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Cuisine of France

French cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity. Despite France's history of centralization (Paris), each region has its own distinctive specialities: cuisine from North-West France uses butter and cream; Provençal cuisine (from the southeast) favours olive oil and herbs; and eastern French recipes are reminiscent of German cuisine, including sausages, beer and sauerkraut. Wine and cheese are an integral part of French cuisine, both as ingredients and accompaniments.

Strongly traditional and slow to embrace influences from abroad, French cuisine can broadly be divided into three categories:

"Cuisine bourgeoise", which includes all the classic French dishes which are not (or no longer) specifically regional, and which have been adapted over the years to suit the taste of the affluent classes. This type of cooking includes the rich, cream-based sauces and somewhat complex cooking techniques that many people associate with French cuisine. At the 'top end' of this category is what is known as haute cuisine, a highly complex and refined approach to food preparation and kitchen management.

"Cuisine du terroir", which covers regional specialities with a strong focus on quality local produce and peasant tradition.

"Cuisine nouvelle" or "nouvelle cuisine", which developed in the 1970s as a reaction to traditional cuisine, under the influence of chefs such as Michel Guérard. This type of cooking is characterized by shorter cooking times, much lighter sauces and dressings, and smaller portions presented in a refined, decorative manner. Its modern, inventive approach sometimes includes techniques and combinations from abroad (especially Asia) and has had a profound influence on cooking styles all over the world.

Food fashions and trends in France tend to alternate between these three types of cuisine; today (2004) there is a distinct focus on cuisine du terroir, with a return to traditional rustic cooking and the "forgotten" flavours of local farm produce. The "fusion" cuisine popular in the English-speaking world is not widespread in France, though some restaurants in the capital have a "fusion" theme, and many modern French chefs are influenced by a variety of international cooking styles.

Vegetarianism is not widespread in France, and few restaurants cater for vegetarians. Veganism is hardly known or represented at all.

Famous French dishes include:

Desserts: Specialities by region/city:

See also: