As in most Eurpean cuisines most of French food is based on simple peasant dishes. These dishes vary depending on the different regions and climates.
In Brittany you have for obvious reasons a lot of Fish and Seafood, Crepes and cheeses.
In Provence a lot more herbs are used because they grow in abundance and the influence is far more Mediterranean with tomatoes,olives, anchovies, red peppers, lemons.
The South-West is renowned for Duck dishes, cooked in Duck fat with one of the best dishes being a “Cassoulet”.
Then you have Choucroute Garnie in Alsace ( Garnished Sauerkraut with sausages and pork cooked in wine with juniper berries and Riesling for example.
Charcuterie is available in all regions.
Bassque food in the Western Pyrenees,
Catalan cuisine in the rest of the Pyrenees coupled with also a lot of mountain cheeses and dishes.
The centre is yet more pork dishes with a lot of one pot dishes.
France makes wonderful cheeses, hams, breads and superb cakes and desserts.
“Haute Cuisine” is only a tiny part of France.
Regional French food which makes most of French Cuisine is like Italian regional food, incredibly varied, relying on seasonal fresh ingredients and there is no typical dish really.
Wonderful peasant dishes like “Boeuf Bourguignon” and “Coq au Vin” are merely one pot peasant comfort food dishes and yet somehow people perceive them as pretentious or “posh” which they are most certainly not.
The French love all kinds of meat from Beef to Game such as Venison, Wild Boar, Pheasant etc… Fish and Seafood, lots of vegetables and fruits and of course cheeses. Until recently most French families would have had a full cheese platter on the table at almost every meal. The French also tend to eat a lot of salad be it a simple green salad to accompany a steak or a full garnished salad as a main course…
I think the misconception about French food all comes from the fact that famous French chefs who made it big with the European Aristocracy in the 18th and 19th century became a by-word for ALL French food when it was only a tiny elitist part of a large country’s bounty.
French food at its best is just fantastic. I love High End restaurants too but the best French food is usually something and humble from simple and fresh ingredients.