines

la science (science)

la géographie (geography)

la chimie (chemistry)

l’astronomie (astronomy)

l’histoire (history)

Exception: le droit (law)

  •  Car brand names

une Peugeot

une Citroën

une Mercedes

une BMW

  • Watch brands

une Rolex

une Jaeger-LeCoultre

une Swatch

Ready to learn more about  French noun genders? Check this post out.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please post them below!