For me, learning to navigate a French menu has been a process. I know, just seeing the words “La Carte” a few years ago would send shivers down my spine. What was I ordering? Would I make a mistake? Would I embarrass myself (my biggest fear)?
Well, full disclosure, mistakes were made. A few years ago, I had dinner at Jacques Cagna in Paris. The restaurant was lovely, country french and not pretentious. Without being asked we were given English menus. While both my friend and I had been using French menus, we did not ask for the French menu. To be honest, we were a bit relieved! We ordered a wonderful meal of which the highlight was the veal chop.
On my very next trip to Paris, I returned to Jacques Cagna. The veal chop was simply too good to miss. But this time I asked for the French menu. I scanned the menu, confident that I understood the menu and there was my veal chop. I practiced the order in my head and was ready! Things were going well until I ordered my veal chop, or what I thought was the veal chop. I ordered Ris de Veau (Sweetbreads). Luckily, the waiter stopped writing, looked at me and in perfect English, asked me if I intended to order veal pancreas! Eventually I received my veal chop but never forgot this lesson. Learn your offal/organs. (We’ll discuss offal later.)
In my opinion, French menus are written in a colloquial or regional manner. I am sure if you asked someone from France, they would say the same thing about an English menu. Or, think about the last pub menu you reviewed. What is a Scotch egg?
My language journey has continued with Experience France (XPF). I am and will continue to enjoy the XPF immersions because they are targeted to my goal (improve my spoken French) using subjects of interest to me. As I can attest – it’s working! Here’s why:
XPF organised a private immersion for me at CookAvore in Bougival, just outside of Paris. So much fun! After meeting the chef, we immediately went to the market. Our lunch menu would be based upon what we discovered in the market and I ordered fresh from the vendors.
We returned to the CookAvore kitchen and put on aprons. Truth be told, I do not cook often so I was a bit nervous but I was not going to back away. This was my immersion and opportunity to improve my French. Game on!
We cooked an amazing lunch. I was actively involved and speaking French with the chef. Interestingly, I was so focused on my chopping that I was not focusing on my French. I was just speaking. The XPF immersion worked.
This French menu is from CookAvore & I highly recommend you try the cooking immersion with them & XPF. It’s not pretentious or touristy at all but the food & staff are fantastic. They will also provide you with “chef à domicile” who will cook for you at your apartment if you’re staying with XPF. Bonne dégustation!
Before I end my blog, let’s talk about offal. Offal are internal organs of an animal used in cooking. I love French cuisine and appreciate that offal are an important aspect of the French repertoire but I am not just not an offal fan! That’s why, before I return to France I always review the common offal so I don’t have another ris de veau experience 😉