Posted by Adam on 14th Feb 2022 in Podcasts

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Ep3 600

French words in the English speaking cooking world.

If you are a big cooking fan you must have noted that a lot of the vocabulary used comes from French.

Firstly it is because there are around 7000 French words present in the English language and secondly because French "cuisine" used to be, and still is, one of the most influential in the world.

A Bit of History

The first recipe books in France date back to the end of the medieval times. Around 1486, Chef Viandier is said to have written what could be the first-ever recipe book published (even though Guillaume Tirel is usually the one credited for it!).

The French 'cuisine' we know today became what it is thanks to the traditional recipes found in its various regions (like Burgundy or Normandy), but also through the influence of its neighbouring countries (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, etc.).

In turn, French gastronomy had a significant impact around the world, especially from the seventeenth century onwards.

It was later added to Unesco's list of 'intangible cultural heritage' in 2010.



The word "bain-marie" (literally translated as 'Marie's bath') comes from both Medieval Latin "balneaum Mariae" and the Greek "Kaminos Marias" in reference to the alchemist who invented it.

A bain-marie is a type of double heated bath, used in cooking (and other industries) to heat food without burning it (often to melt chocolate for example) or to keep it warm over a certain period of time.


Béchamel Sauce that is usually found in croque-monsieur or lasagna tends to be called "white sauce" in the UK.

The name comes from Louis de Béchameil, maître D under Louis XIV, who 'created' for the King a creamy sauce to be used with meat, which he adored. However, the recipe might actually have been stolen from another chef: François Pierre de la Varenne (who wrote one of the first cooking best sellers in 1651: Cuisinier François).

The recipe:

  • 40 grams of butter
  • 40 grams of flour
  • 1/2 litre of milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg

Melt the butter and add the flour to create a roux, leave it for around 2 minutes, then add the milk little by little. Add the seasoning and nutmeg.


  • frapper : to hit, or to strike. This word also refers to the action of cooling off a drink in French. In English, it is often used to talk about a coffee drink blended with ice.
  • fondu(e) : melted (fondre ⟶ to melt) usually refers to melted cheese or chocolate.
  • bouquet garni : a bunch of mixed herbs added to a dish in order to add flavour.
  • jus : juice, in this context the juice coming out of whatever is being cooked (usually meat).
  • brûlé : burnt (brûler ⟶ to burn). The word crème brûlée probably rings a bell!


  • raconter des salades : to lie.
  • ramener sa fraise : to come here or to come back here. In another context it can also mean butting into a conversation without being asked.
  • avoir un coeur d'artichaut : to fall in love easily.
  • c'est du gâteau : it's easy, a piece of cake.
  • mettre du beurre dans les épinards : to top up your income.
  • chanter comme une casserole : to sing really badly.
  • chanter en yaourt : making up words when you are singing in another language and you don't know the lyrics.
  • occupe-toi de tes oignons : mind your own business.
  • purée (mashed potato): used to replace a swear word (similar to 'sugar' and 'fudge' in English).

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