Tips on Reading a French Menu

French MenuVisiting France or even dining at a fine French Restaurant and enjoying the rich foods is a dream come true for food lovers. After all, the entire concept of the restaurant began in France. If you don’t speak a word of French, however, the idea of ordering from a menu can be daunting. Here are some tips on reading a French menu that can help you order without embarrassment.

Some Easy Terms Found on a French Menu:

The good news is that so many of the French cooking techniques have spread across the world that you will recognize many of the basic terms used on a French menu. It’s no surprise that amuse-bouche are appetizers, or that the main course is called the pièce de résistance. Many have gotten to know the famous French dish, coc au vin (chicken in wine), and can recognize other dishes with those ingredients. Similarly, quiche, escargot, boeuf, and dessert pose no challenge. Even remembering the term for a menu is not difficult, if you remember that ordering from the menu is ordering à la carte.

Other French words are very close to the terms we use in English. For example, Café is French for coffee, porc is pork, and Le plat du jour is the special of the day. If you simply look over a French menu, you might be surprised at how well you can grasp the meaning of the dishes. Be careful of easily confused terms, however, like entrée, which means appetizer and not main dish in French, and legumes, which means vegetables and not beans or peas.

More Difficult French Menu Terms:

While reading some parts of a French menu are bound to be easier than you’d expect, there are sure to be some terms which are completely unfamiliar. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most common terms on the menu before you go into a restaurant. If you have allergies, you’ll want to be certain to recognize the French terms for those foods.

Aside from food names, you might also want to cover the terms for different types of menus, types of wines and other drinks, cooking and serving methods, and the names of various courses to make sure you’ll be able to order a meal you’ll enjoy.

Don’t be afraid to carry a French-to-English dictionary as backup. It’s better to take the time to look up the food you’re ordering than to have to pay for something that you won’t enjoy eating.

Finally, if you’re uncertain about any of your choices, ask your waiter for assistance. The chances are high that they, or someone else on the wait staff, can speak English.

It’s important not to let the language barrier deter you from having a fantastic French meal. The superb foods and wines are not to be missed, and the best meals are often served in restaurants with no English translation. By following these steps, you will be able to order an unforgettable meal.


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