Terra: In France, We Eat Well
There are a lot of contradicting stereotypes about France I have heard over the years. Sometimes the first thing people think of is how snobby and perfectly thin all French people always seem to be. Others think of the most delicious crème brûlée, bagettes, fondue, and pinot noir.
The truth is both stereotypes are pretty accurate for the most part. Beautiful, well dressed, perfectly coiffed women will sit and indulge their senses in the most delicious of French cuisine. But most Americans cannot fathom the idea, and honestly it still baffles me a bit. A friend of my family’s who has a doctorate in French once told me “it’s just in their blood, the French are bred to be petit”. Even if this is true, there is a little more to it.
It is part of the French culture to eat like it is sacred. There is no snacking in France, it is a thing for children for when they come home from school. As adults the French just don’t snack which seems crazy. If you are a fan of snacking and then you stay in France you will realize just how much you snack as well as how much they do not.
That being said, don’t get me wrong, the French love to eat. Almost every night of the week French families have lovely large dinners that often include 3-4 courses. There is always a main course full of protein, such as Quiche Lorraine or Boeuf bourguignon. This is usually followed by a tossed salad, then a savory, butter selection of at least 2 different specialty cheeses (make sure you watch how they cut the cheese, it’s an art and you will be corrected). And the one, especially indulgent part for me was that my host families almost always had dessert of some kind. Sometimes it was just pudding or yogurt but it was always there no matter what.
Eating is a tradition in France that might not ever be broken. You will sit at a table and make conversation with your family and any guests present. You will eat with the correct utensils and in the correct manner and may even be corrected if you do not know how to. But this is all part of being emerged in a new culture. At times the French may seem intimidating but the truth is they love Americans and they will only ask you to respect their traditions as we might ask them the same. It was an adjustment for me, but it also taught me a lot, from how to eat properly to how to pronounce all the different cheeses made in France.
After all the etiquette, France is one of the best places to eat and drink on earth. I tried new things like hare and meat pies as well as different versions of food we have in the states too. My taste buds are eternally grateful for all the amazing crusty warm bread and dense rich chocolate I had over my stay…but now I crave them every day. Taking a bite of a fresh baguette is better than falling in love for the first time, it will make you swoon and want it even when you don’t want it. It’s honestly the best thing you might every taste, and you’ll never forget it.