Arrangement on a Western Dining Table. Source: Clubvivre.com
(VOVworld) - French people have a national pride in many things, and French cuisine is definitely one of them. It is no surprise that in a country so famous for its gastronomy, many traditions and customs are centered on food. Today we meet again with Silen, the French pastry chef who has spent almost 5 years working in Hanoi, to learn more about French eating manners and his thoughts on the difference between the way French and Vietnamese people behave at the dinning table.
Q: Hello Silen, thank you so much for joining us again today. Last time we talked about French dessert, an important part of the well-known and high class French culinary culture. That makes me curious about the dinning habits of French people. Can you tell us about some basic features of what you and your family do while eating?
A: It’s true that there are families who have meals as in the old times with a proper appetizer, main course and dessert. When you were a kid, parents would teach you to eat with your mouth closed, to put your hands on the table but not your fist, not to talk about something disgusting, not coughing on the food and such. But 90% of families in France, they don’t have rules. Some people eat in front of TV, some people they on the sofa. Some people eat at different times because they work different hours. There are families where the mother works at night, father comes home late and the kids take care of themselves: they order pizza. So there is rule at any restaurant - the rule of service. Because when you go to the restaurant, you expect something that you cannot have at home. But at home, there are no actual rules.
Q: Every time I go to dine in a Western-style restaurant and look at the menu, I see many dishes sorted in categories to complete a three-course meal. Is it a must for Westerners to eat like that?
A French meal at home
Source: Sandyschopbach Blogspot
A: Mostly yes, it’s a three-course meal: a starter, a main course and a dessert. In my family, we would have salad. It can be a green salad or potato salad or anything that is cold. Then we would have the main course, which is a combination of things like fish with rice, pasta or meat. Then we have the dessert. It can be fruit, it can be a cake on special occasion, it can be yogurt, or chocolate that you bought in supermarket.
Q: In Vietnamese culture, we have some rules about arranging seats to dine. These rules are still popular in rural Vietnam, especially in community parties. For example the elderly will sit at the higher table or at one end of the table, the children will be seated together, there are separated tables for men and women, etc. Do you have any rules like that?
A: No, in my family we don’t have that rule. As far as I remember, we keep the same place out of habit, not as a sign of respect. I have two older sisters and one brother. I am the youngest one. When I grew up, my sisters went to study and left home so there was more space at the table. So when we gather together to eat, I don't have to stay on the other side of the table.
Q: What about when you’re invited to a dinner? Do you need to bring anything as a token of appreciation?
A: Of course if you are invited, it’s always good if you can bring something. It can be a cake. In France, it’s a tradition to bring wine: you can bring a bottle of wine. It’s good to ask: what we are going to eat, meat or fish, so that you can bring wine that goes well with the dinner.
|Chef Silen on an interview with VOV24/7.
Source: Official O'Douceurs Facebook Page
Q: Silen, besides the fact that you have been living in Vietnam for 5 years, your wife is also Vietnamese so I bet at least once you eat in our manner. From your experience, what do you think of the difference between the dinning habits of France and Vietnam?
A: In France we eat a little late, later than the time people usually eat in Vietnam. And we don't share the food as Vietnamese do but we share news. It’s true that when we eat, we eat, we don’t really talk. People also talk quite fast so there is not so much talking. But that can also depend on the family. In my family we used to talk a lot. My parents asked me about school, how was my homework, whether I had anything to say. Sometimes I got scolded because I did not want to finish my vegetables.
Q: So basically you are saying that ‘sharing’ is the most important feature when Vietnamese eat together?
A: What I find amazing in Vietnam is that you eat and you have a neighbour coming, you always invite him to eat. If there is a word to describe Vietnamese (manners) is sharing. This is something really, really different between our cultures. I have never understood the meaning of ‘sharing’ as I know it now.
Thank you so much, Silen! That was such a lovely talk and I’ve learnt so much about French dinning. I feel that even though we might eat different food in different environments, we all eat with politeness and respect. And that has been this week’s Cultural Rendezvous on VOV24/7.