Get to know French cuisine through some of its most famous dishes.
We've all seen the movie, and like the irrepressible Remy secretly believe in Chef Gusteau's immortal words: "Anyone can cook."
While Pixar helped to popularise the hearty country dish, this vegetable stew is as traditional as French food gets.
Originating in Nice, Ratatouille is a bountiful platter of fresh harvest vegetables. Sun-ripened tomatoes, silky eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, basil, fennel, and green herbs all play starring roles.
Served as a side dish or as a main with pasta and bread, its rustic simplicity will convince you that you too can cook.
This famous fish stew has southern French roots. First made by fishermen in Marseille with rockfish they couldn't sell, the humble dish is distinguished from other fish stews by the choice of Provençal herbs and the fish used.
Local Mediterranean fish are usually added to the pot, like European conger, red rascasse, and sea robin. Commonly eaten up and down the southern coast of France, it is a potently fishy broth swimming with robust flavours.
For even more flavour, shellfish is thrown into the mix.
Foie gras (fwah-grah)
Foie gras literally translates as fatty liver, specifically duck or goose liver. Specially fattened, these livers are prized for the buttery, velvety texture they yield.
The French prefers foie gras terrine, which is a simple cured raw foie gras dish; others like it pan-fried. It pairs well with a sweet wine like Sauternes.
Its unique creamy and meaty taste is acquired, but once acquired, you can be sure you'll never lose it.
Duck confit (duck-con-fee)
You've probably heard that this dish is confined to high-end, fine dining restaurants. But far from being the food of moneyed gourmands, it's actually peasant fare that dates to the French Middle Ages.
It's served throughout France and is a staple in any home cook's repertoire. Salt cured duck legs (to preserve the duck and for taste) are slowly cooked in their own fat and juices, rendering the meat tender and moist.
The duck is traditionally eaten with potatoes, salad, sauteed green beans, salad, or on its own.
Before you say, "Ick, snails", pump your brakes and remember that these are land snails cooked French-style. Escargots are another Gallic specialty.
The word just means snails and they can be cooked in a variety of styles with garlic butter, cheese, herbs and splashes of wine, for instance. They are delicious: the natural saltiness of the snail meat has an earthy, husky undertone, with a slight bitterness.
Their texture is mushroomy (take your first bite and you'll see). The dish is usually eaten as an appetiser.
Coq au vin (coke-oh-vahn)
To the palate unfamiliar with French food, coq au vin is an example of the fancy-schmancy, elitist world of French cuisine.
Pfft, they say, how can I make a dish I can't even pronounce?
Suprisingly, it's perhaps the easiest of the classic French dishes to get down. It's just chicken braised with wine. The deep brown redness of the sauce is a result of the red wine (traditionally burgundy) and the chicken's blood.