A Short Guide to French Music {day six}

{day six} A Short Guide to French Music


I’ve talked before about my mostly but not quite hate-affair with French music. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t exactly have a great reputation around the world. Music doesn’t come up in the top 5 ‘best things about France’, and that is mostly, in my opinion, because  the French language doesn’t lend itself to simple lyrics, and simplicity pretty much defines most contemporary music. Instead it is all about poetry and emotions, so singing in French about being ‘in da club’ and what not, is just weird. French lyrics can be very intricate but tend to win over musicality, which doesn’t translate well into music that non-French people can understand. You get a lot of musical poetry, which is great if you understand French, but can be pretty uninspiring otherwise.


That’s not to say that all French music is bad, not by a very long shot, but you may not have heard of most of our most famous artists so today, let me introduce you to them by running through the last 60 years of French classics. All of the artists mentioned are famous and many have had enduring appeal in my home country, including some having reached national treasure status.


If you want to listen to any of these guys, you can check out the Spotify public playlist I’ve made for the occasion.


Note: Some of these artists have careers spanning many decades and I have ‘tried’ to categorise them by genre (if very specific) or by their most popular decade. It was a difficult one to judge so if there are mistakes, they are all mine. I have also had to miss a lot of very popular artists because there are just too many and it could quickly become overwhelming.


 Classic French Music of the WWII Years:

  • Edith Piaf
  • Charles Trenet

French Music of the 50s:

  • Charles Aznavour (still going strong today at 91 yrs old!)
  • George Brassens

French Music of the 60s:

  • Jacques Brel
  • Claude François
  • Jean Ferrat
  • Jacques Dutronc
  • France Gall
  • Mireille Mathieu
  • Sylvie Vartan
  • Françoise Hardy

French Music of the 70s:

  • Serge Gainsbourg
  • Véronique Sanson
  • Michel Berger
  • Johnny Hallyday (the Biggest French star ever)
  • Sheila
  • Michel Sardou

French Music of the 80s:

  • Mylène Farmer (if you’re going to youtube her, she’s NSFW, guys, seriously NSFW)
  • Jean-Jacques Goldman
  • Vanessa Paradis (who made a come back in the 00′)
  • Daniel Balavoine
  • Téléphone
  • Francis Cabrel

French Music of the 90s: (I grew up with these guys!)

  • Patrick Bruel
  • Pascal Obispo
  • Zazie
  • MCSolaar
  • Celine Dion (seriously, her French albums are nothing like her English-speaking ones)
  • Noir Désir

French Music of the 00s:

  • Alizée,
  • Calogero
  • Phoenix
  • M83
  • M

French Music of the 10s:

  • Stromae
  • Indila
  • Cats on Trees
International crossover:
  • David Guetta
  • Daft Punk
  • Air
French metal/less mainstream stuff, as recommended by my husband Badgerman (He Who Knows His Stuff):
  • Gojira
  • Alcest

the ‘local flavour’ album: Brittany has been producing some rather unique stuff over the years, Manau was on the radio when I left France 15 years ago popularising ‘celtic rap’.

The ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about but it exists’ French Hip-Hop and Rap:
    •  L’Entourage
    • Georgio
    • Guizmo

The bonus American but sounds totally French: Madeleine Peyroux

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How to cook like the French {day five}

French food doesn’t have to be complicated, and that’s a promise. If I managed to learn how to cook from scratch having never boiled an egg before my 21st birthday, anyone can do it.


My aim today is two-fold: one, to reassure you that you can learn how to cook French food and two, to send you into bookshops and across the internet feeling informed and armed with personal recommendations.


{day five} How to cook like the French


Cooking French food might feel like a daunting task. You may have dined in a French restaurant and eaten very ‘cheffy’ dishes you couldn’t imagine making at home. Let me just reassure you that French people don’t cook or eat like this every day. Sure, we have all grown up eating many traditional recipes, but it is not the sort of food you would usually be served in a restaurant outside of France. Below are a few links to help you get started.

French Recipes on this Blog

I am by no means a fantastic cook, for one thing, I just don’t have time to spend my life in the kitchen. I do get a bit obsessed about food though, and I occasionally share recipes I have tried at home. I get homesick for French food on a regular basis and so I like to collect French recipe books of all sorts to try to get back to the scents and tastes that remind me of my childhood. Have a look around in the Recipes category, or just go straight to the following:

French Recipes on the Internet

There are many French food websites and blogs you can follow, but it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees in this abundance of plenty. I am not going to overwhelm you with many links, because you don’t need hundreds, you need a couple at best.
  • My go-to food blog has been Franglaise Cooking, they have a lot of brilliant family recipes that are delicious and easy to make. The hazelnut macarons alone make it worth a visit. But I can also recommend le Coin de Mel (I am planning on making her classic Petit Salé aux lentilles very soon) and Croque-Maman.

French Cookery Books

1. I shared my top 5 favourite cook books a couple of years’ back, and it included a couple you will see listed below for the very good reason that they are fabulous. This chicken stew recipe that is on the blog comes directly from the enormous ‘2000 recettes de la cuisine française‘ recipe book, but it’s not much use if you can’t speak the language.


2. Rachel Khoo‘s The Little Paris Kitchen has been translated into French, which is as positive an endorsement as you can wish for! I don’t own this book but I watched the accompanying BBC TV series religiously and I recommend it on the basis that it was inspiring and made me very hungry. Rachel had a TINY kitchen in Paris, and yet she managed to produce some outstanding recipes.


3. If you’re looking for a solid modern book on French cooking, then Michel Roux (both Senior and Junior) are French chefs based in the UK. Their books are in English and are accessible to the common cook but they are classically trained chefs with all the solid knowledge that entails so you are in good hands.

4. There is also a French chef called Stéphane Reynaud who has created the most beautiful cookery books I have ever seen. They are all translated into American English, so you get references to capsicum instead of peppers, which took a bit of getting used to but otherwise, the books are GORGEOUS. Not only do you get delicious recipes, but also beautiful and funny illustrations, songs, history lessons, lists (lists!) of different wines, cheeses, what goes with what etc. I have the following two:

  • Ripailles, which offers 299 French traditional recipes
  • Rôtis, which is all about roast meat

Bonus: watch a film about cooking!

To get yourself in the mood, everyone should watch Julie and Julia [DVD] [2010]
featuring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, a fab film about food and Julia Child, the author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you’re not hungry by the end of it, you’re not human.


In other news, I’ve decided that as part of the 31 days challenge, I will post one classic French recipe every Friday that I have personally made at home. It will be easy and affordable and hopefully inspire you to check out French cooking without fearing having to go full Julia Child and start boiling pigs trotters to make your own gelatine.
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How to dress like the French {day three}

{day three} how to dress like the French
French women are so fashionable! French women look so classy! French women make it look effortless! French women make the rest of us look so frumpy! French fashion is so timeless and classic! OMG Chanel!


I don’t know how many times I’ve read these or similar words in magazines and articles over the years. It’s all that people can say about French women and fashion. What it fails to tell you is that it describes one particular type of Parisian woman who loves fashion and has loads of money. This ‘French women are fashionable’ thing is another enduring stereotype that doesn’t really live up to the reality, or the reality outside of Paris at least.


My one-woman experience is that I suck at fashion; I have a long history of sucking at fashion and I don’t know any French person who either cares or knows about fashion in more than the most basic ‘let’s not go out in my PJ’s’ kind of way so I’m not going to be much help. This may be because I grew up in a provincial town (i.e. anywhere other than Paris) to parents who couldn’t afford to clothe me in labels; or that my sense of style just, well, sucks. I don’t care. I like my jeans and t-shirts and Converse, dangly earrings and all the colours.


So whatever French fashion style advice I’m going to give you now, feel free to ignore it. I won’t leave you in the lurch however, and recommend that you read and see the work of French people who are much more knowledgeable, talented, and who actually care about fashion, such as:


Le Blog de Betty

Garance Doré

The Cherry Blossom Girl

Et Pourquoi Pas Coline

Miss Pandora


Now that I’ve warned you that you should not be taking fashion advice from me (ever), I’m going to give you fashion advice. It’s a topic I thought should feature in a series on how to be more French (arf), but instead of telling you what I have learnt (nothing), I’m just going to tell you what I think other people mean when they talk about French fashion, and it is this:


If you want to look classy, keep it simple, keep it streamlined and don’t overdo it with colours.


Forget combining different patterns and colours. When people think French fashion, they think of actresses like Audrey Tautou and Marion Cotillard, and they are describing that red-carpet classic elegance they seem to exude. Most of the time, they are wearing simple black outfits, a simple hairstyle and understated jewellery. The key to classic French elegance, as far as I can see, is understatement.


See what I mean about ignoring my advice? This is Chanel Spring/Summer 2015, and ‘understated’ is the worst possible descriptor for these, ahem, things.

Classic French fashion embraces black, white, navy blue, cream and grey. You can enhance your clothes with colourful jewellery but not too much. If you are going to wear colour, keep it to one thing and coordinate it with monochrome e.g. colourful top, monochrome bottom and jewellery. Choose block colour and accessorise with monochrome bag, shoes and jewellery.


If you want to look casual French, wear a scarf. In fact, if you’re a man, wear a simple v-neck or polo-neck jumper and a scarf and there you go, instant French.
Was this advice helpful? I would love to know (for future reference), so tell me in the comments!


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Eat and stay slim like the French {day two}

{day two} Eat and stay slim like the French
There is a myth floating about that the French, and French women specifically, are able to eat just about anything and not put weight on.

If you think about it, it’s a little ridiculous as myths go. French people do not have special magical powers, a better metabolism, a secret fountain of youth or special plant that melts body fat. Weight Watchers, Atkins and whatever the latest trend in diets is, have been a feature in France for decades, and show no sign of diminishing in appeal. France is also the second largest market for McDonald’s after the US, and I mean, French people LOVE fast food. Maybe it’s because you can have a beer or a glass of wine with your burger; for me it’s the pistachio ice cream and the fact that the quarter-pounder is called ‘Le Royal’ (because I’m worth it)  that does it. But somehow, a lot of people outside of France can’t believe this to be the case, maybe due to the (mostly media-led) romantic idea that all we do is look glamorous sitting in cafés drinking coffee and wine with a steak and salad.

I’m guessing that the reason French people have been described as slim is because it stands against the notion of traditional French food being rich and often served with sauces. Whilst it’s not wrong (a lot of French food IS rich), it doesn’t tell the whole story. In the last 50 years, people would have been recovering from WWII rationing and a general lack of available food stuff and variety. In the US, the years after the war were of incredible prosperity and both the appearance of affordable kitchen appliances and pre-packaged food had an impact on people’s eating habits. In France, the post-war recovery was slower as the logistical and physical effects of the war were a lot more immediate and wide-ranging. The focus was more on improving transportation and just making food, as opposed to facilitating its process.

This said, it is not completely untrue that French people are generally slimmer than their UK and US counterparts. I can think of three reasons why this may be:

1. Portion control

If France had a motto centred around food, it would be ‘Everything in moderation’. This is why it is not difficult for the average French person to drink a glass of wine with lunch, or to have a three-course meal every day. If you are going to have cheese, you would just have a small slice and leave it at that. The same goes for starters of cured meats, just one or two slices suffice, and you get the enjoyment of tasty food without gorging.

2. Education i.e it’s a cultural thing

Food is important. It is not a simple matter of getting enough nutrients so you can survive until the next task or the next day. The idea of ‘counting calories’ is relatively new to French people. Eating is an experience, it is relational; it is community; it is about enjoying the best life has to offer. As such, learning about food groups and how to eat is a natural part of a child’s education, and the school canteen menus reflect this. I will expand on this topic later this month when I talk about ‘how to educate your kids about food like the French’.

3. Exercise and diets!

In reality, obesity, whilst a recent problem compared to the US and the UK, is very much on the rise. As I said, France is the second biggest consumer of McDonalds after the US, and its effects are very much being felt. A new generation of French people, from the 90s onwards, has grown up with more access to junk food, and the technological changes of the last 20 years have a major impact on habits and lifestyle. Only time will tell whether France will be able to curb the trend.

Concepts like portion control and seeing food as ‘more than fuel’ are affected by culture and education, that is to say, that we are affected by the behaviours we observe growing up, and by peer pressure. It is easier to restrain your snacking habits in a culture where it is not the norm to snack. It is all about mindset, and whilst it is  possible to change a lifelong habit, it is by no means an easy feat in a culture that loves to eat big. But if people have the willpower to change, whether driven by circumstances or by a strong enough desire, I can’t help but think it must be attainable. If anyone can change their personal habits to embrace something like the paleo diet, it must surely be easier to adapt to a diet that says you can have a bit of everything in moderation instead.
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