Okay, so today’s topic is going to be ALL ABOUT FOOD.
One of the things I was most excited about with coming to France was the new foods I could try. Just knowing that in general food in Europe is healthier and less processed than the food in the States. The variety of food is fascinating to me, and though there is still fast food places like KFC, McDonald’s, and Subway around, they are not as common as in the states.
The food here can taste blander than foods you would find in the States because they just don’t tend to put as many chemicals in their foods. GMO’s are banned in nearly all food products save for Corn. Most foods are locally sourced and fruits and veggies sold in the stores tend to be Local and seasonal. You can find off-season foods, but not in bio stores, which are as numerous (In my opinion) as regular stores. Despite the more Bland Taste of foods, I find their food tastes fresher.
They Value their Cheese no NO other, that is one of the things I knew coming to France, was that cheese was a BIG deal here. But when you find entire stores dedicated to cheese… and there are THOUSANDS of cheese types… it is slightly overwhelming. The smells are strong, the tastes are even stronger, and it is an acquired taste for sure. Each region has it’s own specialty cheese. In Savoie, the region I live in. Raclette is SO common this time of the year as it typically served with potatoes and the cheese is melted then poured over the potatoes. As Shown Below. Yes, this is indeed a thing and incredibly popular in Chambery. Yes, I have tried this myself and yes it is as DELICIOUS as it looks.
The other thing I find fascinating is just how a typical French dinner is eaten. The entire 5-course meal is indeed common practice in most French Households. Typically more so at dinner than lunch but even lunch is more “ritualized” than any typical American meal setting.
For a dinner, there tends to be an aperitif which is typically a very sweet alcoholic drink served with snacks before the dinner. You then have a salad beforehand followed by the main meal which is a mix of meats and starches like potatoes, pasta, or rice. Following this is a cheese course where a plate of various cheeses are passed around and eaten with bread. Once all that is done you have a dessert which is generally a yogurt with fruit or fruit tarts, or maybe even a chocolate mousse. Then following that is the wind down with coffee or tea. It is so fascinating to watch and be a part of and it changes the entire eating experience. Dinner can last for 1.5 to 2 hours and it allows you to actually socialize, catch up on each others day, digest the food in which you are eating, and because there is an actual balance to the food. I.E. a good mix of meat, vegetables, fruit, starches… the meals tend to be very healthy and not very heavy at all. I am going to find it hard not to continue some form of this tradition when I come back because I just love it.
Lunch has a similar pattern but without the aperitif aspect. In France, a1-hour lunch is essentially manditory. All stores close, the schools have 1 hour lunch breaks. It is pretty cool and it really is a socializing period for the French.
They do have some weird foods to be sure, differnet types of meat that are just typical here. In the stores it is not uncommon to find entire rappits skinned, in the meat section. Or find ducks plucked and headless. Frequently in the open saturday markets you will see meat hanging up out in open air and looking aged. That is also pretty typical. Cheese is left out on the counters, leftovers as well, over night. It adds flavor and it common practice.
I think one of the most interesting you must understand before coming to France was understanding that the foods that are common in the States are not here. Peanut butter, though you can find it, is nothing near as popular here. You will not find Reese’s products in France, at least I have not. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches are unheard of. Instead, it is Ham and Butter sandwiches. (NO I am not kidding).
Nutella is the peanut butter of France and a staple in nearly every household. I have included this hilarious link to riots that started because of a discounted price on Nutella. Hilarious.
Also, pizza’s, though you can find them, are not like your typical pizza’s. AT ALL, they have some of the WEIRDEST ingredients I have ever seen. It is possible to find what I would call “normal” pizza, but be ready to see some weird stuff.
I have to say, I love the Food here in France, I love the variety and freshness of it, I love that the BIO movement is so prevalent here. If you want locally sourced food within a 100km radius of where you live, that is very easy to do. Community gardens are quite common and fruit, wine, meat, and cheese can all be locally sourced very very easily. Of course, it is going to be different but that is a good thing. Because of there very healthy eating habits combined with the prevalence of walking or riding a bike everywhere it is not every day I see someone overweight at all. It is so rare in fact.
Now if only they could figure out their very unhealthy Smoking Habits. That would be even better. -_-