French cuisine is legend; cooking is considered an art. Regional traditions are strong. There are several types of cooking, ranging from hearty, inexpensive fare to sophisticated dishes with costly ingredients and complex sauces. Nouvelle cuisine, which emerged in the 1960s, was a reaction to this heavy style of cooking. It features lighter ingredients, smaller portions, and an artistic presentation. Although resisted by the French, fast food is gaining in popularity and most kinds are available. French breads and patisserie are well-known abroad, such as croissants and baguettes.
Breakfast is typically continental and light, consisting of a baguette (French bread) or a croissant with butter or jam. Breakfast is accompanied by a strong coffee with hot milk (or sometimes hot chocolate). Supper and dinner are often accompanied by wine, with coffee taken after both meals. France is also famous for its exquisite desserts, such as crème brûlée (burnt cream) and chocolate mousse.
Many people make a habit of making a big pancake breakfast on January 1st.
Table manners are important. While at the table hands should remain above the table. Elbows should not be placed on the table. When eating out, the person who invites or makes the suggestion is the one who pays.
There are usually three meals a day, breakfast, supper, and dinner. Often, children have a snack at 4 PM. Breakfast is in the morning when people get up; supper is at noon or before 1 PM and is usually the largest meal of the day. Dinner is around 7 or 8 PM. Breakfast and dinner are usually eaten at home. Often, during work, children eat at school or at home depending on their parents, workers eat either at home or in a cafeteria (and so do their children), and people can eat out at noon with friends. Dinner out is generally associated with great occasions.
At mealtime usually, everyone has a seat to eat at the table. The whole family eats at the same time, together. The hands should be on the table so that people can see what one does with his hands. Not showing one's hands is considered impolite as it is seen as concealing something from other people's view.