How I Gather

How to Cook Dinner Like a French Girl on Holiday

All the clichés are true.

By Camille Styles

There’s a romance surrounding the French way of life. An inherent enjoyment of beautiful things, delicious experiences, and the present moment that permeates daily rituals and routines. There’s no doubt that French Girl clichés abound, but still: there’s an undeniable je ne sais quoi possessed by every French woman I’ve met that goes beyond what she looks like or what she’s wearing. It’s her presence—her charm, wit, and sophistication—that makes her absolutely magnetic.

A central part of all of this is food culture—the French love food to a degree that borders on obsession, and the ability to appreciate it is a nonnegotiable. Which is why my friend, celebrated food writer and stylist Rebekah Peppler, has spent the past several years of her career living in Paris and traveling throughout France, telling stories and sharing secrets behind French food. Her newest book, Le Sud, shares the food, drink, and lifestyle of the South of France—a place that’s long captured my imagination (and that I’m finally visiting with our family this summer!)

woman walking down street in striped dress

“The thing is, all the clichés you’ve heard about the south of France are true,” says Peppler. “The light takes on new forms by the hour, casting beauty on the simplest pleasures.

There are open-air markets bursting with sun-ripened produce; the surprisingly loud, surprisingly comforting surround sound of cicadas in late summer; acres of olive trees, lavender, and sunflowers; cliffs that drop into salt-heavy turquoise coves. And the food? It’s not overrated. The figs, the ratatouille, the aïoli, the crispy panisse, pissaladière, braids of garlic, Provençal melons, an overwhelming variety of local cheeses, actually good tapenades, and all the rest.

Peppler notes that this is the part of France where the French themselves holiday. “It is where throngs of Europeans descend for summer vacances—doing their best French cosplay while lounging, flirting, apéro-ing in the sun. American in Paris, yes yes sure, but the south is no stranger to American expats, of which I am just one in a steady line.”

Cheers to French Girl Summer

If you think of French food as fancy or fussy, these recipes are not that. Instead, these are simple meals cooked from the freshest ingredients at home in Provence or on a picnic blanket on the Côte d’Azur. The places where the French themselves holiday, “lounging, flirting, apéro-ing in the sun.” So, what better way to welcome summer than by cooking like a French girl on vacation? Whatever your travel plans are for the months ahead, cooking a meal from Le Sud is the perfect way to escape to a golden-lit reality. And you might as well invite a few friends to join.

Read on for your South of France dinner party menu from the pages of Le Sud—and be sure to grab your copy and romanticize your cooking all summer long.

wine bottle on picnic blanket by ocean

Rebekah Peppler’s Menu for a South of France Dinner Party:

La Grande Plage Cocktail

This is the spritz to make when you’re by the sea (or want to be) and desire something lightly bitter and bubbly and giving sunset in a cup.

whole roasted fish

Whole Roasted Fish

“For the most ease, ask your fishmonger to clean and scale whatever is freshest and make this version, prettily stuffed with lemon slices and a simple pistou,” says Peppler.

Bendita Entre los Melones

Literally “blessed between the melons,” this recipe title is inspired by a Spanish saying, “bendito entre las mujeres” or “blessed among the women.”