French cuisine is commonly regarded as being among the best in the world, and its multitude of extraordinary restaurants, famous chefs, and delectable dishes only reaffirms this. However, for vegetarians, this romanticized notion is not always the reality. In fact, eating vegetarian in Paris can actually be rather difficult.
One important, but often not recognized, reason for this is that the word “vegetarian” has a different meaning in French than it does in English. As you likely know, in English, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat or fish. However, in French, a végétarien is someone that does not eat meat but does eat fish, which is what we would call a pescatarian. As such, if you want to communicate that you are a vegetarian in French, you will want to say that you are a végétalien, which is their word for someone that does not eat meat or fish. This is an important thing to be aware of, as if not clarified, you will likely be served something that you cannot eat, which is something I had to learn the hard way.
Even with this vocabulary difference accounted for, it is also important to note that vegetarianism is not always accepted or understood by the French. This is because as a meat-loving culture, vegetarianism is a relatively new phenomenon in France, and it is not very popular. As a result, you may find that you have less menu options than you are used to, or may not find anything at all. To remedy this, I would suggest looking through a restaurant’s menu before deciding to eat there, as some restaurants will be more accommodating than others.
Despite these challenges, I want it to be known that vegetarians can absolutely still enjoy French cuisine. Though you may not find any “beyond burgers” like you would in the United States, you will still find plenty of delicious food- you will just have to look a bit harder. And do not forget, you still have a whole world of desserts and pastries to choose from, largely without limitations!
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