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Five things they don’t tell you about entertaining in France

Is it ok to top up your own glass? Is it acceptable to serve store-bought dishes? We have some answers for you

Even the simplest meal usually has at least three courses Pic: Tijana Moraca / Shutterstock

1. Les invitations

Hosts often describe their intended menu as they issue invitations so that guests know what they are in for. This is especially true if the cook is British. 

Attitudes are changing, but many French people still regard foreign cuisine as deeply suspect – on ne sait jamais!

Read more: Are your taste buds turning French? You share your thoughts

2. La cuisine

It is perfectly respectable to produce beautiful items bought from expensive traiteurs, boulangeries and patisseries, particularly when it comes to fancy cakes. 

Some places are so well reputed that hosts even brag about buying from them.

3. Le vin

Guests might bring decent wine or even champagne – but hosts are not necessarily expected to open it. 

The wine is a thank you gift rather than a contribution to the meal. 

If the host has already planned special wine pairings with the menu, it is normal to carry on with the plan. Tchin!

Read more: Pairing wines with good food

4. Le service

French guests don’t help themselves, politely waiting for the host to top up glasses and pass round the nuts. 

The more posh and formal the affair, the less food and the less wine will be consumed, so the host needs to keep an eye out for empty plates and glasses. Je vous en prie!

Read more: When to use the simple nicety 'bon appétit'

5. Les plats

Even the simplest meal usually has at least three courses but this can very easily increase to six, counting decent nibbles with the apéros, a starter, a main course, a salad, cheese, and dessert. 

And, of course, the bread will stay on the table right until dessert. C’était très copieux!  

What would you add to the list?

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