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Lesson Transcript

Sam: The Do’s and Don’ts of French Dining. Today I am joined here by...
Céline: Céline.
Sam: Welcome back.
Céline: Bienvenue!
Sam: So you are going to tell us about the dos and don’ts of French dining today?
Céline: Yes exactly.
Sam: This sounds super exciting.
Céline: It is.
Sam: Shall we start?

Lesson focus

Céline: Okay. Sam, to experience a “dîner à la française” a French dinner, first you have to be invited.
Sam: That makes a lot of sense. You can’t show up uninvited.
Céline: Yes so then, you have to think about a gift.
Sam: A nice gift but something not too big right?
Céline: No, not too big. Don’t bring food unless okay, you talked about that before.
Sam: Yeah.
Céline: Don’t bring wine unless it’s a very good wine because usually your hostess like has bought the wine for the dinner.
Sam: Okay. So you can’t show up with some cheap 1-year-old bottle of wine?
Céline: No way, that’s no way! So the safest is maybe flowers.
Sam: Flowers, oh but what kind of flowers?
Céline: All kinds except chrysanthèmes.
Sam: Chrysanthemum.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Can you spell that in English?
Céline: No.
Sam: No. Me neither, it’s okay.
Céline: Roses are welcome but only odd number.
Sam: Ah is there some superstition attached with this?
Céline: Yes.
Sam: What is the superstition?
Céline: We are going to talk about dinner, not superstitions.
Sam: It’s the best part of the dinner though.
Céline: Yeah and there is another superstition at French dinner but I will tell you later. So flowers, avoid red roses.
Sam: Why?
Céline: If the hostess is not your date because red, red rose is symbol of love.
Sam: Oh! How about yellow roses?
Céline: Oh yellow is not good but it’s okay but remember.
Sam: Odd number.
Céline: 1, 3, or 5 and never red.
Sam: Oh okay.
Céline: So after that, you know the French dinner has like a few steps. First we have the “apéritif”.
Sam: Like the appetizer?
Céline: Yes exactly and then “le dîner”.
Sam: The main course.
Céline: No, it’s the dinner itself.
Sam: Oh okay, so what you are saying is, there is an appetizer and then you have the main dinner.
Céline: Yes appetizer is like you eat like petits four.
Sam: Oh okay.
Céline: With Champagne or…
Sam: Something small like a warm up.
Céline: Exactement. Exactement. And then you have the dinner itself and then you have “le café et digestif”.
Sam: Oh like the after dinner coffee?
Céline: Exactly.
Sam: Digestif.
Céline: Digestif.
Sam: Maybe that’s a new vocabulary word for our listeners.
Céline: Tout à fait. Exactly.
Sam: So “digestif” that sounds like “digestive” in English.
Céline: Yes exactement, it helps for your digestion.
Sam: Is it like a digestion biscuit?
Céline: It is not a biscuit, it’s alcohol.
Sam: Ah!
Céline: Umm. Usually it’s Cognac.
Sam: Uhh…So we’ve talked about the different stages of eating the food itself. I have another important question. Is it important to arrive on time when you are invited to someone’s home for a dinner?
Céline: It’s not that important. Don’t arrive earlier, it’s really rude. On time or 15 minutes late.
Sam: Oh I like that to be late.
Céline: Yes. So when you arrive, it depends on your relationship with the hostess. You – maybe you should kiss her on the cheek of course.
Sam: One time each side.
Céline: One time each side.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: And if there are other guests, you should say hello, I mean shake hands with everybody. Don’t just wave your hand, it’s really rude even if there are like 50 guests, you have to kiss them or shake hands.
Sam: With everyone?
Céline: With everyone.
Sam: Do you start in any particular order or with whoever is closest?
Céline: Women.
Sam: Women first?
Céline: Yeah.
Sam: Then the men?
Céline: Then the men.
Sam: Okay so let’s say I am invited to a dinner and I bring a guest with me, is that okay?
Céline: It depends. You may ask before like I will bring a guest.
Sam: Okay. So it’s better to ask before you just show up with some stranger.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: And your friend is like, who is this?
Céline: Yes exactly especially if he is American.
Sam: And also I didn’t think of this but maybe your host has only made enough food for X number of people. So if you bring an extra person...
Céline: Tout à fait. Exactly.
Sam: Yes.
Céline: So now, why don’t we stop the “apéritif”?
Sam: Really! You brought me some food? No.
Céline: So how do you say “apéritif” in English? What’s the equivalent?
Sam: Appetizer.
Céline: Okay. So “apéritif” is the time before dinner to warm up.
Sam: Yeah you can warm with the atmosphere and warm up your stomach.
Céline: Yes exactly but don’t eat too much because it’s just an appetizer and the French meal will be huge.
Sam: Oh really!
Céline: So for appetizer, we usually drink wine or champagne or whatever alcohol. If you don’t drink alcohol, it’s fine.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: And “petits fours” or literally small ovens. It is just like maybe quiche or toasts.
Sam: Oh that sounds very delicious.
Céline: It is. Oh it’s really delicious.
Sam: And maybe I shouldn’t put Ketchup on anything right?
Céline: Oh no way! No, no, no don’t do that and! So, and l’apéritif is a very important step. It’s when you just meet the people and usually the discussions are not very deep.
Sam: Yeah.
Céline: It’s just to get to know each other.
Sam: And it’s probably a good idea not to say anything stupid right during the discussion.
Céline: No, no because then, it’s the start, so yeah you shouldn’t.
Sam: Yeah.
Céline: You know, it’s the first impression.
Sam: Yes.
Céline: So you talk about weather, news.
Sam: Nothing too deep or serious right?
Céline: No the deep comes later.
Sam: Oh okay.
Céline: So it’s time for meal.
Sam: Oh so it’s time for the meal. So I am guessing you have some very nice utensils, fork, spoon. Is there any particular order in which to use these lovely utensils like sometimes if you go to a dinner, there is more than one fork or one spoon. How do you choose which one to use first?
Céline: You have to choose the first outside.
Sam: So from outside to inside.
Céline: Exactement. Yes but if you don’t know how to use it, just ask. It’s no problem.
Sam: Or maybe I could just watch everyone else for a second.
Céline: Exactement. So usually the hostess tells you where to sit. Don’t start to eat, of course don’t start to drink before your host.
Sam: And what about maybe it might sound like a strange question but of course before dinner, we wash up our hands, maybe some people their face. I am guessing you should definitely do that before you sit down or…
Céline: Of course you should go to the restroom before because in the middle of the dinner, it’s really rude.
Sam: What if you really have to?
Céline: Oh if you really have to, you just excuse yourself but…
Sam: Okay.
Céline: Don’t do that, it’s really rude.
Sam: So don’t get up unless you have to.
Céline: Yeah and don’t smoke.
Sam: What if the host is smoking?
Céline: Usually we don’t smoke during the meal.
Sam: Oh does that come before or after?
Céline: During the “apéritif” and after dinner.
Sam: Oh so during the main dinner, don’t smoke.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: So during the French style dinner, I think there is several glasses that are going to be on the table. Which glass do you use first?
Céline: It’s not used first. It depends on the wine. The red one glass is bigger, the biggest.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: Then comes the white wine and the water.
Sam: What if they serve like a Rosé wine?
Céline: Another glass.
Sam: Uh!
Céline: And if we have different wines, one glass for one wine. You cannot mix the wine.
Sam: Oh yeah, yeah you can’t.
Céline: No.
Sam: That’s a full pot, mixed wine.
Céline: Oh oui.
Sam: In America, it is quite common to drink a soft drink with dinner. Is this common in France?
Céline: For family dinner, yes but if you are invited, maybe you shouldn’t. Water, or Perrier or...
Sam: You can’t just break out your own soft drink out of your bag, not good manners right?
Céline: And no Coke.
Sam: No Coke. So what if you are not a drinker? Is it rude to refuse the alcoholic beverage?
Céline: Of course not. You can drink water.
Sam: And another question. What if the guest has served you something that you are allergic to?
Céline: You should mention that.
Sam: Oh when you are invited, mention what you are allergic to and not allergic to.
Céline: Exactly but usually the host would ask you before.
Sam: Ah! Are there many vegetarians in France?
Céline: I don’t know the figures but you know we love meat.
Sam: For example, what kind of meat is popular in France?
Céline: Beef.
Sam: Beef.
Céline: Rabbit.
Sam: Rabbit. It tastes like chicken.
Céline: Oh it tastes better than chicken.
Sam: So during this exquisite dinner, how many dishes can we expect to consume?
Céline: At least four.
Sam: Are they big dishes or do they vary in size or does it depend on the host or…..
Céline: Yeah it depends on the host but after a French dinner, you won’t be hungry, I tell you.
Sam: Oh sounds good. So you said, I won’t be hungry after I go to a French dinner but let’s imagine I’ve just finished everything and I am still very hungry. Is it rude to ask for more food?
Céline: Yes. It depends how the dinner is served. If it’s served like individual dishes, it’s kind of rude to ask.
Sam: Ah!
Céline: But if it’s like general plate on the table, you can just ask for more.
Sam: Ah!
Céline: Yes. Another thing, you know the salad. French will love the salad. So salad comes with cheese after the main dish. Don’t cut the salad. Uff just fold it.
Sam: Fold it?
Céline: Umm you have to fold it.
Sam: So don’t slice it up with a butter knife or anything?
Céline: No never. Also with bread you know, of course. All the meals will come with bread. The bread, just break a piece of bread. Don’t bite the bread.
Sam: Oh! So don’t sit there and...
Céline: Yes, no.
Sam: Is it rude to dip the bread into the other food?
Céline: Well it still depends how the dinner is served. If you just have one plate, you can clean your plate with bread and eat it but usually in French dinners, many plates counts. So don’t touch.
Sam: Don’t touch.
Céline: Don’t touch the sauce even if it’s delicious. Also fingers. Don’t eat with the fingers unless the host tells you to eat with your fingers.
Sam: Oh! Is it okay to become inebriated at a French dinner or drunk?
Céline: I don’t recommend that. During dinner, there are many discussions and sometimes it gets really hot.
Sam: So you want to have all your faculties in place when you are discussing something very high level, right?
Céline: Yes I think so. So about the discussions really important, don’t talk about politics and religion. Sex too but if the atmosphere is getting like more relaxed, maybe you hear like some kind of jokes.
Sam: Like for example, if somebody starts a discussion like maybe a serious discussion about sex or something like that and you don’t want to talk about it, is it okay to say no comment or do you have to?
Céline: French people would never start a serious conversation with sex, only jokes with sex.
Sam: Oh that’s good point.
Céline: Never serious. And they will criticize everything but as a French, they can do that. They think they can do that. So don’t criticize, don’t agree with them. You give your opinion but don’t be so hard.
Sam: Oh so what do you mean criticize like everything French or just things in general or…
Céline: Everything – things in general but also…
Sam: Even Americans?
Céline: We don’t spend time talking about Americans.
Sam: Oh really?
Céline: Yes.
Sam: You don’t.
Céline: No we don’t. We talk about many things but you have to give your opinion because everybody will wait for that if you are an American or if you are a foreigner, everybody will expect you to give your opinion but be careful.
Sam: Umm…
Céline: And sometimes discussion can be really like passionate. Don’t be scared.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: Everything is okay.
Sam: What if you make a mistake or choose the wrong vocabulary word in French, is that okay?
Céline: No Sam, we expect you to make mistakes. We love that, come on.
Sam: I am sure it’s quite entertaining when people make small mistakes or….
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Or they use phrases from the textbook that the French don’t really use.
Céline: Yeah. So another thing with the fork and knife, don’t put your knife in your mouth.
Sam: Yeah it’s a bit dangerous too.
Céline: Yes and when you don’t want wine, don’t put your hand on the glass. It’s really rude.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: Just leave a little bit of wine on your glass. That means that you have enough.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: And if you want some, drink everything.
Sam: From the bottle?
Céline: Oh my god, never.
Sam: When do you eat cheese, after dinner, before, during?
Céline: Usually we eat cheese with the salad after the main dish and you know, we have “un plateau de fromages”.
Sam: A plate full of cheese?
Céline: Yeah but we don’t eat just one kind of cheese, at least 3 kinds.
Sam: At least 3 kinds?
Céline: Yes and it’s a “plateau”.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: A big plate.
Sam: A big plate of cheese, sounds good.
Céline: Yes, don’t eat all the cheese.
Sam: Do you have it with crackers or?
Céline: With bread, come on!
Sam: With bread?
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Almost like grilled cheese.
Céline: No, no, no not grilled cheese but you have many kinds of cheese with bread and of course wine.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: And salad and after comes the dessert.
Sam: Uh!
Céline: And after the dessert coffee and digestif.
Sam: And like the digestif is like a little bit of alcohol?
Céline: Exactement, like Cognac.
Sam: Uh sounds good.
Céline: Cognac is good, yes. And then more discussion, of course.
Sam: Oh sounds good. I have a question about the coffee. What kind of coffee is popular?
Céline: Of course Espresso.
Sam: Espresso.
Céline: Uhoo now I think like many French families, they have Espresso machine at home.
Sam: So after dinner, do people play games like Pictionary or win, lose or draw or…
Céline: It depends on the dinner it depends on your host, it depends on the relationship. Usually we talk.
Sam: Uh lots of discussion.
Céline: Oh yes we talk a lot.
Sam: What’s an appropriate time to leave your host home after the dinner?
Céline: Okay not right after the dinner, of course. Maybe after the Digestif.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: So you talk a little bit like maybe one hour after the dinner.
Sam: What if you want to stay longer?
Céline: No you can’t.
Sam: You have to go home.
Céline: You have to go home.
Sam: What if you fall asleep on the couch, is that bad manners?
Céline: Yes it is, of course it is.
Sam: Especially if you snore right?
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Oh and when you are finished, do you offer to help clean up?
Céline: Non.
Sam: No.
Céline: No you don’t.
Sam: Oh! Sounds great.
Céline: Also don’t go to the kitchen, it’s really rude.
Sam: Don’t go to the kitchen.
Céline: Yes you would not see the house, you always see the living room maybe, the living room, the dining room but not the kitchen or other rooms.
Sam: Oh! I know sometimes in America for example when the host has dinner or the hostess. In some homes, when the ladies are finished, they all do the dishes together and chitchat and catch up. Is this common in France?
Céline: It depends on your relationship with the host. Yeah sometimes women, they go to the kitchen and they talk and men, they stay together and then drink Cognac, yes but it depends on your relationship. There is a really nice movie I really recommend you, is: “Cuisine Et Dépendances”.
Sam: Uh!
Céline: It’s really nice. It’s everything happens but not in the dining room but in the kitchen and people they go in back and they talk. It’s really nice. It’s a really good movie.
Sam: Sounds good.
Céline: Yes it’s “Cuisine Et Dépendances”.
Sam: So I think the English translation would be “cuisine and dependence”.
Céline: Yes, but I think I am not sure. I hope you can find it in English.
Sam: I am sure our listeners can. And for the listeners who are really advanced, you can try watching it without the subtitles.
Céline: Exactement.


Sam: So until our next culture class...
Céline: Au revoir!
Sam: See you later, bye bye.