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No Veggies in France

Just got back from Paris, and a few day trips outside Paris (eg Colmar), and was really surprised that most of the restaurants we ate at (and we ate at a variety of places) did not serve veggies with the meals. Most of the times it was just potatoes that was served with the meal. This was surprising and disheartening. The French don’t eat vegetables?

Posted by
5428 posts

Were the vegetables not an extra side dish that needed to be ordered separately?

Posted by
7092 posts

Alsace is especially veggie-poor if you eat traditional food. Otherwise, it really depends on what you order and what type of restaurants you eat at. Basic sides are carbs, but vegetables are usually available too.

Posted by
867 posts

I remember wonderful salads and French onion soup for lunch and the Alsatian Pizza was full of onions.

Posted by
960 posts

Anyone for haricots vert? I know I've had that as a side offering. And, as others have said, salads.

Posted by
4012 posts

Just because specific vegetables were not included with the dishes you ordered, it doesn’t mean that vegetable sides or mains weren’t on the menus separately.

Posted by
9436 posts

This is an interesting 1st post, and not my experience at all.

Appx 9 years in France eating out in restaurants all over France they all offered vegetables. Salads are pretty much always on the menu. I especially love French puréed vegetable soup which is often on menus.

Where were you eating??

A large percentage of restaurants in the SF Bay Area do not include vegetables with the entrée, you have to order separately. You can do that in France too.

Posted by
604 posts

Asparagus season is right now in France so would have thought they were on the menu in many spots.

Posted by
2151 posts

In France potatoes are indeed considered just another vegetable (and not just in France). In Italy it is also common that you order sides separately. But what is also very common is to have a salad first, and then your main.

Posted by
7663 posts

Thanks for the post. We’re heading to Alsace in July, but staying in apartments in a small town and in Strasbourg. I’m looking forward to getting veggies at an outdoor market and/or supermarket. Having fondue, too, but that’s not exactly heavy on vegetables. Stodgier dishes in restaurants will need a strategy to get a more varied, balanced meal.

As for France as a whole, we’ll be in Nice before Alsace. Vegetables are prominently featured there (ever had Petits Farci?), cooked and fresh. There are a lot of vegetable dishes in France that also come with a heavy sauce, so it not all just steamed broccoli or a big salad.

Posted by
533 posts

I wish I could attach the picture I took at the amazing Rouen produce/farmer's market. The vegetables were unbelievable. Gorgeous!

After France we went to Belgium. I've never seen so many gorgeous people with a diet of waffles, chocolate, frites and beer. And sometimes cigarettes.

Posted by
386 posts

We have been on tours in Italy, Croatia, Peru and other places where the guides basically told us that fruits and veggies are what they eat at home, but not when they go out. Eating out, they spend money on the main - usually meat dish - and not on the sides.

Posted by
550 posts

This week on Spanish TV they had an interview with Julie Andrieu whose show Les carnets de Julie is popular here. One thing she said she liked about Spanish cuisine is the prominence of vegetables, which she said they do not have in France. As mentioned by others, there are vegetables, and you can get vegetables, but they are kind of just in the background.

Or it might just be me, as I may be a bit sensitive to the topic, when I go to Versailles, I like to visit the Potager du Roi first.

Posted by
10371 posts

Great question. Indeed in a restaurant, you could get that impression. Back in the day, France had the highest per person consumption of fruits and vegetables in all of Europe thanks to great soil, climate and tradition. There’s a huge repertoire of vegetable, beans, and lentille recipes all over France. Vegetables are a large component of recipes with stewed meats. Even in Alsace, where German cooking meets French, basic choucroute is a vegetable made of fermented cabbage.

This is my experience in restaurants and in the family going back 50 years: both at home and in restaurants, raw vegetables seasoned with vinaigrette was a standard first course. Fruit was dessert. Salad showed up between the courses. So, a full meal at home goes like this: raw vegie starter (or charcuterie), main with a vegie, green salad to clear the palate, cheese, fruit.

Then people got richer, processed food arrived, and diet started to change. In restaurants, salad loaded with goat cheese or puff pastry dodads or other fancy stuff started being first courses, and desserts were changed to mousses, or crème this and that, or the crowning glory of modern dessert, the café gourmand. And now, the young ones graze and eat those nitrate-laden and cholesterol charcuterie and cheese plates. Note that people watching their waists skip dessert and often the first course. So yes, what you observed in restaurants is correct but not necessarily how people eat every day at home.

Posted by
2017 posts

In almost every restaurant in France, a salad is usually a starter. I am truly shocked if any restaurant didn't have this on the menu.

Posted by
115 posts

I agree that hot vegetables are a bit of a rarity in a lot of France and even more in Alsace, Germany, and that part of the world.

We visit regularly and it is the one thing I don't enjoy, as I love vegetables and am not a great salad fan, especially in the winter, which is when we usually travel.

You can certainly order vegetables as a side, such as haricots verts, but they rarely come standard as they do in Australia. There is also generally a limited selection on offer.

I also don't like pickled things so sauerkraut isn't on my menu either.

We are spending three weeks in Switzerland later this year and I am expecting that it will be like Germany with lots of salad but not much in the way of peas, carrots, cauliflower and so on like I am used to.

Posted by
7728 posts

This topic comes up, not only for France, but Spain, Germany, sometimes Italy, in fact many countries. The answer is usually, of course these countries have vegetables, just not in the way many would like served, and if you include many cooked vegetables in your diet, it is hard to consistently eat out in restaurants on a daily basis and be satisfied. (For context, my wife does not eat meat, will eat some fish, and likes to eat lots of healthy cooked vegetables)

Yes, there are salads, but many places serve them almost as a meal themselves, large, but often with, tuna, eggs, and meats, depending on the style of salad. Soups can be OK, but again, in Germany and Spain, you can almost be assured of a bit of Speck or Jamon in there. Spain had some decent looking vegetable offerings, but again, had to watch for bits of Jamon, or they were as often breaded and fried. Asparagus season is promising, but you likely need to ask for the Hollandaise sauce on the side. Same with other veggies; sauces, cheese, butter or oil, all seem to be a constant. Yes, we do look over the entire menu, we even ask what they might be able to prepare. Sometimes she is able to get a side of veggies, sometimes things get lost in translation. Some of it of course is just like eating out at home, what people want when they go out is not always the healthier options, so restaurants cater to the indulgences, not the basic needs.

Like the OP, for my wife, who would like to see simple sauteed, steamed, grilled, or other simply prepared veggies offered as a side or with a main; it is more miss than hit. We often combine eating in traditional style restaurants, with seeking out modern vegetarian and healthier venues, but several weeks of restaurant meals can be trying, anywhere, for those that eat lots of veggies.