A Guide to Savoie Food and its traditions
Keen British skiers flock to France each winter for the country’s spectacular ski slopes, vibrant après ski, wonderful family facilities and catered chalet holidays.
But there’s one more thing which keeps us coming back for more each year, the food! Not just in the chalets but on the slopes and in the resort restaurants.
History of Savoie Food
A large part of the French Alps sits across the Savoie region, and like any other region or départment in France, the Savoie has its own unique cultural, historical, political and social background.
A hugely varied terrain, much of the Savoie is covered by high-altitude mountain plateaux, steep gradients, deep river valleys, farmland and lakes, plus of course huge swathes of the land are covered in snow for half the year, so the people who historically lived and travelled here were very hardy folk.
Food sources had to be readily available and that meant their diet largely consisted of hardy vegetables, cheeses and cured meats.
Since the turn of the twentieth century, the Savoie has changed from a largely agricultural terrain to an area more readily associated with tourism and skiing, but the cuisine of the area is inextricably linked to the Savoie itself and over the years has proven hugely popular amongst skiing visitors from all corners of the globe – so much so that for many people the Savoie food is now a major reason to return to France for the annual ski trip!
Savoyarde cooking relies exclusively on products and ingredients from the area and, because of this, is unmistakably authentic. Staple ingredients include potatoes, which were grown over the summer and stored during harsh winters, and cheeses.
Of course, being an Alpine territory cheese making has always been a hugely popular pursuit in the Savoie and abondance, Beaufort, Tome and of course Reblochon cheeses all work wonderfully well with traditional Savoyarde fare. Cured meats also form a large part of the Savoyarde dishes we enjoy today, and they feature in a number of traditional recipes.
Perhaps the most instantly recognisable of all the Savoyard dishes, fondue is like no other meal! Wonderfully convivial and great fun to enjoy with friends, eating fondue involves placing hard bits of bread onto a skewer and dipping it into a pot of melted cheese.
There are two schools of thought on the history of the meal, one a lot more fun and interesting than the other. The traditional view is that fondue came about when poor mountain farming communities had experienced lean times and were forced to make meals out of nothing more than stale bread and hard cheese, so they melted the cheese down and ate it with the tough bread as a warm and hearty meal. The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters
The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters into restaurants when skiing because popular in the Alps. I know which one I’m happier believing!
Named after the cheese it’s made with, raclette is another wonderfully convivial dining experience – there are more flavours at play than with the fondue as well, and it’s a complete meal.
Potatoes are cooked in a pan of boiling water with the skins on, and placed on a plate alongside pickled gherkins, picked onions and a selection of dried meats.
Then diners take melted slices of raclette cheese and pour them over the dish before tucking in. It’s a hearty meal and leaves you fit to burst!
For a dish with as much flavour as tartiflette, it’s surprisingly simple to make. Butter is melted in a frying pan then finely chopped onions, bacon bits and thinly sliced potatoes are added.
Once the potatoes are nearly cooked you put them in an oven proof dish, layered with the bacon bits and onions. Then you cover the dish in strips of reblochon cheese and bake until melted and browned.
Tartiflette is a very old and very traditional Savoyarde recipe, but it’s one that anybody can try. Wonderfully simple to prepare, it tastes amazing and goes well with a crisp Savoyarde white wine.
These Savoyarde dishes are all wonderful in their own ways, and although no trip to the Alps is complete without one they are also perfectly simple to make and enjoy at home.
It’s all pretty carbohydrate-heavy though, but if you’re feeling too full after one of these dishes a shot or two of Genepi, the Savoie’s own digestif spirit, will sort you out in no time at all!
A great place to taste all these delicious dishes is the 3 Valleys. We have catered accommodation in Méribel and La Tania.
Go to our website for more details.