Tourists Taking A Trip To France Need To Forget About This Common Food Myth

There's no denying it: Cuisine and culture go together. Having authentic restaurant experiences while traveling is one of the best and most fun ways to get to know the place you're visiting, after all. However, when it comes to France — a classic destination for food lovers — the food has a reputation for being expensive. If you're traveling on a budget, you might be anxious about where you'll be able to eat while visiting France. But is French food really more expensive?


In an exclusive interview, Islands spoke with French food expert Laura Calder to get to the bottom of this common food myth. Calder is well-known for her award-winning TV series "French Food at Home" and is the author of several books, including four cookbooks focused on French cuisine, so if anyone knows if French food really is more expensive, it's her. Fortunately, according to Calder, there's no reason to worry that eating in France will blow your budget more than any other country on your itinerary.

"Traditionally, in North America and elsewhere, the kind of French restaurants that imported the food culture of France were high end, and therefore expensive compared to, say, your local diner or pub," Calder explained. "But as we all know, France has restaurants at every level, from three-star houses right down to humble bistros."


Choosing budget-friendly dining options in France

There are a lot of myths about visiting France that are not rooted in reality, and luckily, it seems the idea that the only food available in the country is pricey and high-end is one of them. According to Laura Calder, depending on your choices, delicious food might not have to break the bank — and you have more choices than ever. "It used to be that the choice was mainly between traditional bistro food and three-star food," she shared. "Now, you still have that, but you also have a lot of creative young chefs opening simple places at reasonable prices and doing very spontaneous, seasonal cooking that's full of surprises and delights."


There are plenty of ways to save money while still having exciting, authentic dining experiences in France. You may already know to avoid touristy areas in favor of alternatives like Lyon, the food capital of France, but Calder also suggests looking for lunch specials (or formule du jour) and checking out online restaurant guides for recommendations and prices in the area you'll be visiting. Surprisingly, you might even save money eating in France. "I've just come back from two weeks in Paris and my experience was that eating out was cheaper than it is at home," Calder explained. "Much better value for money."

Other French food myths you can ignore

Turns out, there are a lot of rumors flying around about French food. According to Laura Calder, one of the most commonly believed pieces of misinformation is that all French food is complicated — a belief that likely also stems from the perception of all French cuisine as high-end. She explained, "There are as many home cooks in France as anywhere, and they are just as strapped for time and money as anyone else ... That said, there is a tradition of fine dining, as well, so you also can have access to the cooking of highly skilled chefs, but that's in restaurants of a certain calibre."


Another myth that Calder dispelled for us is the idea that French food is "heavy and laden with fat" compared to meals from other countries. "Everyone I know who has moved to France or spent significant time there has lost weight, myself included," she explained. If you're hoping to eat healthy while you're traveling, don't be concerned. There will be plenty of options for you if you know where to look. Calder particularly recommends checking out French markets to try the fresh produce.