do's and don'ts of French dining

One silver lining of sheltering in place has been the opportunity to participate in Zoom meetings organized by many of my travel partners. Intended to familiarize travel advisors with their offerings, I have especially enjoyed the weekly "tours" given by one of my favorite guides, Antoinette Azzurro. She is the owner of the Parisian tour company Paris Personalized. With her small team of highly knowledgeable guides, you'll see places you never knew existed, enjoy access to experiences unknown to the general public, and glean insights that will transform your time in Paris into something truly formidable!

Today's tour centered on French cuisine. While we in the US depend on the FDA to regulate food standards, the French maintain hundreds of unique food associations. Each association has the mission of maintaining the high standards and traditions of one particular food product. For instance, each variety of cheese and each type of bread has its own association. When you shop for meat at the boucherie, the farm where it was raised and the date (and animal's age) when butchered will be posted.

In the course of Antoinette's gourmet tours, you'll see and taste why the quality of French food is so high ...  and learn some of the intricacies of dining etiquette. She shared some of the do's and don'ts of French dining etiquette which I reproduce here to pique your interest...

Don’t start eating before the person who has cooked the meal sits down. 
Don’t start drinking before everyone has a full glass in front of them (and before someone has had the chance to make a toast). 
Don’t keep your hands under the table.
Don’t serve yourself, if you are a man, before offering the food to the woman sitting next to you.
Don’t pour your own wine if you are a woman and there are men at the table. When only two women are dining, the younger pours for the older woman (or the waiter does it). 
Don’t spread pâté or cheese on a big piece of bread as if making a sandwich. Instead, spread the pâté or cheese on a small bit of bread torn from the larger piece.
Don’t touch the food, in particular cheese, with your fingers. The only foods eaten with fingers are asparagus and orelet birds (pictured above).
Don’t put your elbows on the table and rest your face in your hands. 
Don’t ask ou sont les toilettes? (where is the restroom) while at the table.
Do rest your knife and fork on the plate between bites. Don't rest them on both the plate and table.
Do know how to peel a peach, orange, or a shrimp with your fork and knife.

Bon appétit. Hopefully we can all get back to Paris sooner rather than later. I can't wait!

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