(asked by Lilliem from the US)

I just read your blog, and I thought it was really cool and helpful! I do have one question though. I’m going on an exchange to France this summer as a student and staying with a host family. I have been a vegetarian for five years, you mentioned before that you and your friends were talking about it. I was just wondering, do you think that this would really affect my trip? I don’t want to burden anyone, or freak anyone out!


Am I allowed to say “ass” in a title?
Mmm… What? Of course I can! Why did I even wonder? Something’s telling me that’s because I watch too much American TV that’s why…

Where was I?

Oh yeah, vegetarians in France, same old, same old…


Well, Lilliem.
Two things come into play here.

First, recently the UNESCO did what it never did before; it designated a national cuisine as “intangible cultural heritage of humanity,” that is the French one.

foie gras 300x190 I’m a vegetarian, will I be a pain in everybody’s ass in France?To make sure we’re on the same page – I remember a commenter misunderstanding last time we talked about it – what we, the UNESCO and I, talk about here, is not the fancy schmancy overpriced cuisine that you will find in three stars restaurants. It is the every day meals and food most French people consume on a more or less daily basis.
And, do you know why French cuisine/food/meals/call-it-what-you-want is among the best cuisines in the world (and officially recognized as such now)?

Because it respects two things.

First, it respects the food itself (although, evil corporations like Monsanto are trying to take France over more and more, just like they’ve taken over a big chunk of food resources in many other places, more on them another day maybe).
By that I mean, the quality of the food matters a lot (and no, quality is not synonym with low fat, it is synonym with as natural as possible, among other things).

Then, it respects the human body.

See where I’m going there?

Yes, evolution made us humans omnivorous beings. It is most likely one of the reasons why we ended up on top of the evolutionary ladder. You know what’s good with being as little specialized as possible when it comes to food? If your food source disappears, you don’t disappear with it. How long do think Pandas and Koalas will last if bamboos or eucalyptus (respectively) disappear?
When you can eat many different things, your species simply can’t be wiped out because of lack of your source of food. And I’m not even going to go into the most technical aspects of being omnivorous (energy efficiency, ratio of time spent eating/looking for food/doing other things, etc).
Remember, in “survival of the fittest” people very often misunderstand “fittest” as “strongest.” This is not what it means. It has nothing to do with strength, the “fittest” here, means the most adaptable, the one that “fits” the situation the best, not the one that spent the most time at the gym. And when it comes to food, fittest means being as omnivorous as possible.

In other words, humans are omnivorous by nature, there shouldn’t even be a debate about it, and how some people can deny their own nature when it comes to eating is beyond not only my comprehension, but is also insulting to our very distant ancestors who brought us where we are now thanks to them eating animals and plants! Not just one or the other.


And French cuisine acknowledges that.
French cuisine understands and respects human nature, and this is why it is one of the best in the world.

Actually have you noticed that vegetarians are a rarity in countries where cuisine is the best and where good food is a big part of the culture and everyday life?
I know very little French vegetarians, and all of them are not exactly right in their head (I don’t blame nor mock them, you don’t blame nor mock sick people, but for most of them being a vegetarian is more an eating disorder than anything else). I don’t know any Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese vegetarians, and incidentally, they happen to also have some of the best cuisines in the world.

Worst national cuisines? Definitely the Anglo-countries. Biggest percentages of vegetarians? Anglos? Coincidence? I think not.

That was the first reason why you should leave this vegetarian nonsense aside when you’re in France.

The second reason is even simpler, and is definitely not up for debate (because I assume I will receive a certain number of interesting comments about that first part).

You said you were going to stay with a host family.

Well, in this case, your situation cannot be simpler food-wise. You stay at somebody’s place; you eat what they cook for you. End of story.
Being picky when you’re a guest is simply seen as being extremely rude in France. It is one of the things that will instantly label you as a “stupid spoil brat,” and which will most likely make your hosts lose all respect for you, and even worse, it will reflect on your whole country.


So if you go stay with a French host family, my very first advice will be: you eat your steak and snails and you shut up or don’t bother going at all.


pixel I’m a vegetarian, will I be a pain in everybody’s ass in France?

24 Responses to “I’m a vegetarian, will I be a pain in everybody’s ass in France?”

  1. One of my best friends in France is vegetarian. He’s got mood swings when it comes to eggs and milk (difficult to bake without those) but he’s pretty much a vegetarian most of the time. The solution he found to being the oddball when we gather to eat? He cooks darn good food! Of course we’ll serve stinky cheese, charcuterie and other animal derived food at the table, but he’s taking care of his own food preference and shares his recipe with us. It’s win-win! When a good vegetarian recipe is worth trying he’s delighted to enlighten us and we still indulge with our favorite meaty treats. And that’s the whole point about food, in France or anywhere: it’s about sharing.

    • Yes and just to make sure that nobody gets me wrong, there are indeed very good vegetarian recipes (as well as there are very good carnivorous recipes: I like my magret alone in its plate). It’s sticking to just one or the other that I don’t approve of. :-)
      Also, I admit that I have a higher tolerance for vegetarians that accept that they’re weirdos that adapt themselves to normal people and don’t ask for normal people to adapt to them. Your friend seems to be the good kind. (I have a secret to share, I have a few vegetarian friends… they’re not French… one gives up on being a vegetarian when he visits France to not miss on the good food… smart guy.)

  2. I’m latinamerican trying to spend a good time in France, and food is FABULOUS!! you don’t want to miss it, trust me!
    So Lilliem, even if you manage your host family to get you vegetarian food, don’t go around saying things like they shouldn’t rabbit because they’re cute animals. That’s a pain in the ass!

    • Eli, when vegetarians to make me feel guilty or something with their “you’re eating little cute animals” diatribes, I usually respond by giving as many graphic details as I can about eating those cute little bunnies (in France, you cook them with the head still on by the way). :-)

  3. Ahem, Mexico got honoured too. We didn’t hear much about that in France did we?


    If I had to choose one single thing that I love above all else about France, well, French people - they never pick their noses up at what’s being served. At ALL. Ever. If I had to eat tongue at my mother in laws so will you and you will say thank you and mean it. Lots of fun!

    Great post, as ever.

    • Well, I thought about mentioning all of the almost 300 other “intangible cultural heritages of humanity” from the UNESCO, but I thought it would be a little counterproductive, wouldn’t it? :-)

      So sure, this one is about food too. However -and I could be wrong- it is my understanding that this one covers “traditional cuisine” from one State of Mexico. Not exactly the same thing as the one for French, as it honors the whole cultural thing that is “eating in France”, the food, the dishes, all of them, traditional and non-traditional, but also the act of getting together and share a meal, etc.

  4. I can’t say I’m a vegetarian (I love food too much for that) even if most time, I eat quite like one. Still, from time to time, I get my share of meat and fish etc, and they’re fabulous. Nonetheless, for someone considering transitioning between the two, a stomach that hasn’t been processing meat protein for a while may find themselves with upset tummy for a few days. Each to his/her own ;)
    Lil recently posted..Day 87- Opulent domeMy ComLuv Profile

    • See, it’s kinda my problem with America these days. The whole “to each his own” taking over everything, and that makes people confusing facts and opinions more and more to the point that many people have a perception of reality totally distorted by their ideologies.
      Go tell gravity you don’t believe in it while falling from a cliff, if you see what I mean. :-)

      • well i think those ideologies-driven motivation don’t just involve food - watch the daily show with jon stewart any day and he’ll expose a whole bunch of craziness in US to a whole new level. quite scary really.

        i do say, folks there who try to defend vegetarianism that go on and on about how environmentally damaging etc raising meat is, they should look at the farming policies in US. all the intensive industrial corn growing, meat rearing etc are damaging because of the uncontrolled scale of monogenous farming at each site. if they mimic how nature does it best - i.e. good farming practice with a variety of products grown (because let’s face it, everything is interconnected) then animal farming is actually important to maintain soil health and balanced ecosystem.

        i highly recommend reading “the omnivore’s dilemma” - plenty of food for thought there.
        Lil recently posted..Day 87- Opulent domeMy ComLuv Profile

        • Oh don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean only with food, but pretty much with everything. Many Americans seem so disconnected with reality these days that I really fear for your country, not even Colbert and Stewart will be able to save it (even though they seem to be the only two public figures addressing the issue).

          And agree with you about vegetarians that are for environmentalist reasons. They start with a good point, except that if there were really following through, they should just stop eating. Crops are damaging the environment as much if not more than cattle these days (hence my mention of Monsanto in my post)

  5. Liking your new blog and the layout!

    I agree with you to a certain point, about respecting food and being omnivorous. I used to be a vegetarian for a while, but then I felt a bit ridiculous, and stopped. Also, even in my culture it is considered disrespectful to not eat what is provided to you. I felt like I was disrespecting my mum by not eating the food she cooked for me.

    But there are also some places, like India, which has a long culinary history too, and lovely dishes, but there are many people who are vegetarian due to religion.

    But then I guess you could say that most of the most famous & delicious Indian dishes are given to us by a mixture of Persian/Turkish/Mughal/etc cultures, which are more recent things (comparatively) than the ancient vedic values, etc….hmnn….
    Flippy Doodle recently posted..Flower GirlMy ComLuv Profile

    • Thanks for liking the new layout.
      Yes, I thought about talking about India, but that would have led us to talk about the issue of food and religion and I was afraid to stray too far from the original topic. :-)

      Also, I’m not that knowledgeable about Indian food, the only one I have ever had was in Paris, I didn’t find it that great (while I always hear a lot of people raving about it), not bad either, don’t get me wrong, and it had meat in it anyway… :-)

      • Oh I think you will like Indian food, but it must be eaten from authentic sources - which is pretty much homemade.

        I agree with you - hotel cooked Indian food is not that great. A lot of Westerners tend to really like it, and it tastes good, but not as good as home cooked food, and they have never tasted home cooked Indian food.

        In hotels they just add a ton of chili, thinking that Indian food should be very hot and spicy. Well, spicy doesn’t equal chili. Spicy means cooking food slowly in a variety of rich flavours and cooking it till it’s tender and the aroma of the spices is embedded in the food. Cooking slowly in earthen pots or copper utensils is also the best way to cook for Indian food.

        Ok, sorry for going on for so long, I just wanted to put that somewhere.

        P.S. that mustache in the blog header is so cute!

        • Why hotel?
          I was mentioning Indian food in Paris, not in hotels. But I guess that doesn’t change the point, as none is homemade anyway.

          Thanks for the mustache, I didn’t do the new logo, my friend did, I’ll tell him. :-)

          • Frenchman, the word “hotel” is widely used in Indian English to designate what is referred to in the US, UK and most (if not all) other English-speaking countries as a “restaurant”.

          • Thanks Scott,
            I had no idea.

  6. I am vegetarian and travel to France 2 or 3 times a year and have been for 20 years. I do get a lot of questions and concern about how do I stay healthy, but I find most are very accommodating and have no big problem with it. I even worked on a goat farm in southern Burgundy and had no problem at all. Meat is something I just won’t eat. I don’t have to. There are so many options on a typical French dinner table, vegetables, cheese, omelettes, whatever. So many of my friends come here from France and refuse to eat a lot of things we typically eat here in the US, and that’s cool. I’d rather make my guests happy instead of saying this is food. This is reality. Get used to it.

    • You seem to have a good attitude about it (it’s really vegetarians that are all preachy and need special dishes just for them and things like those that annoy me).
      Yet, shame on your friends for not trying new things when they’re abroad.

  7. So what if eating meat makes you ill ?

    • Well, if somebody has a medical condition that prevents them from processing meat, this is a different issue.
      I’m talking people that are vegetarians by choice, those who think they’re doing something for the environment this way, or those who don’t want to eat those little fuzzy creatures because they’re so cute (so if they’re ugly, is it ok to eat them?)

  8. I agree, generally speaking, with your ideas about the obvious correlation between the absence of taste and culture about food in a country and the number of vegs . Germany ans Scandinavian countries follow the Anglos in that point .
    But it’s not an absolute truth . I wanted to write about India, whose cuisine is highly refined and cultured, and where you meet many vegetarians , not only for religious reasons but also because of their unversal medicine, ayurvedic . They keep their good health from what they eat, and it works for a veg if there’s a high knowledge underneath . Of course this kind of real millenary knowledge isn’t found in western childish groups . But some people already spoke of India.
    In my other travels, I had the surprise of discovering a cuisine whose written recipes were as elaborated and refined as French ones, and heavilly vegetarian based ( maybe because of money ) . I mean Bahianese cuisine . Not Brazilian, specifically Bahianese . I was amazed when I discovered that, and few people seem to have heard about it . Here again you find the combination of a real taste and culture with vegetarianism .
    This leads me to the second point : weirdos . I agree most of the time vegs piss me off because of their attitude, not because of their choice . But I have a friend who, from a humanity point of view, is one of the most admirable person I ever heard about, who is a fabulous cook, and who is vegetarian, for her and her kids . ( She’s a splendid cook for meat too when she wants it ) . Of course she’s not intolerant at all, and nobody can be further from weirdo than her .
    It’s like for everything : the best ones are the more tolerant ones .

    • You’re right, Bahianese cuisine is unknown, I had never heard about it.
      Concerning “vegetarianism for financial reasons” yes, it exists in many regions, I also didn’t want to get into it here to stick on topic as much as possible.

      • In my country lots of people are poor but nobody, and I mean NOBODY , would ever give up eating meat. When a Romanian hears of “vegetarianism” he just needs time to adjust to the concept. Time like… for ever. In our culture it is very hard to understand how a healthy man would not eat meat. Women, well, they can pretend just about anything! :)

        • Yeah for Romanians…
          Although I assume that by “poor” Phildange meant really poor, like the poorest Romanian is still rich compared to those regions in the world.

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