What is Escargot?

For those of us who aren’t very adventurous–or perhaps just overly squeamish about what we eat–it can be a good thing when cuisine from overseas bears a name pronounced in a foreign tongue. Although most of us already know what escargot is, this can especially be the case for those of us who don’t. Escargot is French for snail, and the dish is generally eaten cooked with a hint of lemon. It may bear the same name even for those varieties that are left raw.

The etymology of the word has a more literal translation, adding in the word “edible” to make escargot mean “edible snail.” The first use of the word seems rather new, historically speaking, and goes back only to about 1892. Even so, historians do know that escargot the dish was enjoyed in ancient civilizations. To the Romans, it was a rare, expensive food that only the wealthy could afford. But the human palate for snails goes even farther back than that. Archaeological evidence shows that snails were enjoyed in prehistoric times as well.

When you eat escargot, the type of species matters. Land snails can sometimes be altogether inedible. Some are even too small for mass consumption. Of the species that are edible, there are a number that simply aren’t desirable. After all, the taste of a creature’s flesh is important when you’re about to consume a dish often known as a delicacy. Some species are also a good source of protein.

Because the dish is so well known, it even gets its own unofficial American holiday–May 24 is National Escargot Day.

Escargot are often farmed because of their desirability, and these are usually sustained with ground cereals. Naturally, no one wants to eat a snail with full bowels, and so sellers will often forego feeding for a few days prior to sale. After that, the escargot is ready to be cooked and eaten!

Preparation of escargot varies depending on the region where you consume it, but the French variety of the dish is typically prepared with a generous helping of garlic butter, soup, or wine. These substances are used during cooking. The snail is removed from the shell, cooked in whichever other ingredient the chef decides to use, and then likely replaced in the shell. Usually, they are served by the dozen or half-dozen.

In the United States, you might not often have the chance to experience this dish. It is often highly recommended by those who have tried it, and you’re most likely to have the option as part of a cruise or resort stay, or at a fancy restaurant. If you do decide to indulge in this popular French cuisine, then you’ll enjoy a heft fifteen percent protein content in addition to just over two percent fat.

What is Roquefort Cheese?

Americans have a tendency to pasteurize absolutely everything, even when we don’t need to. This is the result of socially reinforced health and safety standards that are supposed to benefit everyone. For example, there are all types of bacteria both good and bad, and most of them won’t do us any harm. Pasteurization often destroys the kind of bacteria that make your gut healthy, and so a lot of the cheeses that are unpasteurized can be hard to find in America–or are at least absurdly priced.

Luckily, you can find some types of cheese everywhere based on popularity alone. Roquefort cheese is a pasteurized brand of cheese that originated in France. It is made from the milk of a  Lacaune sheep, and you can easily tell you have the right one by the obvious blue mold growing within the brick of cheese. It is also usually of the whiter variety, crumbles easily, and tastes tangy and moist. You might also detect the flavor of butyric acid which itself is a product of a certain type of fermentation–and although we won’t detail it in full here (nor would you want us to), it is found in and smells of human vomit. Yummy!

By law, only cheeses that are aged in a specific region of Southern France, the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, can be branded Roquefort. This variety in France is the king of all cheese, and it takes about four and a half liters of sheep milk to make only a kilogram of the final product.

Without the caves in which Roquefort is produced, there could be no Roquefort cheese. This is because the veins of mold inside each brick can only be found and manipulated from within these caves. It grows within the soil, and so only companies with access to these caves and the specific kind of mold can produce the cheese.

The cheese takes approximately five months to age, and is best enjoyed between the months of April and October.

Roquefort cheese isn’t only known for its distinctive taste. Prior to the discovery of penicillin, it was used as a medicine. Shepherds in the area would use the cheese as a salve, applying it directly to wounds. It was known to curb the chances of coming down with gangrene. Studies done on the medicinal properties have maintained unsurprising conclusions, based on this other usage. In 2012, the cheese was found to have anti-inflammatory properties, and another study a year later discovered that the proteins in Roquefort can stop the spread of Chlamydia.

In other words, if you want to say no to sexually transmitted infections, say “yes” to Roquefort cheese!

Famous French Actresses

French women are known for their elegant beauty, but they also possess superb emotional gravity and wit, and as such make not only a great attorney, but superb actresses. They are daringly gorgeous and ooze a sense of charm that is rarely found in any other nationality. French actresses have made a huge impact on modern cinema with their stunning looks and superlative acting talent. In the 60s it was blonde bombshells Catherine Deneuve and Brigette Bardot who captivated cinema audiences with their sultry looks and in the 80s it was Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche who were international stars. Today Audrey Tautou and Eva Green are among the biggest film stars in Hollywood and a new generation is emerging with as much grace and elegance as their forebears. Below are some of the most famous French actresses with details about their lives, acting careers, and films.

Marion Cotillard

Born to parents who were both actors it was natural for her to become an actress. Her acting career boasts acting roles in both English and French language films. In America, she acted in ‘Big Fish’ and in France she starred in ‘A Very Long Engagement’. She won an Academy Award for her superb rendition of the French singer Edith Piaf in ‘La Vie en Rose’ and received critical acclaim for her acting in ‘Rust and Bone’. In Hollywood she became highly sought after having acted in films such as Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ and Michael Mann’s ‘Public Enemies’. She also starred in two of Christopher Nolan’s films ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Inception’. Her performances in movies such as ‘Nine’, ‘A Good Year’, ‘The Immigrant’, and ‘Contagion’ has proven her ability to portray varied characters.

Charlotte Le Bon

This vivacious French-Canadian actress has received universal acclaim for her roles in films like ‘The Hundred-100 Foot Journey’, ‘The Walk’, ‘The Promise’, ‘Yves Saint Laurent’, and ‘Mood Indigo’. Starting off as a successful model she moved to Paris in 2011 and starred as Miss Météo in the talk show ‘Le Grand Journal’ on the small screen. Her first major role on the big screen was as Ophelia in the French comedy film ‘Astrrix and Obelix: God Save Britannia’. She continues to impress critics with her acting performances in movies such as ‘The Marchers, and ‘Big Bad Wolf’.

Audrey Tautou

This French actress is best known for her portrayal of the eccentric, shy waitress in the comedy ‘Amelie’ for which she won several accolades and awards. After attending acting classes at Cours Florent she landed a television movie production role in ‘Coeur de cible’. ‘Venus Beauty Institute’ was her feature film debut for which she was highly acclaimed. A daring actress that likes to experiment with different roles, she acted in the thriller ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. Tautou made her Hollywood debut starring with Tom Hanks in the film ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

Vanessa Paradis

Vanessa Paradis began her career in entertainment as a professional singer at the young age of 8. She was the face of Chanel for many years and has starred in numerous French films such as ‘Café de Flore’ and ‘Une chance sur deux’. Accolades for her acting performances include the Cesar Award and the Genie Award.

These are just a few of the many fabulous French actresses that have taken the movies by storm with their beauty and brilliant acting abilities.

Please check out the following list of the top 10 French movies – see if you can notice any of the actresses!

4 Common French Stereotypes (Not All Are False!)

France is often a place that winds up on many Americans’ “bucket list” or retirement to-do list. France is so far away, and yet we think we know it so well because it helped us in the Revolutionary War, and we kept the French from speaking German today.

While we have similar governmental systems and we often share food recipes back and forth and we have as many French restaurants here as France has American restaurants, the belief that we actually understand each other is not entirely true.

We Americans, at least, are often guilty of buying into various comedy spoofs about French culture (see: the Pink Panther movies) or we get caught up in the glamor of French celebrities, and especially some of our favorite French foods and what we see in commercials promoting such.

While there are a number of French people who have come to America, and some Americans who have moved to France, are we able to cobble together accurate depictions about each other’s society or people from plumbing into how each ex-patriate lives in their new homes? Clearly not.

It is time to challenge some of these stereotypes about French people once and for all. There is no excuse, in the age of Google, for we Americans to continue to be ignorant about the French. There should be a level of understanding, and allow us to contribute to your education by presenting you four common French stereotypes to inform you of the ones which are true and which are not.

  1. The French are all about wine and cheese.

This is true. The French have a lot of vineyards and wineries, and they are very many connoisseurs of the fermented grape. The French will drink wine at almost every meal, and you can be equally sure that a cheese of some kind will be somewhere on the table as well, if not on the plate – or on the baguette sandwich they enjoy eating. The French drink wine not as drunkards, but as a social beverage with meals; one glass at a time is most common. But cheese is everywhere – there are about 400 varieties of cheese in France!

  1. Baguettes are like an accessory.

Baguettes are a familiar staple in France, and it is pretty common to find French people walking around with baguettes in their hand, to eat while they walk.

  1. The French don’t care about hygiene.

You know, we Americans really need to get out of our old world history books. The French Revolution is over! This is so false it’s not funny. Yes, the French actually do bathe and shower, and France is known throughout the world as a perfume capital. Maybe it’s because of the belief that they don’t bathe, so they mask their B.O.? Eh, not so much.

  1. French men and women are real fashion plates.

You would think with fashion being so chic in France that this is true, but let’s just say that the French aren’t necessarily any different than me and women in the U.S. While many French women are beautiful and dress well, there are plenty of “average” women and everyone dress casually and don’t always dress to the nines every day. As for the men, the stereotype of berets and scarves is way false. While men do wear scarves at times, men tend to try to be trendy and fashionable just like women, so you won’t find berets in common use, and scarves are more for the weather and not for fashion. Sorry to disappoint you.

What To Know About The Cannes Film Festival

The French appreciate good film. France has been known as one of the hotbeds for cinema for years and years. And thanks to publicity and much of the common beliefs about French culture and the French people, the Cannes Film Festival has become the pre-eminent event for filmmakers to show their latest releases and create worldwide buzz about their new projects before they hit the theaters.

But Cannes is not the film festival – there are dozens of festivals all over the world in which these films can be shown, and actors and directors can participate in various interviews and roundtable sessions talking about their craft and their work on the latest and greatest films. However, Cannes has become the most well-known film festival in the world, and yet you might be surprised how little people might actually know about it.

Thanks to the publicity and the fact that the Festival is one of the predominant events in the early Academy Award and Golden Globe seasons, and many fall and winter “blockbuster” or star-studded films make their way to France, this Festival has become a bellwether for at least critical or box-office success for many films and stardom (or not) for the main actors or directors.

Now that the Cannes Festival had its most recent rendition earlier this spring, here we’ll present some of our favorite fun facts about the Cannes Film Festival – how many of these did you know?

  • The Cannes Film Festival lasts about 12 days.
  • The very first Festival, debuted Sept. 1, 1939 – the same day that Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The Festival closed the next day and did not return for seven years.
  • The Festival in May of this year was the 70th.
  • The top award is the Palme d’Or, first awarded in 1955 for the best film at the Festival.
  • In 1978, the Camera d’Or was first awarded, given for the best first film.
  • There are five categories of films at the Festival – In Competition, Out of Competition, Un Certain Regard (art films), Cinefondation (made by film students), and The Market (where films are bought and sold).
  • The very first full Festival opened in 1946.
  • The Festival moved from September to April, then to May in the 1950s.
  • The Festival didn’t have enough money to run in 1948 and 1950.
  • The 1968 Festival shut down halfway through due to unrest featuring students who were demonstrating and workers who were on strike.
  • The Festival developed a new rule in 2017 after two Netflix movies that were streaming-only were included in the competition category – the new rule was to force all competitive films to be released in French cinemas.

Horror Films At Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival is known for its surprisingly variety of genres. Even those films that don’t go on to win the Palme D’Or are often propelled to commercial and critical success after debuting at the festival. A number of scary movies have gained cult followings after first appearing at Cannes. Here are just a few of the best that you might want to go binge-watch right now!

If you’re a fan of older horror movies with a knack for the thrill ride, then look no further than the 1972 Alfred Hitchcock films (one of his last), Frenzy. Everyone likes a good murder mystery, but not all can be so playful and comical as the cult classic, Clue. Frenzy follows a man who was accused of a string of crimes he did not commit, while the real “necktie” killer was still on the loose.

Most horror fans are in love with The Evil Dead. If you love horror movies, then this is one you can’t overlook. This is especially true if you want to get into Ash vs Evil Dead, a 2015 TV show currently about to embark on its third season. Both the movie and its sequels were directed by Sam Raimi, and are a whole lot of fun–even if they’re not the scariest viewing experiences of your life.

The 2002 film Irréversible is noteworthy for a number of reasons, but will leave you literally awestruck because of graphic violence and rape. Although it has been criticized for these reasons, seasoned veterans of the horror genre probably won’t mind the strong content–even though it will certainly be a jarring experience all the same. If you love the genre, then this isn’t a film you should let pass you by.

Inside is a 2007 French film that doesn’t shy away from blood and gore, and it will leave you seriously creeped out. A word to the wise: do not watch this movie if you are, or might become, pregnant. It isn’t difficult to imagine that a lot of people probably had nightmares for a long time after this movie was released. You’ll never look at a pair of scissors the same way. Even so, this film comes strongly recommended.

If you’re in the mood for something a little bit more ridiculous than the typical horror fare, then look no further than Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, a 2010 showing. It’s about a tire that has the ability to think, psychic connections, and likes to kill.

You can’t really escape cannibalism if you’re a fan of the horror genre. Scary movies tend to fall back upon subject matter that not only scares us, but also disgusts us. We Are What We Are is a 2013 film about a family that enjoys the taste of flesh. The movie also explores certain cultural aspects of religion that might not make sense to everyone.

It Follows was a 2014 film not everyone could get into, but it was fun for what it was. Although it didn’t mark the most cleverly crafted screenplay in the genre, it did take a noticeable glance to what worked well in the past while working its way into the present. The terror in this film was without body or form to everyone but those marked, and it found its victims after they had sex. Naturally, the movie “follows” a bunch of teenage kids as they try to avoid getting slaughtered by the unfortunate curse.

Winners Of The Palme d’Or

The highest honor one can receive for a submission to the Cannes Film Festival is the Palme d’Or, or “Golden Palm” in English. This has been the highest award given at the festival since 1974 when it replaced the Grand Prix du Festival, which itself had replaced the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film in 1964. Because the festival in one form or another dates back to 1939, many of us wouldn’t recognize a number of films that won. Naturally, a film’s popularity is directly linked to the country where it was produced. Here are just a few of the winners of the Palme d’Or.

In 1976, the film Taxi Driver won the award. It was directed by Martin Scorsese, while an obviously young Robert De Niro played one of the leading roles. The movie was heralded as an instant hit by critics, who found its relevance to the time period superbly compelling. It was extremely psychological and followed a taxi driver who had been honorably discharged following the Vietnam War. Some herald the movie as the best of all time.

Pulp Fiction won the award in 1994. Directed and co-written by the now famous Quentin Tarantino, it is known for its convoluted plot and lengthy dialog-heavy scenes that touch on a hefty number of dark and taboo subjects. Although it makes the list as one of the best movies for these reasons and more, there are others who hate it for the same reasons others love it. Its all-star cast didn’t hurt the showing, but that wasn’t what propelled it to the top.

In 2002, the French film The Pianist took the award home (or kept it there, rather). This foreign film won a number of Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actor. The story begins in September of 1939 when a Warsaw radio station is bombed by the Germans during the Poland blitzkrieg. A Jewish pianist who was present at the time is forced on the run, and the story takes off from there. It was well-praised at the time of release because of its representation of the era, acting, and music.

In 2009, The White Ribbon won, and then in 2012 Amour won. They were both directed by the Austrian Michael Haneke, now 75 years of age. He is the only Austrian director to have won the award twice, and one of only a handful to do it since the birth of the festival. He has directed and written a number of movies that have won countless awards, and many of his films follow the outcasts in society or those who most would sooner forget. In telling their stories he often relates to viewers on a universal level.

The Danish film Dancer in the Dark won in 2000, and was directed by Lars von Trier. The movie follows Björk (who also composed the majority of the film’s music), a struggling immigrant with an eye condition whose son has the same. Although the film was primarily Danish, it was more of a collaboration between a number of other countries including France, Germany, Iceland, the United States, and others.

Famous French Breads

Not everyone is into exotic foreign cuisine, but if you are then you should know your famous French breads, because they account for some of the best in the world. They can’t be easily replicated at home unless you really know your stuff, and the goods from the store won’t do French bread justice either. In order to taste the real thing, you have to do it from inside France where people have been baking for centuries. If you ever travel there, then these are some of the first French breads you should sample.

Something you’ll definitely find in your local market in one form or another, a baguette is essentially a long, thin loaf of bread with a crispy crust. Not surprisingly, you’ll find that they are most often used in the construction of tasty sandwiches or French bread pizzas  (and with some legalities in the city of New York, it’s not really pizza) when split down the middle. As with all things French, they go great with a side of cheese and a glass of red wine. At breakfast time, it’s not unusual to find a baguette on your plate alongside butter or jam. The French dunk them in coffee!

Similar to the baguette is the ficelle, a word which means “string” in French. It’s thinner than the traditional baguette.

If you’ve ever tried to make a soup bowl (or enjoyed one at a restaurant), then you may have used boule to do it. It’s circular and dome-shaped, and the word “boule” actually means “ball” in French. Boule is mostly about the shape, and so it can be baked using any kind of flour and multiple kinds of yeast. If you’ve had boule in the states, then you’ve probably had it in sourdough form.

The faluche comes from Northern France and also Belgium, and is a dense white bread that might look barely cooked at first glance because of its pale almost-brown color. It looks similar to boule, but is flatter when compared side by side. The French most often incorporate it into their breakfast alongside butter, jam, cream cheese, or salmon. It’s also a popular choice when it comes time for dessert, when people tend to pair it with butter and brown sugar. As always, it goes well with an assortment of French cheeses and wine.

Pain de campagne is known as French sourdough because of the way it is baked. Although some breads of this type are cooked in differently-shaped pans, it’s usually fairly round when cooked normally. It can be made with either natural leavening or yeast, and ingredients include white flour, whole wheat flour, and sometimes rye flour. Pain de campagne was traditionally used to feed a family for as long as possible, and so the size of a loaf could be enormous. This old French favorite eventually became less popular as the baguette became easier to prepare commercially.

No matter where you are in France, be sure to try your fair share of famous French breads before you head home!

Debunking French Stereotypes

It’s hard to avoid. Whenever you have a group of people or minority that don’t quite fit in with the greater majority, you’ll inevitably find that the bigger group stereotypes the smaller group. Although they can sometimes be “good” stereotypes, they are mostly a source of negativity shared among individuals and groups. Sometimes, they are based on a kernel of truth. Often, they are not. So what kind of people do we think of when we start to consider the ways of the French? Well, the answers aren’t always easy to swallow, because most stereotypes are based on misunderstandings between different cultures. Here are just a few.

If you’ve ever traveled to France, then there’s a decent chance you found the service in the hospitality industry lacking compared to our own. We find it minimalist, and we believe their waiters are rude. As Americans, the name says it all: we believe when we dine out, the guys and girls who bring us our meals are to serve our every whim and need.

In France, that’s just not how it is. They’re not going to come ask how your meal is or if you need anything else in order to butter you up for a bigger tip. In France, it’s your job to flag them down and let them know exactly what you need. Tough luck if that’s not the way you like it. The French are professional, and that’s all you really need when dining out. To us, the wait staff in America is made up of a bunch of kids. To them, the wait staff is worthy of respect. They’re more adult. Therein lies the real difference.

You might think the French are all about fashion, and so it shouldn’t surprise you that a lot of Americans returning from overseas study come back with a new style of dress. But you know what? Every country has their own unique style. We simply romanticize theirs on the one hand or sometimes play it up as snobbish on the other. Not everyone adopts the same mode of dress or accessories, and not everyone smokes. Europeans, in general, treat sexuality and gender identity much differently than we do in the U.S., and that might be part of the reason why we see the French as much more likely to adopt certain dressing habits.

We often exaggerate the way in which the French speak aloud when they use certain colloquialisms. When someone says “ooh la la” in France, it’s usually because they’re genuinely surprised or impressed with something. When we say it while mocking them, we do it because we’re turned on or in a raucous mood. That’s not how it is overseas.

All cultures embody certain stereotypes, and whether or not we perpetuate those stereotypes is completely up to us. Unfortunately, most of us base perception on first impressions, and that means one thing: stereotypes will live on.

Who is Worse: Californian or French Drivers?

Every single city, state, and country in the world claims they have the worst drivers. Any one talking about the situation will offer a number of anecdotes about terrible driving actions they’ve seen. However, the plural of anecdote is not data, and when the data was inspected there were two places that stood out.

Namely, France and California. These two places have been singled out by science as the homes of the worst drivers. Which begs the question, who drives the worst? People from France or people from California?

California Driving Habits

Bad driving in California is prevalent, but it’s easy to look at the numbers and think otherwise. A study done by a San Diego based law agency found that California didn’t rank the absolute worst in any particular safety category. However, when the numbers were crunched to consider each of those factors together, it was found that cities such as San Francisco had some of the worst drivers in the world.

The major problem is a lack of concern for pedestrians and right of way.

Bad Driving In France

The country of France has its own problems. A full 26% of French drivers admit to having driven while drunk. As if that wasn’t bad enough, only 77% of French drivers said they thought it was a problem at all.

So it’s hard to say whether California or France are the worst. They both have their unique problems, and those problems certainly add up to terrible driving. Yet criminal defense lawyers like Ron Herman know it’s hard to say if it’s worse to have a problem with drunk driving or if it’s worse to ignore pedestrians.

Either way, both places are well known for drivers who seem to be unaware that they need to signal lane changes, leave at least one car length between them and the car in front of them, or even come to a full stop at stop signs and red lights. So in the grand scheme of things, avoiding the road in both places is probably a good idea.

For some funny driving videos, please watch the video embedded below: