Food Culture and Tradition

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French Special Occasions


The majority of the population of France is Roman Catholic with a minority being Protestant and some of the Jewish faith. The two most important religious festivities of the year for Christians are Christmas and Lent. Christmas is ushered in with the celebration of midnight mass followed by Reveillon, a festive meal at home for all the family This meal is usually a carefully prepared series of dishes that reveal not only traditional family favorites, but regional specialties as well. White or black puddings (made with light meats and fats or animal blood) will almost always be a part of the dinner. A fat goose or a stuffed turkey will be the center of the menu while family specialties may shine after the nuts and cheese course. Special desserts such as buche de Noel may represent generations-old recipes or the best from the patisserie.

In contrast to the feasting of Christmas, Easter is preceded by forty days of fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter itself. In early times the fasting prohibitions of this time forbade the inclusion of any foods of a “live nature.” Thus breads, fruits, and vegetables as well as legumes made up the limited menus. Meats, fish, and seafood as well as butter were excluded. In more recent years fish and seafood have been permitted together with the use of eggs and butter, yet there is a sense of restraint in the forty days of fasting menus. In many French homes, the foods of Lent are considered a matter of individual choice.

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