What to Eat in France: Cream: crème fraîche, crème brûlée, crème caramel, crème chantilly…
The Normans put cream in almost all their sauces: for example, with salt cod and prunes.–La Varenne, Le Cuisinier François, 1651
C’est de la crème. / It’s easy.–French saying
Ce n’est pas de la crème. / It’s difficult.–French saying
No one loves cream or creaminess more than the French. They love it so much that they call all sorts of things other than cream “crème“: cream soups, pudding, sauces, custard filling, pastry cream, coffee with hot milk, puréed chestnuts, almond cream, cream horns, and even certain liqueurs. Just about anything creamy is likely to be called cream in French.
Cream has existed ever since milk existed. Despite our association with French cuisine, in general, cream is more a specialty of the north of France where it’s cooler, of the land of butter, than of the south, the land of olive oil and duck fat.
Normandy might well be called the cream capital of the world, or at least of France. The Vikings brought what we now call Normande cows to Normandy a thousand years ago. They, along with Jersey cows, are known for the quality of their fatty, high-protein milk, which makes excellent cream, butter and cheese. Half of all French milk and cream now comes from Normandy.