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Six Historical Murders That Would Make for Great Crime Fiction

Thriller writers are always looking for inspiration, and what better source of crime than the annals of history? Author Andrea Maria Schenkel knows this better than most. Her new novel, Ice Cold, revisits a terrible crime that took place in 1930s Munich. Below, she does aspiring writers a favor by recounting six real-life murders that could inspire the best true crime books.

Wano De Grier Walsh

Wano De Grier Walsh and her husband, Edward DeWitt Walsh, were hosting a dinner party in Montclair, New Jersey in November 1903 when Mrs. Walsh suddenly reported feeling ill. Her husband carried her upstairs, and shortly after he returned, the sound of a handgun rang through the house. The guests and Mr. Walsh ran upstairs to find Mrs. Walsh dead—shot through the heart. While ruled a suicide, her death is surrounded by mystery. The New York Times reported that she had been “in excellent spirits all through the dinner and was quite the life of the little gathering.” Moreover, her death was not reported to police until two hours after the gunshot was heard.

ArnoldRothsteinArnold Rothstein

Rothstein was the mastermind behind the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal in which several players from the heavily favored Chicago White Sox took money from gamblers to intentionally throw games in the World Series. Nine years later, Rothstein was shot and mortally wounded at the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan. On his deathbed, he refused to identify his killer. A Rothstein-like character briefly appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” but a book-length fictional look at this early 20th-century gambler would undoubtedly be a grand slam.

MichaelStuhlbargThere is an eponymous character on the popular television show “Boardwalk Empire” nicknamed “The Big Bankroll”—based on the real Rothstein and played by Michael Stuhlbarg.


An engraving of James A. Garfield's assassination, published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.
An engraving of James A. Garfield’s assassination, published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

President James Garfield

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln has long been of interest to fiction and non-fiction writers alike. But the killing of the United States’s 20th president, James Garfield, offers ample material for a crime novel. The Ohio native, who served less than a year, was shot in early July of 1861 in the presence of his secretary of war—and Lincoln’s son—Robert Todd Lincoln. Garfield died two and a half months later, most likely due to poor medical treatment, and only after inventor Alexander Graham Bell worked feverishly to devise a metal detector in a futile attempt to locate the bullet.


Left: 1968 newspaper article about “Bible John” victim Patricia Docker. Right: Artist’s rendering of “Bible John”
Left: 1968 newspaper article about “Bible John” victim Patricia Docker. Right: Artist’s rendering of “Bible John”

“Bible John”

In the late 1960s, three women were murdered after spending the evening in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. The sister of one of the victims reported that a man seen with her sibling called himself “John” and quoted from the Bible, thus earning his nickname. As with Jack the Ripper in the 19th century, many have claimed the identity of “Bible John,” but the killings have never been solved.


Christa Lehmann

Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)
Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)

In the 1950s in southwestern Germany, Lehmann’s husband, who suffered from stomach ulcers, and father, who suffered from heart failure, appeared to die of natural causes about a year apart. The following year a friend of Lehmann’s died after ingesting liqueur-filled chocolate-covered mushrooms that Lehmann had brought home. When police discovered that the treat had been laced with poison, they exhumed the bodies of Lehmann’s spouse and father—whose bodies showed traces of the exact same toxic material. Given the police’s tardy discovery of these crimes, one wonders: whom else did Lehmann know, and did she kill them, too?

Hugo Betthauer and Otto Rothstock

HugoBetthauerWhat happens when a writer of numerous detective novels becomes the victim? Such was the fate of Hugo Betthauer, who was murdered in Vienna by a member of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in 1925. The motives of the killer, Otto Rothstock, remain unclear. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, three years earlier Betthauer penned “The City without Jews,” a satirical—but prophetic—look at anti-Semitism in the 1920s.


Andrea Maria Schenkel lives with her family near Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany. On publication in Germany, her first novel, The Murder Farm, won the German Crime Prize as well as the Friedrich-Glauser Prize. Her second novel, Ice Cold, will be published on June 2nd.

New Literary Award Established in Honor of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was honored during his lifetime by receiving an honorary master’s degree from Yale University and three honorary doctorates. Now a new literary award has been established in his honor – The  Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. Read more here.

Your Best Day in Honolulu

While there are many neighborhoods that comprise Greater Honolulu, most of what appeals to visitors is centrally located in the downtown vicinity. Plan your Honolulu day around avoiding the daily rush-hour traffic to maximize your time.

The historic Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu.
The historic Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
  • Instead of rushing immediately into the historic district in the morning and getting caught in traffic, head to Lyon Arboretum in Manoa Valley and explore the extensive trail system, bird watch, and learn about native Hawaiian plants. If you’d like to be closer to downtown, try Foster Botanical Garden just outside of Chinatown.
  • Next, visit the historic district and take in the Hawaii State Capitol and ‘Iolani Palace, the only royal residence in the United States.
  • For lunch, head to the Ala Moana Center, where you can grab lunch in the comfortable, open-air Mai Tai Bar on the upper lanai of the mall. Or, head into Kaka‘ako, where you can find hip and unique shops and restaurants.
  • A visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art is a must in the afternoon. If you have your own transportation, take advantage of the free same-day admission to the Spalding House in Makiki Heights, a museum of contemporary art.
  • For dinner, head back into Chinatown and peruse the many restaurants and bars. Whether you’re after Chinese food from Little Village Noodle House, French cuisine at Brasserie Du Vin, or pizza from Irish pub J.J. Dolan’s, Chinatown has you covered.
Map of Downtown Honolulu, Hawaii
Downtown Honolulu

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Driving to Vancouver, BC

Culturally rich with native history and international industry, Vancouver swelled with the attention that came with the 2010 Olympic Games. Now with a growing culinary scene, the city is poised to become the business, pleasure, and tourism jewel of Canada.

[pullquote align=right]Canadians show off their famously friendly disposition on the city streets and even the mountains that tower over Vancouver feel welcoming.[/pullquote]Vancouver’s downtown is almost an island, bordered on three sides by False Creek, English Bay, and Vancouver Harbour, which encourages the buildings there to grow tall. Shops crowd the Robson and Granville Streets, while the renovated neighborhoods of Yaletown and Gastown have become known for their culinary scenes. Another reinvention, Granville Island has turned a once-industrial site into a giant market, theater center, and shopping district. And throughout the city, international flavors abound—crowds flock to the night market and exquisite gardens in Chinatown, and the most popular restaurant is an Indian joint hidden on an unassuming street outside the downtown core. Nowhere is the area’s native history better recognized than at the Museum of Anthropology’s glass-walled gallery of totem poles.

Vancouver’s downtown is almost an island, bordered on three sides by False Creek, English Bay, and Vancouver Harbour, which encourages the buildings there to grow tall.
Vancouver’s downtown is almost an island, bordered on three sides by False Creek, English Bay, and Vancouver Harbour, which encourages the buildings there to grow tall. Photo © Harshil Shah, licensed Creative Commons Attribution and NoDerivatives.

But the outdoors is never far away, with waterfront areas, a spectacular city park, and mountains right next to downtown. The Stanley Park bike path takes pedal pushers past woods, beaches, and rocky shores while just across the Harbour is Grouse Mountain, with skiing or snowshoeing accessible by city bus.

Although Vancouver’s population is slightly smaller than Seattle’s, it feels bigger thanks to its great variety and modern, glassy architecture. Canadians show off their famously friendly disposition on the city streets and even the mountains that tower over Vancouver feel welcoming.

Driving to Vancouver from Seattle

140 miles, 3 hours

The main route through Seattle is I-5. This multilane road is infamous for its traffic snarls, which are worst during early morning and late afternoon rush hours. The 8-mile-long express lanes, which change direction depending on where the bulk of cars are heading, can be a useful bypass.

Traveling north, I-5 reaches the city of Everett 30 miles north of Seattle. From Everett, there’s usually little to slow drivers until they reach the border crossing 80 miles north in Blaine, Washington.

Stopping in Anacortes

Though it’s a 20-minute drive from the freeway, the town of Anacortes is worth the detour. From I-5, take exit 230 and follow State Route 20 west for 11.5 miles across farmland and the tidal waters of several sloughs; take the Highway 20 spur north to Anacortes, about 4.5 miles. Anacortes is best known as the departure point for San Juan Island ferries, including one that continues east to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Stop for a bite at Adrift (510 Commercial Ave., 360/588-0653, 8am-9pm Mon.-Thurs., 8am-10pm Fri.-Sat., 8am-2pm Sun., breakfast $5-13, lunch $8.50-17, dinner $15-29), a seafood joint better known for a wide variety of burgers and ice cream floats made with stout or champagne. Or try the barbecue and biscuits at Dad’s Diner (906 Commercial Ave., 360/899-5269, 7am-4pm Tues.-Sun., breakfast $8-10, lunch $8-20). After lunch, walk along the waterfront, where boats sit neatly parked in the bustling marina. Drive south to Deception Pass State Park (Hwy. 20 and Rosario Rd.), which bridges Whidbey Island and the mainland. The bridge that connects the island is either picturesque or terrifying, depending on your fear of heights! Park and cross by foot for the best views.

Crossing the Border

Two options are available for crossing the border: the Peace Arch crossing at the end of I-5 and the Pacific Highway crossing on Highway 543.

To reach the Peace Arch crossing, stay on I-5 north as it slowly funnels cars directly into the border-crossing lanes. The actual arch sits in a large green park between crossing stations. Take care when letting passengers out to explore the field while the driver waits in line because everyone will need to be back in the car well before the crossing station. Upon entering Canada, the route immediately becomes the Canadian Highway 99.

For the Pacific Highway Crossing (also called Truck Customs, for its use among commercial vehicles), take Exit 275 off I-5. Follow Highway 543 for less than a mile before meeting the border. Once through the border crossing, follow Canadian Highway 15 for several blocks, turn left on 8th Avenue, and then take a right at the roundabout at Highway 99. Though less scenic than the waterfront Peace Arch crossing, the Pacific Highway crossing often has a shorter wait.

From the Border to Vancouver

48 kilometers, 45 minutes

Highway 99, also called the Vancouver-Blaine Highway, swings north through the open plains that sit just south of Vancouver’s suburbs. In about 30 kilometers (19 miles), Highway 99 passes through a tunnel under the Fraser River, emerging in the suburb of Richmond.

From Richmond, Highway 99 continues across the Oak Street Bridge. Turn left on W 70th Avenue, and continue north on Highway 99/Granville Street for about 16 kilometers (10 miles) toward the Granville Bridge and downtown Vancouver. Although the route narrows from a highway to surface streets, traffic flows well into the downtown core.

After crossing the Granville Bridge, you’ll arrive in the heart of Vancouver. Follow Seymour Street northeast to continue to the waterfront area and Gastown. Note that several downtown byways are one-way, so check all traffic signs before making any turns.

Driving to Vancouver from Victoria

113-195 kilometers, 3 hours

Two ferry routes travel between Victoria and Vancouver. The Swartz Bay (Hwy. 17, $16.50 adults, $8.15 children 5-12, children under 5 free, vehicles $53.25, surcharges for fuel and large vehicles) route departs from the Saanich Peninsula, 32 kilometers north of Victoria at the end of Highway 17, just north of the town of Sidney. The boat travels to Tsawwassen, located south of the Vancouver-Blaine Highway, a 90-minute trip. From the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (1 Ferry Causeway, Delta), drive north on Highway 17A for 13 kilometers (8 miles), and then take Highway 99 north to Vancouver. The ferry travels 8-17 times per day in each direction. Reservations are recommended.

The second ferry departs from Nanaimo ($16.50 adults, $8.15 children 5-12, children under 5 free, vehicles $53.25, surcharges for fuel and large vehicles), about 110 kilometers (177 miles) north of Victoria along Highway 1. Arrival is at Horseshoe Bay (6750 Keith Rd., West Vancouver), approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Vancouver. The trip lasts about one hour and 40 minutes; ferries run 7-12 times per day in each direction; reservations are recommended. From Horseshoe Bay, drive southeast on Highways 1 and 99 for 20 kilometers (13 miles) to North Vancouver. Highway 99 continues south across the Lions Gate Bridge into downtown Vancouver.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Northwest Road Trip.

New Zealand: Your Study Abroad Adventure

If you’ve been thinking about studying abroad in New Zealand, you’re probably someone with a real sense of adventure. Students can spend their days in New Zealand hiking up mountains, exploring active volcanoes, swimming and diving with whales and dolphins, or wandering through centuries-old ice caves—and it’s part of their schoolwork!

Kayakers in the water in New Zealand.
Your study abroad adventure awaits in New Zealand! Photo © Michelle Waitzman.

The choices can seem overwhelming when it comes to signing up for your studies in New Zealand. Should you go for a semester abroad? Get a full degree? Take on postgraduate research? Or pick up a practical qualification that can land you a great summer job? Let’s have a look at some of your options, and how to get your experience started.

Major in Adventure

New Zealand, famous for its breathtaking natural landscapes and as a destination for extreme sports enthusiasts, is an adventure travel hotspot. To support the country’s thriving tourism industry, New Zealand universities, polytechnics, and private training establishments offer programs in adventure tourism management (at Auckland University of Technology, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), Waiariki Polytechnic, and Queenstown Resort College, among others), snow sports management or instruction (at Queenstown Resort College and Otago Polychechnic), commercial skydiving instruction (at New Zealand Skydiving School), and more. These programs always involve lots of hands-on experience, so your studies will be anything but boring.

If you want to get a fundamental understanding of New Zealand’s amazing landscape, a study abroad experience in geology may be your style. Six of New Zealand’s eight universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in geology, so you can choose the part of the country that interests you the most, or the program that matches most closely with your preferred area of study. In this field, there’s no reason to be stuck in a lab. Since New Zealand straddles two tectonic plates, there are plenty of opportunities for geology students to study volcano and earthquake science with hands-on field trips.

A snow-capped volcano rises in the distance with a small house in the foreground.
Students in New Zealand can easily access active volcanoes. Photo © Michelle Waitzman.

If environmental science is your field, you’ll find opportunities beyond your wildest dreams. New Zealand offers some of the world’s most accessible glaciers on the South Island, which attract environmental science students from around the world. The country is also home to unique ecosystems and species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. The iconic kiwi (a nocturnal, flightless bird) is considered a New Zealand treasure, while the tuatara (an ancient relative of the dinosaurs) has lived only on these islands for millions of years.

As an island nation, New Zealand is also a great place for those interested in marine biology. As a student in New Zealand, you will find opportunities to study everything from aquaculture (seafood farming) to endangered marine wildlife up close. University of Otago and Auckland University of Technology offer aquaculture degrees, while NMIT offers a diploma course at their campus in the heart of New Zealand’s renowned Marlborough seafood region. For its marine biology students, Victoria University in Wellington has its own marine field station as well as two research vessels.

Close up view of a tuatara lizard on a rock.
The tuatara  is found only in New Zealand. Photo © pstedrak/123rf.

Where to Study

Even without a scholarship, international PhD students can study in New Zealand while paying the same fees as domestic students. New Zealand put this policy in place to attract top research students from around the world and make their universities leaders in academic research.

New Zealand’s eight universities, located around the country, are great places to get involved in your field and make a difference. The largest university is in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. The University of Auckland has over 40,000 students and is one of two universities in this sprawling city of 1.4 million people (the other is Auckland University of Technology, or AUT).

For a more personal experience, Lincoln University is located in a rural area near Christchurch, and houses a population of fewer than 3,500 students, including more than 1,000 international students. Their areas of focus are agriculture and life sciences; environment, society and design; and commerce.

New Zealand’s oldest university is the University of Otago, founded in 1869 in the city of Dunedin. Dunedin has a population of just 120,000, over 21,000 of whom are students at the university. Combined with the 7,000 students at Otago Polytechnic, this gives Dunedin a very student-centred atmosphere. And FYI – there just happens to be a chocolate factory in town!

A skiier in front of a mountain resort.
Instructor training courses can turn your hobby into a job. Photo © Michelle Waitzman.

In addition to its universities, New Zealand has 18 polytechnics and institutes of technology that offer practical, experience-based education in a wide range of fields, including tourism, environmental science, agriculture, and more. You can even specialize in boat building! Programs range from certificate level to post-graduate.

For more intensive training, a number of private institutions specialize in specific career fields like IT or tourism and hospitality, and offer certifications for ski or snowboard instructors, skydiving instructors, pilots, scuba instructors, and more.

Find out more about your options for studying abroad in New Zealand by visiting the study abroad office at your college, or by visiting the Study in New Zealand website at

The Road Trip USA Playlist

Hitting the road this summer? We’ve put together a killer playlist to get you from Point A to Point B, wherever those might be. Whether you’re driving Route 66 or “The Road to Nowhere” (a.k.a. US-83), these classic American tunes will help you keep on truckin’. For an even more songs, check out the extended playlist on our Spotify channel.

  1. Running On Empty – Jackson Browne
  2. Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles
  3. Take it Easy – The Eagles
  4. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
  5. Low Rider – War
  6. America – Simon & Garfunkel
  7. Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers & Jonathan Richman
  8. Route 66 – Chuck Berry
  9. To Ohio – The Low Anthem
  10. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Before your trip, check out or pick up a copy of the full-color 2015 edition of Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways for itineraries, route ideas, and expert info on where to stay on your trip. For readers who know that the road trip experience is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, author Jamie Jensen has put together the definitive guide to off-beat roadside attractions, quirky mom-and-pop businesses, and the best Americana to be found anywhere east or west of the Mississippi.

Whale-Watching in Bermuda

Whale-watching has become a spring ritual off Bermuda’s South Shore, the migration route for humpbacks as they travel from the Caribbean to north Atlantic feeding grounds. Between March and April, pods of humpback whales can be spotted, even from the shoreline (you may see a line of motorists pulled over to ogle the distant spouts or flukes beyond the reef line).

[pullquote align=”right”]Found throughout the world, most humpbacks follow regular migration routes. [/pullquote]Found throughout the world, most humpbacks follow regular migration routes. In the Atlantic, they tend to spend winters mating and calving in tropical zones, then move north to polar waters in the summer to feed. Unlike other species, they are highly acrobatic, breaching (throwing their whole bodies out of the water), swimming upside down with flippers raised in the air, or slapping the surface with their huge tails, called flukes. Scientists believe these may all be forms of communication between pod members, along with the species’ characteristic singing.

Beautiful aqua water meets a white sand beach studded with large rocks.
It’s possible to spot whales from the shoreline as they migrate past Bermuda’s South Shore. Photo © Kansasphoto, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Several conservation-focused nonprofits and charter boat companies organize whale-watching tours in these months; half-day and full-day tours offer spectacular offshore encounters with the whales, which can sometimes be seen frolicking with calves. You can compare tour details and prices and purchase tickets online through the Island Tour Centre (tel. 441/236-1300, fax 441/296-4661), which represents more than 20 vendors of ecotours and water sports.

Blue Water Divers & Watersports (Robinson’s Marina, Somerset Bridge, Sandys, tel. 441/234-1034) offers charters on request. Bermuda Zoological Society (tel. 441/293-2727) and Bermuda underwater Exploration Institute (tel. 441/292-7219) both offer whale-watching outings on their respective research/education vessels.

Bermudian Andrew Stevenson has spent several seasons filming whales for his Humpback Whale Research Project (tel. 441/777-7688). His award-winning 2010 documentary, Where the Whales Sing, describes the humpbacks’ journey through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter, Elsa. DVDs of the film are on sale at several local bookstores and gift shops.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Bermuda.

Unique Restaurants in Kaua‘i

For a truly unique dining experience in Kaua‘i try either of the following two restaurants; the first is an extremely casual affair excellent for huge, delicious portions to fuel your day, and the second features amazing cross-cultural dishes with music and entertainment offered every night.

Red Hot Mama’s

Red Hot Mama’s (808/826-7266, 11am-5pm daily but sometimes closes on Sun., $8-11) is a hole in the wall serving Mexican style food and thankfully one of the last stops before having no food options at the beach. I say thankfully because I’m thankful every time I eat there. The food always comes in a hefty serving, and fresh local fish is almost always an optional addition. Vegetarians can always find a substantial meal here. The owner has enough postings around the eatery to let you know not to linger right in front and keep asking if your meal is done. Browse the neighboring shops or hang in the grass to the left and she will come out and call you.

Red Hot Mama's serves up hefty portions of Mexican style food.
Red Hot Mama’s serves up hefty portions of Mexican style food. Photo © Ryan Harvey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

Mediterranean Gourmet

[pullquote align=right]Lebanon native and chef Imad Beydoun and his wife Yarrow feature Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lebanese-influenced dishes for lunch or dinner.[/pullquote]Mediterranean Gourmet (5-7132 Kuhio Hwy., 808/826-9875, 11am-3pm and 4:30-8:30pm Mon., 11am-3pm and 6pm-8pm Tues., 11am-3pm and 4-8:30pm Wed.-Sat., $17-65) has been voted by Honolulu magazine as the best new restaurant on Kaua‘i in 2007 and best restaurant on Kaua‘i in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. If that doesn’t speak for itself, then the oceanfront location paired with the menu will amaze you.

Lebanon native and chef Imad Beydoun and his wife Yarrow feature Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lebanese-influenced dishes for lunch or dinner. Dinner reservations are recommended, and music is provided each night. On Tuesday nights, a luau is offered at 6pm, Wednesday is jazz and half-price wine night, Thursday is belly dancing, and Friday and Saturday offer more guitar. Try the homemade sangria or a mojito. Lunch includes wraps, vegetarian dishes, fish, and more. For dinner, there are vegetarian, lamb, beef, fish, chicken, and vegetarian dishes, along with their famous rack of lamb for two.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Beyond Baguettes & Brie: Classically Common French Dishes

If your first trip to France was anything like mine, you spent the brief moments between visits to the Louvre and the Pompidou sitting in local squares and noshing on bread, cheese, and bottom-tier bottles of Bordeaux. If your tastes and budget have grown more sophisticated in the intervening years, you’ve probably swapped your hostel bunk bed for a hotel and your picnics for more grown-up restaurant meals. So, what delights might you expect to devour now that you’re a full-fledged adult in the land of the Gauls?

Café and brasserie menus across l’Hexagone still look as if they were pulled from the pages of Julia Child’s mid-20th century culinary classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, brimming with meat-based dishes smothered in creamy sauces—but there’s more to contemporary French food than beef bourguignon. Here are a few of the most common edible possibilities you’ll encounter in restaurants, outdoor markets, and grocery stores from Mont St. Michel to Montpellier.


This all-encompassing term is francophone code for “nibbly things made with pork”. When ordering charcuterie at a French wine bar or café, you’ll be presented with a wooden plank called a planche decorated like an artist’s palette with mounds of ham, cured salami, dried sausage, and slices of paté de campagne. A basket of sliced bread is the standard accompaniment. These are nibbled during apéro hour, that lovely afternoon period between lunch and dinner best spent sipping a glass of wine with friends at a sunny terrace café.

Charcuterie for sale in France.
Photo © Aurelia d’Andrea.

Tartare de Boeuf

This classic dish strikes fear into the hearts of many visitors to France, and not just because steak tartare really is just a humongous pile of raw meat, but because it’s a humongous pile of raw meat with a raw egg on top. At most restaurants, the dish is delivered to your table with a bottle of Tabasco sauce, and sometimes with add-ins for seasoning your meat to your own tastes, including minced onions, mustard, and pickles. If you lose your courage once your meal arrives, the accompanying frites will make a satisfying snack.


Whether slathered in Nutella, smeared with melted butter and a sprinkling of sugar, or covered in cheese and a slice of ham, the thin pancake known as the crêpe holds a beloved spot in the hearts of the French. Many French kitchens are equipped with their very own electric crêpière, which comes with a little wooden rake for spreading the batter evenly across the pan. The Breton galette, made with buckwheat flour, is also popular but more common in its place of origin, Brittany.

A food stand selling crêpes and waffles.
Crêpes for sale at a street stand. Photo © Aurelia d’Andrea

Blanquette de Veau

Culinary political correctness aside, don’t be surprised to see veal on restaurant menus in every corner of the country. This plat familial consists of calf’s meat cooked in a creamy white sauce studded with carrots and champignons de Paris—otherwise known as button mushrooms. Besides being a favorite dish in French homes, it’s also a regular fixture in school cantines. To see what else French schoolchildren are eating, look for the monthly lunch menus posted outside public school doors.

Hachis Parmentier

This dish is simply a fancier-sounding version of that old classic, shepherd’s pie. Most often prepared in a casserole dish with ground beef in gravy on the bottom, and a thick layer of mashed potato at the top, hachis parmentier is more often served in home kitchens than on French restaurant menus. You will, however, find it in the deli cases of butcher shops and in the frozen food section at supermarkets throughout the country.

Noix de Saint Jacques

The “nuts” (noix) referred to here don’t actually come from a tree, but from the sea, and Anglophones know them as scallops. The beloved bivalve is especially popular around the yuletide holidays, and year-round you’ll find them prepared in novel, often curious ways, such as in a raw tartare, smothered in a vanilla sauce, or on a bed of sautéed leeks.

Noix de Saint-Jacques. Photo © Francois Schnell, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
Noix de Saint-Jacques. Photo © Francois Schnell, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.


There’s no denying that American-style convenience foods are growing in popularity throughout France, but it’s the kebab, not the burger, that dominates the national fast-food scene. In Paris and other cities’ more populaire neighborhoods, it’s not uncommon to find two or three kebab shops on a single block. Whichever spot you choose, your kebab will likely be fashioned in the same way: a white-bread bun sliced open and stuffed with beef, lamb, or chicken carved off of a giant spit, and served with a pile of greasy fries.

Gratin Dauphinois

One of the few vegetarian items you’ll find in the prepared-foods case at a French butcher shop is the creamy, potatoey, faintly garlicky concoction known as gratin dauphinois. The simple dish is baked at high heat to give the top an alluring golden crust, and usually served as a side to roast meat dishes, though no one will fault you for eating two helpings and calling it “dinner”.

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