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  By Linda Byard  

People who live in English speaking countries encounter many French words and expressions on restaurant menus and in cookbooks even when the food is not French.  This glossary will help you learn what you really want to eat!

AÏOLI: mayonnaise seasoned with garlic. This is a specialty of Provence.
À LA CARTE: This term on a menu means that patrons will be paying for their choices on an individual basis as opposed to a “fixed price” meal. 
À LA MODE: (in the style of) In the US, “a la mode” means served with ice cream
AMANDE: almond.
ANDOUILLE: a kind of pork sausage.
APERITIF: an alcoholic drink served before a meal.
AUBERGINE: eggplant.
AU GRATIN:  (with gratings) In French, “au gratin” refers to anything that is grated and put on top of a dish, like breadcrumbs or cheese. In English, au gratin means "with cheese."
AU JUS: (with juice) Meat served “au jus” is meat served with the meat's natural juices.
AU NATUREL: natural or pure, unseasoned.       
BAVEUSE: refers to the consistency found at the centre of a perfectly cooked omelette, French style; deliciously moist but not quite runny, unctuous.
BABA AU RHUM: sponge cake soaked in rum syrup.
BAGUETTE:  classic long, thin loaf of bread.
BÂTARD: long, thin loaf of bread, larger than a baguette.
BÉARNAISE: a rich white tarragon-flavored sauce.  Other ingredients include  egg yolks, butter, shallots, white wine, vinegar; and other herbs.
BÉCHAMEL: a savory white sauce, made with butter, flour, and milk, usually flavored with onion, bay leaf, pepper, and nutmeg.
BEURRE: butter.
to cook food lightly in boiled water, a technique which makes the peeling of some fruits and vegetables very easy.

BLANC-MANGER: a sweetened milk pudding thickened with corn starch or gelatin and flavored, often with almond.
BON APPÉTIT: (good appetite) Enjoy your meal.
BONBON:  (good-good) a candy or sweet.
BORDELAISE: served with a brown sauce.  Ingredients may include red wine, onions or shallots, and bone marrow.
BOUILLABAISSE: popular Mediterranean fish soup, most closely identified with Marseille, ideally prepared with fresh local fish, cooked in a broth of water, olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, and saffron. Expensive shellfish may be added in restaurant versions, but this practice is considered inauthentic by some.
BOUILLON: stock or broth.
BRIOCHE: buttery, egg-enriched yeast bread.

CAFÉ: coffee, as well as a type of eating place where coffee is served.
CAFÉ AU LAIT: coffee with milk.
CAFÉ DÉCA OR DÉCAFÉINÉ: decaffeinated coffee.
CAFÉ EXPRESS: plain black espresso.
CAFÉ FAUX: decaffeinated coffee.
CAFÉ FILTRE: filtered American-style coffee (not available at all cafés).
CAFÉ GLACÉ: iced coffee.
CAFÉ NOIR: black coffee.
CANAPÉ: a small piece of bread or toast with a savory on top usually served as an hors d'oeuvre.
CANARD: duck.
CASSOULET: casserole of white beans, and meats such as sausage, duck, pork, lamb, mutton, and goose.
CERISE: cherry.
CHAMPIGNON: common mushroom.
CHANTERELLE: a pale orange-yellow mushroom.
CHATEAUBRIAND: thick filet steak, grilled and garnished with herbs.
CHÈVRE: goat but might also imply goat cheese.
CITRON: lemon.
COQ AU VIN: chicken cooked in wine.
COURGETTE: zucchini.
COUSCOUS: a hearty African dish of crushed wheat (originally millet) steamed over a broth, also contains vegetables, meats, hot sauce, and sometimes chickpeas and raisins.  Or couscous might refer to the granules from which this dish is made.
CRÈME BRÛLÉE: (burnt cream) a baked custard dessert topped with caramelized sugar crust.
CRÈME CARAMEL: flan; custard lined with caramel.
CRÈME DE CACAO: chocolate-flavored liqueur.
CRÈME DE MENTHE: mint-flavored liqueur.
CRÈME FRAÎCHE: Despite its literal meaning, “fresh crème,” crème fraîche is a slightly fermented, thickened cream, made with buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt.
CRÊPE: a thin sweet or savory pancake, sometimes wrapped around combinations of fruit or vegetables.
CRÊPES SUZETTE: hot crêpe dessert flamed with orange liqueur.
CROÛTONS: small cubes of toasted or fried bread often served as garnish in soup or salad.
CRUDITÉ: mixed raw vegetables served as hors d’ouevres.
CUISINE:  cookery as an art or food style.  In English, cuisine refers only to a particular type of food/cooking, for example, Italian cuisine,
DÉGUSTATION: (tasting) The French word simply refers to the act of tasting. In English "degustation" is often used to describe a tasting event, for example, wine or cheese.
DÉJEUNER: lunch.
DEMI-GLACE: meat stock which has been concentrated by evaporating some of the liquid.
DEMITASSE: (half cup) refers to a small cup of coffee.
DU JOUR: (of the day) something whose great popularity is probably short-lived.  On a menu, it means the choice of the day, for example soup du jour.

ENDIVE: chicory salad green.
ENTRÉE: (entrance) In the US, the entrée is the main course of a meal while in the UK, the entrée might be the starter, a smaller course.  
ESCARGOTS:  snails (as food).
ETOFFÉ: stuffed.

FILET MIGNON: A cut of beef taken from the center or towards the small end of a tenderloin. In france Filet Mignon is usually pork.
to cover food with a brandy or other liqueur, ignite, and bring to the table while still flaming. 
FLAN: sweet or savory tart. Also, a crustless, custard pie.
FLORENTINE: with spinach. Also, a kind of cookie (US) or biscuit (UK).
FONDANT: A sweet made of soft paste of flavored and colored sugar often used for icing cakes.
FONDUE: melted, any dish in which bits of food are dipped into a hot liquid for example a cheese sauce or melted chocolate.
FRAIS or FRAÎCHE: fresh or chilled.
FRAISE: strawberry.
FRAISE DES BOIS: wild strawberry.
FRAMBOISE: raspberry.
FRAPPÉ: a drink made with crushed ice and blended to a slushy consistency.
FRICASSÉE: ingredients braised in wine sauce or butter with cream added; currently denotes any mixture of ingredients cut up and stewed in a sauce.
FROMAGE: cheese.
FRUITS DE MER: seafood.

GANACHE: a classically rich mixture of chocolate and crème used as filling for cake or truffles, or as icing.
GÂTEAU: a large rich cake often with layers of cream or fruit.
GATEAU OPÉRA: classic almond sponge cake layered with chocolate butter cream and covered with a sheet of chocolate.
GLACE: ice cream.
GRUYÈRE: a firm pale cow’s milk cheese from the Gruyere area of Switzerland; in France, generic name for a number of hard, mild, cooked cheeses from the Jura, including Comté, Beaufort, and Emmental.

HAUTE CUISINE: (upper kitchen) a high class, fancy, and expensive manner of preparing food.
HOLLANDAISE: (from Holland) a sauce of butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice.
HORS-D'OEUVRE: An extra dish usually an appetizer (US) or starter (UK). 

JULIENNE: cut into slivers, usually vegetables or meat.

KIR: an aperitif made with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and most commonly dry white wine, but sometimes red wine.

LAIT: milk.
LEGUMES: vegetables.

MAÎTRE D’: (the master of) French speakers would say MAÎTRE D'HÔTEL since this is a more complete expression.
MARINADE: A mixture of wine, vinegar, or other acidic liquid along with oils, herbs, and spices  in which a food substance usually meat or fish is soaked for both seasoning and tenderizing.
MÉLANGE: a mixture.
MENTHE: mint.
MESCLUM or MESCLUN: a mixture of salad greens. 
MIREPOIX: mixture of sautéed, diced vegetables.
MISE EN PLACE: the area where ingredients and equipment are assembled and prepared before the actual cooking takes place.
MONT BLANC: rich classic pastry of baked meringue, chestnut purée, and whipped cream.
MORNAY: classic cream sauce flavored with cheese.
MOUSSE: light, airy mixture usually containing eggs and cream, either sweet or savory.

NEWBURG: a sauce usually prepared for lobster, crab, or shrimp which contains butter, cream, egg yolks, sherry, and seasonings.
NOUGAT: a candy made from egg white sweetened with honey or sugar and mixed with pieces of nuts and sometimes pieces of fruit.
NOUVELLE CUISINE: a new style of cooking which avoids traditional rich sauces in favor of fresh ingredients and attractive presentation.

PÂTÉ: a paste or spread made from seasoned minced meat or fish.
PÂTÉ DE FOIE GRAS: pâté made from goose liver.
PETIT DEJEUNER: breakfast.
PETIT-FOUR: (little oven) a small dessert especially cake.
PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE: (the one that resists) the main dish of a meal.
PIGNONS: pine nuts, edible seeds of the stone pine grown in southern Europe.
PILCHARD: name for sardines on the Atlantic coast.
PIQUANT(e): agreeably sharp or spicy tasting.
PLAT DU JOUR: (dish of the day) a dish served in a restaurant on a particular day but which is not part of the regular menu.
POISSON: fish.
POMME: apple.
POULET: chicken.
POURBOIRE: a gratuity or tip.
PRIX FIXE:  a meal consisting of several courses with one total price.
PROVENÇALE: in the style of Provence; food cooked in a sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and/or olive oil.
PURÉE: to reduce food by mashing and blending to a lump-free consistency.

RAGOÛT: seasoned dish of meat chunks stewed with vegetables.
RAMEQUIN: small individual casserole.
RATATOUILLE: a cooked dish of eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, peppers, fried and then stewed in olive oil, served hot or cold.
ROQUEFORT: a blue-veined, sheep’s milk cheese from Roquefort, a village in southwestern France.
ROUX: a cooked mixture of flour and melted fat used as a thickener in making sauces.

SARDINE: A young pilchard or other small fish, cured, preserved and packed for food.
SAUTÉ: to fry quickly with a small amount of fat over high heat.
SORBET: a frozen dessert made with fruit juice and beaten egg whites.
SOUPE DU JOUR: (soup of the day) the particular kind of soup offered on a day, for example: soupe a l’oignon (onion soup).

TABLE D'HÔTE: (the host table) a table for guests at a hotel to sit together; now usually refers to a fixed-price meal with a set menu of courses.
TAPENADE: a dish originating in Provence consisting of a blend of black olives, anchovies, capers, olive oil, and lemon juice, usually served as an hors d’oeuvre.
TARTE: a fruit pie or tart.
TOURNEDOS: A cut of beef taken midway from the tenderloin

VOL-AU-VENT: a very light pastry shell filled with meat or fish with sauce.


Many of the French words finding their way into the English Language originate in the kitchen but here are some words and phrases from other sources:-

AU FAIT- To be cognisant of.

AU COURANT- To be up to date with, as in "I listened to the BBC News so I am Au Courant with the election count".

BIBELOT - A small item of value, a trinket or jewel. Something collectable or treasured for personal reasons.

CONNOISSEUR - An aesthete, someone knowledgable enough to make value judgements in his field of art or specialist field.

COUP DE MAIN - Stroke of the hand, originally a French military term, meaning a direct attack using men and horse, but has come to mean a fast and overwhelming attack or maneuver but not always in a military sense.

CURETTAGE - Surgical scraping using a curette; a sharp, scoop like instrument. Used in surgical procedures to obtain samples or remove diseased or unwanted tissue.

DECOLLETAGE - Neckline or the exposed area of the breasts when wearing a low cut dress.

DE RIGEUR - As prescribed by the fashion police, suitably fashionable or modish

FLÂNEUR - Someone who saunters and lounges around, usually applied to a man who is unmotivated and directionless - from French flâner , to saunter, lounge.

FROIDER - A cooling of relations, a state of aloofness.

JOIE DE VIVRE - Joy of, or in life

L’ESPRIT DE L ’ESCALIER / ESPRIT D'ESCALIER - Staircase Wit - coming up with a clever reply when it is too late.

LONGUER - Describes a tedious, deadly boring passage in a book, lecture or piece of music.

LOUCHE - When used to describe a person, usually male, it would be describing a decadent, rakish person of questionable morals. Despite the mainly negative connotations there could be a hint of seedy glamour attached to the word.

MISE EN SCÉNE - Literally 'Put on Stage', but this varies from country to country and from cinema to the theatre. In its narrowest sense in the cinema it means everything that is in front of the camera at an instant in time. It encompasses design, the actors, their voices and sounds on stage. A sub set of the totality of the production.

NUANCE:- A shade of meaning, to be more 'nuanced is to have more depth, when referring to some written material or perhaps even an actor's performance. From the French word for a cloud.

REGIME - The people in power at any given time, government of the day. Note that Ancien Regime is a term referring to the period of rule immediately preceding the French Revolution. Regimen, meaning a diet or course, is a word that is sometimes confused with regime.

SOI-DISANT - Self- styled, pretended, a faker or pseud. Common examples these days are the suited barrow boys who populate the financial districts of modern cities.

SOIREE - An evening gathering, often there is a common interest i.e. a musical evening.

TRANCHE - French for slice or portion. Usually found in reference to shares or a payment of funds. e.g. the banks  received a  second tranche of quantitive easing...

VERNISSAGE - A special viewing of an exhibition of paintings. Originally it was a day set aside when the artist could 'touch up' and varnish his painting. Original meaning - varnishing

JEJEUNE -  Dull, simple and meagre. In Literature, dry and sterile.

Larousse French English Dictionary
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

Linda Byard

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