French meals: What do French people eat for breakfast? – Part 1

French movie le hérisson


Have you ever wondered what French people ate for Breakfast? Have you ever found the idea that French people always eat croissants, pain au raisin and pain au chocolat hard to believe?  This article highlights the real truth about one of the French meals and shares with you what French people eat for breakfast. Well…! The first thing to stress is that the French breakfast varies according one person and another and whether they are youngsters or adults.

What does breakfast mean in French?

The word breakfast means “petit déjeuner” in French. If we split up this compound word it gives us the words “petit” and “déjeuner”;

“petit” which means small and “déjeuner” lunch. A French breakfast has therefore to be a petit dejeuner which implies that it is smaller than a lunch in the French culture. Quite understandably, French people don’t often eat a lot for breakfast.

So what do French people usually take for breakfast?

Usually adults are inclined to take a bowl, a mug or a cup of very strong coffee.  This coffee is often drank with French bread called “baguette” and accompanied with some French cheese.  La Vache-qui-rit, the “Gruyere”, the “Emmental” or the “Brie” are some of my favourite French cheese. Other people would rather have their coffee with a ham sandwich or eggs in omelette. As for the drink, some adults love to dilute their coffee with hot milk and we call this mixture a “café au lait”. Other people enjoy better something sweeter in the morning with their beverage and would prefer spreading on their bread some honey, strawberry or apricot jam.  Brioche, pain au lait (slightly sweet light bread) and biscuits are other alternative that can also be part of the French breakfast.

What about the children?

Children do not drink coffee and rather favour their hot chocolate
made by pouring some cacao powder into some hot milk. Many French people and especially children also like to soak or dunk their slices of bread into their bowl of hot chocolate. Other children would just have some cereals with milk only and contrary to what we might think the cereals could be French cereals or British cereals (céréales anglaises) such as Weetabix. Tea which is often part of a british breakfast is a beverage that is rarely consumed in a French breakfast although in some French families it can be taken especially by children as you will hear in the video “Le petit déjeuner”.

Do French people always take the same breakfast?

Some people like to vary their breakfast on a regular basis and would sometimes take some “biscottes” (continental toasts) with butter with some honey or jam spread onto that. Often when French people,

adults or children are in a rush to go to school or to work and do not have much time to have a good breakfast, they would just drink a glass of orange juice, an Americano or an expresso.

But where do the croissants and pain au chocolat come into?

On the contrary of what many people seem to think, French people don’t eat croissants, pain au raisin, pain au chocolat or brioche every morning. Although they are tasty and delicious, they can be very expensive in the long run. They are also not very healthy if taken on a daily basis as 1/3 of a croissant’s ingredients are actually butter.

What about the famous French bread?

Our favourite bread remains the baguette which is often directly bought from the bakery. It is best when it is still warm and fresh coming straight out of the oven as it is delicious and crusty. It also spreads a very nice flavour around us. At week-ends French people enjoy their fresh baguette and do not mind queuing for hours at the bakery to be sure to bring to the whole family good and tasty breads. This baguette is naturally bought in the morning just before taking the breakfast. The baguette is often cut into thin and crispy loaves called tartines (slices of bread) which we spread butter, chocolate spread or jam on.

This is all we can say now about French breakfasts! Sound good? Be sure to read What do French people eat for breakfast-Part 2, where I share with you the story of three French teenagers and an adult talking about their breakfast’s habits.

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