5 Things We Can Learn About Lunch from the French

updated Jul 17, 2023
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Credit: Faith Durand

How the French eat is an endless source of intrigue. It’s elegant, but in a casual, seemingly effortless way. And of course, they know how to lunch. In fact, in the short time I lived in Paris I witnessed a new approach to lunch that went beyond cramming food in your mouth at your desk. By keeping things leisurely and simple, you too can find lunch bliss.

Here are the five most important things I learned about lunch from the French.

Credit: Faith Durand

1. Have bigger lunches, smaller dinners.

I personally struggle with this model of eating, but it makes sense on so many levels. Eating a larger meal in the middle of the day gives you a nice break from whatever you’re doing, and also fuels the rest of your day. Keep meals smaller for dinner.

2. Learn the wisdom of no-cooking.

Last year when Faith was in Toulouse she enjoyed a delicious, nearly no-cook summer meal made by one of her friends. This was possible in part because of the high-quality and low cost of prepared food in France, but it’s also possible to find a happy medium in your own home. Simple spreads, cheeses, and cold soups are the perfect snack-like lunches around.

3. When possible, keep things leisurely.

The biggest difference between French lunches and American lunches is time. While I was in Paris it was not uncommon to go out to a four-course lunch in the middle of the day. Eating at your desk or on the street (like I often see in New York), isn’t cool. Slowing down feels like an enormous luxury in the middle of a harried day, but it has rewards of increased focus and enjoyment of food.

Credit: Faith Durand

4. Master a better way to make salad.

The French adore their simple greens and, as with the clichéd little black dress (which I do believe is also mastered by the French), the simplest of accoutrement is all you need to both anticipate and enjoy a perfect salad. Faith’s friend made her a green salad with nothing more than asparagus and duck cracklings (ooh la la), and it was magical.

I eat a lot of salad for lunch, and last year, Christine introduced me to a better way to dress salad — one she learned, naturally, in France. Make your dressing in a bowl, and then add your greens and shake. That way you only have to wash one bowl after lunch.

5. When you’re in a rush, keep things simple.

Not everyone has time to take a leisurely lunch break. If you fall into that camp and you need something fast, go for something simple. In France, you can find inexpensive sandwiches consisting of a fresh baguette, cheese, and ham. The ingredients are simple but delicious. You don’t need to make that 10-ingredient grain salad every day for work.

What have you learned about eating and making lunch from the French? Please let us know in the comments!