Food

A Crêpe-making Holiday? When in France

As most of the world is aware, France has a very healthy relationship with food, with its complex network of traditions and cultural practices tied up with special meals and desserts.  Each month has a corresponding holiday around food:  in January, it’s la galette des rois for Epiphany, in February you have both la Chandeleur and le Saint-Valentin, and this continues all the way into December, with the bûche de Noël among numerous other holiday traditions such as vin chauddes marrons, and the famous foie gras and canard or lapin for the New Year’s Eve Réveillon.

Yesterday while the United States was busy deciding whether or not the official groundhog had seen his shadow, France was busy celebrating la Chandeleur, a complex holiday that is tied to both the Catholic holiday of Candelmas, which celebrates the presentation of Jesus to the Temple as well as the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after giving birth (a custom women still practice in Islam), as well as the Roman holiday of light, festa candelorum, which is the origin of the French name, from the French word for long tapered candles, des chandelles.  It also has its roots in Northern and Western European holidays celebrating the lengethening of the days.  Today the holiday is mostly remembered as a time to get together with friends and make crêpes, one of France’s most popular food exports.  It’s a seasonal, religious, and cultural/food-related holiday all in one. Summer, light, and crêpes!

crepes-chandeleur

Surprisingly enough, there is more in common between the very secular American Groundhog’s Day and la Chandeleur in France than simply sharing the same date:

“In France, Candlemas is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year. The French though have a completely reversed view of the weather prospects. They say: “Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derriere; Chandeleur couverte quarante jours de perte,” a rhyme that means, more or less: “If February 2nd is clear, no more winter to fear; if the Chandeleur is overcast, forty days winter to last.” But then again they also say: “Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur” which is “A sunny Candlemas will bring winter and misfortune”. Other traditions include “Si point ne veut de blé charbonneux mange des crêpes à la Chandeleur” which is “if you do not at all wish the wheat to blacken eat crêpes at Candlemas”, and “Celui qui la rapporte chez lui allumée. Pour sûr ne mourra pas dans l’année” which is “whoever arrives home (from church) with it (the candle) lit for sure will not die that year”.” Wikipedia

Luckily for us, the weather in Amiens was absolutely dismal.  It was dark, the sky a slate gray that makes me think more a muddy puddle than a Van Gogh-esque Starry Night, and it was spewing at various intervals cold snow-rain that melted upon touching the ground.  I’m sure hoping that our winter will be a short one, for I’m longing for the mild temperatures of spring and summer in Northern France, and the rare sun sightings in the past few months leave one longing for the gentle kiss of sunshine against your forehead.  I’m looking forward to relaxing in le Parc Saint-Pierre and having picnics and soccer matches and pétanque tournaments to pass the time.

I have been fortunate enough to share many French traditions with friends here in France, many of which I hadn’t celebrated the first time I lived in Amiens two years ago.  The benefit of knowing the locals is the possibility to share in their traditions.  This year, I had two delicious Kings’ cakes for Epiphany, another religiously-based holiday that is also celebrated in New Orleans in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  Unlike the very sweet and colorful New Orleans style Kings’ Cake, the French galette des rois is made of almond-paste frangipane and pastry, with a little fève (originally, a broad bean) figurine buried beneath layers of cake and which many collect.  Tradition has it that the youngest person has to crawl under the table and “decide” who gets what piece of cake as it is sliced in equal portions for family members or friends.  As I was the youngest among my group of friends, I stuck my head under the table.  Whoever has the slice of cake concealing the fève, which in New Orleans is a little figure of a naked baby (originally representing the baby Jesus), is crowned “king” or “queen” for the day, wears a paper crown, and, most importantly, escapes dishes duty for the rest of the day.  I also got to sample a homemade galette des rois with the four French girls I teach, although unfortunately the fève was hidden in one of the remaining slices.

“The cake traditionnally celebrating Epiphany in France and Quebec is sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Two versions exist: in northern France and Quebec the cake called galette des rois (which can be either circular or rectangular) consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane. In southern France – Occitania, Roussillon, Provence,Catalan where it´s called tortell – the cake called gâteau des rois or royaume, is a torus-shaped brioche with candied fruits and sugar, similar in its shape and colours to a crown. This later version is also common to Spain and very similar to New-Orleans king cake.

Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in their slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a broad bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain or—more recently—plastic. These figurines have become popular collectibles and can often be bought separately. Individual bakeries may offer a specialized line of fèves depicting diverse themes from great works of art to classic movie stars and popular cartoon characters. The cakes are usually sold in special bags, some of which can be used to heat the cake in a microwave without ruining the crispness of the cake. A paper crown is included with the cake to crown the “king” who finds the fève in their piece of cake. To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place themselves under the table and name the recipient of the share which is indicated by the person in charge of the service.

Formerly, one divided the cake in as many shares as guests, plus one. The latter, called “the share of God,” “share of the Virgin Mary,” or “share of the poor” was intended for the first poor person to arrive at the home.” Wikipedia

I recently also had the opportunity to attend the birthday party of one of my closest French friends here in Amiens.  The small and intimate gathering was delightful, from the many delicious cold samplings of “finger food”, from delicate quail eggs to bread slices slathered with various spreads, a “savory” caky bread, and little chocolate muffins at the end of the meal.  We played a game that was perhaps as literary and nerdy as our group, which is called À la manière de (In the manner of), which takes a line from the work of a famous French author and stops mid-sentence, allowing those playing along to “propose” a sentence “in the manner of” the famous author. The goal is to sound convincingly enough like the author that when the person whose turn it is reads all the different sentences anonymously, including the “real” sentence the author wrote, everyone will be convinced that your invented sentence is the literary text.

For those of you who read French, here is a sampling of the “sentence endings” I wrote down, with a few “real” sentences that I read aloud at my turn.  Let’s see if you can guess the French author who inspired them :)

  • “…ma femme se rende compte que je veux coucher avec un homme.
  • … je vous tue.
  • … une affaire compliquée et pénible,
  • … tu me saoules.
  • … on a dû tomber du ciel,
  • …quelconque.
  • …périmé
  • … j’ai tout ce que j’ai désiré.”

My own Chandeleur party was incredible, as I get to spend it at a close friend’s house with all the other members of my locavore group.  We spent at least four hours playing a board game called “Zombicide”, which is a hilarious cooperative game in which you try to “shoot the zombies” and race against the zombie invasion while following one of ten different scenarios.

Zombicide

Zombicide

Oh, and the crêpes.  In the 24 hours that we spent together, I probably ate more crêpes than I have in an entire year. Curry-flavored crêpes with leeks and onions and goat cheese and tome de cidre cheese and sweet crêpes flavored with orange blossoms and stuffed with Nutella and Jonagold apples or spread with homemade jam.

crêpe-sucrée1286364614

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Round Two

It snowed a few days ago here in Amiens (although it melted the following day), and since yesterday it has been absolutely freezing.  I’m from the Midwest United States, so I am not exaggerating when I say that (my three years in Omaha bring to mind many not-so-fond memories of the snow and the cold).  Last night, it dropped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-8 C), and even in the middle of the day, it is now only 27 degrees (-3 C).  I have ventured out as little as possible in the past week since I’ve written my last post.

IMG_0730

Now I can finally say, after five months, twelve weeks of classes, and many an exam, exposé or written dossier (or all three!), I have finally finished my first semester!  It’s time to break out the sparkling grape juice and do a celebratory dance… until classes begin again next Monday.  I had my last two exams last Monday and filled eight sides of paper all in French about various theoretical and linguistic topics relating to H.P. Grice’s maximes of communication and the argumentative strategies of Albert Camus.  Hopefully I won’t have to retake those exams, but I won’t know those grades for a while.  I also finally finished my linguistics dossier on English words (anglicismes) used in French food and cooking vocabulary: think cookies, donuts, ketchup, and other such things (whereas they, conversely, have contributed about 60% of all our culinary words, such as bourguignon, à la minute, au gratin, etc.).  Now all I need to do is wait and see if I passed my first semester or whether or not I will need to prepare make-up exams in June for the classes for which I do not have the passing 10 average.

On a professional note, I at last know what is required of me in order to teach in a French middle school or high school!  This Wednesday I traveled to the neighboring town of Beauvais to attend an info session on l’enseignement catholique in France.  As a non-ressortisant(e) de l’Espace européenne, that’s to say, neither a French nor a European citizen, I am effectively barred from teaching in public schools because that requires the fonctionnaire status – as a government civil servant.  Which means, although I only want to teach my native tongue to 12-18 year olds, I would still be considered a “government employee”, and as a non-European, that is not a possibility.  I can always re-apply to be a public school teacher in four and a half years, upon receiving French citizenship, but in order to remain in France during this time, I need a job.  One of those lovely Catch-22’s that you so often encounter in France (See Jennifer Lee’s delightful essay on French Catch-22’s or on Teaching English in France).  Luckily, for those willing to jump through a bunch of hoops, there is a solution: private schools.

However, don’t expect to just show up in France and find a French high school willing to hire you – not if it’s “sous contrat de l’État”, that’s to say, funded and reglemented by the government, which the majority of the legitimate and mainstream schools in France, private or public, are.  No, in order to get hired by a private school, you must have completed both years of your Masters (I’m in the process), pass both the épreuves d’admissibilité du CAPES (the June written teaching exam, I just signed up for it) and the épreuves d’admission du CAPES (the oral exams scheduled for 2014), follow classes of specific pedagogy and work as a student teacher for a minumum of 12 weeks, and get the approval of the regional Diocese in order to both student teach and be hired full-time.  Not to mention the permission of the regional office for the region’s schools (le Rectorat) to teach in France even in private schools.  And eventually, pass through the requirements for applying for a work permit (titre de travail) at your local préfecture.  As 70% of all private schools in France “sous contrat” are Catholic schools, I am going to follow the procedures and begin my long journey between now and becoming a teacher within the regional school district of Catholic schools.  After all, the students learn exactly the same things in the classroom as they do in public schools.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll be a student teacher come September!

I’ve had a last few rounds of delicious meals with my German, Tunisian and French friends before my two close friends leave tomorrow for Germany, before embarking on other adventures.  Tonight is their fête de départ at the same African café-bar where I myself had my going-away party in 2011!

By the way, it’s been exactly two years since I first arrived in Amiens… How many things have happened since!

Mloukhiya, a traditional Tunisian dish that takes 7 hours to prepare

Mloukhiya, a traditional Tunisian dish that takes 7 hours to prepare

Fondue soirée

Fondue soirée

Categories: Amiens, Daily Life, Education, Food, France | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thanksgiving à l’amienoise

This past week, my oldest brother visited me in Amiens.  He arrived, groggy and exhausted from two long flights, in time to attend my first ever Thanksgiving in France.  I had organized an elaborate meal with my German-American friend, basing our recipes on family traditions and the offerings of local Picard farmers at the Saturday market.  This was only the second time I had missed a family Thanksgiving, traditionally held in Arizona, where the dusty red landscape and prickly cacti vont de pair with turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie.  Desperate to hold onto my favorite holiday and cherished traditions, while making room for the multicultural, multi-national reality that is my life, I sought to create the best of both worlds.

My German friends have been so gracious and eager to prepare meals in my apartment, making it almost a weekly habit.  The weekend previous to the Thanksgiving extravaganza, at my request, we had made Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Apfelmus (apple purée), and American apple pie.  It took us hours to grate and peel a kilo and a half of “firm-fleshed” potatoes and to fry them in a pan, while we boiled down and baked a crustful of regional apples.  The following weekend, myself and my fellow-foreign American were back at the local farmer’s market, where all the market gardeners know us by face and frequently banter with us.  On the menu for my first French Thanksgiving:

  • roast halal chicken (courtesy of Amiens nord)
  • pumpkin pie, made from scratch (canless, with a homemade crust)
  • baked sweet potato fries
  • green bean casserole
  • mashed potatoes
  • vegetarian stuffing
  • vegetarian herb gravy
  • glazed carrots
IMG_0589

Thanksgiving dinner

The meal was delicious, a true success.  While Brian slept, the rest of us chopped multicolored carrots, peeled potatoes, cut up green beans, and tried not to be overwhelmed by the many different and strange dishes (for some) that we were preparing.  The pumpkin pie turned out wonderful, even better than the from-the-can staple that most households make.  Nothing can beat my grandmother’s cooking, but the conviviality and esprit de corps that my group of friends shared this day was worthy of the original event.  Thanksgiving is about coming together, being present in the moment, giving thanks, and sharing food.

Brian invited us all to reflect on what we were thankful for, and while this idea might have struck some as funny, it stuck with me throughout the week and throughout his visit.  I’ve decided to look back on his trip through the same lens:

I am thankful that Brian arrived safe in Amiens, without losing anything (besides a glove!), and that he got to spend a wonderful week with me, getting to know my life and friends here, and sharing with them his own experiences and culture.

I am thankful that I was able to sit for my translation thème exam on Monday, despite the fact that I had to walk forty minutes in order to arrive on time.  I hope that this exam will help me pull up the disastrous grade I received for my translation version exam on Tuesday.

I am thankful that I am able to do a Master’s in France, no matter what grades I get or how I do in the long run.  I am thankful that I speak French relatively fluently, that I am able to communicate with others and share almost everything I have on my mind.  I will be mindful to keep working on my French and try to do my best to succeed at my Master’s.

I am thankful that I am part of such a wonderful group as the Tombés d’la charrette, and that I was officially “adopted” into the community over a week ago.  I will do my best to contribute to our different events and group meetings, in order that others are both educated and empowered to make a difference in their local community.  I am thankful that Brian was able to attend both a logistics meeting and one of our sponsored events.

I am thankful to have received my vignette d’OFII, which allows me to stay a year in France on a visa de long séjour.

I am thankful to have been able to go to Paris to meet up with our cousin, Annie, who’s studying for a semester in Angers.  Even though I could only stay for a few hours, our trip to the Louvre and throughout Paris was totally worth it.  I am thankful to have a family that travels, learns about different cultures, and dares to go outside of its comfort zone.  My family is the primary reason I am the person who I am today.

Annie and Brian

Annie and Brian

I am thankful to be able to teach English, even if it’s only one hour a week.  Even the small things add up to big things, and you have to start somewhere… :p

I am thankful that I can walk everywhere in my fun-sized city, and that I am healthy enough to be able to walk around and up the five-flights of stairs to my apartment every day.

I am thankful for this beautiful holiday season in Amiens, where the marché de Noël tempts with its various regional and international boutiques, and the lights and songs and people everywhere add to the festive cheer.  I am thankful for the gorgeous light display on the Amiens Cathedral.

I am thankful for my wonderful friends here in Amiens.  You are incredible, and I am a better person for having known you.  Thanks for the delicious cooking, and the wonderful meal of Flammkuchen last night!

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Je mange donc je suis

I’ve hinted here and there that I am part of a locavore group here in Amiens.  Or to be more precise, I am part of a group of French and international twenty-something-year-olds who are concerned about the way students eat.  In an effort to promote supporting local farmers and producers, we have developed a project called Aliment’ton local (Let’s eat local), which I am proud to be a part of.  The goal is to encourage students to eat locally, and (re)learn to cook, within the constraints of a limited student budget and a studio apartment that often lacks an oven.  Our goal is to both educate young students and professionals in Amiens and to develop a network of local cultivators and producers of regional food and drink.  With this goal in mind we’ve begun to offer once a month a series of cooking workshops or ateliers, the first having taken place in October.  The result was both simple and astonishing: successfully producing at less than 3 euros per person a delicious meal of local varieties of squash and pumpkin in a convivial atmosphere.  We sampled different courges and worked together to peel and cut up carrots, a bright orange potimarron, and potatoes de Picardie.

pommes de terre

échalotes

Final result

Last night we had another event, one that was exceptionally thought-provoking.  It was a ciné-repas (dinner and a movie), where we came together to watch a 25-min film called “Je mange donc je suis” (I eat therefore I am).  If you are interested, you can find the film (in French) on Youtube at the following link:

For those who can’t understand French, here’s a brief summary: in 1994, a group of nations signed what was to be known as the Marrakesh Agreement, which birthed the World Trade Organization and established free international trade (libre-échange in French).  While in many ways it might appear to be a good thing to have competitive international trading in order to guarantee the lowest price for consumers, what it means in terms of food trading and exporting has more or less been disaster, poverty, and famine.  Countries like Brazil and the Unites States, where monoculture and huge tracks of mechanized farms allow for the production of cheap, mass quantities of food, force the price of food on an international level to be below subsistence costs for small-time farmers.  It has lead to the demise of the family farmer in both the U.S. and Europe and to increasing poverty and mass dislocation of the rural population to urban slums in countries of Africa and Asia. Farmers worldwide simply can’t compete with massive agroindustry or gigantic mega-farms, and as a result, they give up on agriculture.  In such countries the majority of the population relies on food aid.  The cycle seems non-sensical, especially since it also coincides with the loss of food culture and traditions as well as local plant specimens tied to a certain region.

At the end of the film, we did a bit of role-playing.  One group had to defend the politicians, either regional or national, who make up the laws concerning food and food trade. Another group represented agroindustry.  A third stood for the citizens, and the last group presented the plight of traditional farmers worldwide.  It was certainly interesting to put oneself in the shoes of such different types of people in order to understand all that’s at stake with this issue.

We ended the night with a delicious shared meal of soup: one pot of potato and leek soup and another of potimarron, potato, and carrot soup.  All were local picards vegetables.

Have you thought about the food you eat or where it comes from? What do you think about the types of issues presented in a film like Je mange donc je suis?

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‘Tis (already) the Season

The icicles came up tonight outside my downtown apartment, where they will linger for the better part of two months.  Thankfully, this reflects merely the upcoming holidays and not the cold, although Amiens has been dropping into the lower single digits (Celsius, of course) recently.  The real cold has not hit us yet, but that does not prevent the damp chill from leaking into my apartment room and warping my books.

As you might well understand, I have been much occupied by my Master d’anglais these past two months.  Despite having a break of about two weeks in October, I am well into the season of papers and examinations.  Or, I suppose I should say, I am finally into the season of papers and examinations.  My particular program, and many French university classes in general, often demand little legwork during the first few weeks and much cramming for final exams, upon which most of your grade is based.  Given that I have chosen a literary track, I am also expected to present several “exposés” (oral presentations) and write a few 5-10 page papers.  Not super demanding, although I fear that I am either underestimating the difficulty of my particular program or overestimating my abilities.  As of yet, I have only been graded on two different things: an oral presentation for a literature class concerning feminist American literature and an hour and a half examination translating a passage from English to French.  I haven’t received either grade yet, so there is no way for me to gauge how I am doing.

I am finding that the autumn and winter are much more challenging seasons in regards to homesickness: there’s a slew of holidays (Eid-al-Adha this year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) that I am used to celebrating with friends and family, family traditions and seasonal food, and the overall sense of changing temperatures that make me long for home.  The last time I spent four months in France, I narrowly missed the snow and transitioned into a gorgeous (somewhat) sunny Spring.  I can’t tell what feels different this time, why the homesick feeling is more tangible or persistent.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of permanence to my decision to live in France, instead of the fleeting stay of a few months that a study abroad offers.  Mostly I think it has to do with my inability to return home until I have a steady job, or any job at all for that matter.  Without money, you inevitably feel much less mobile.

Last week I felt like I sleepwalked through my classes after coming back from a two-week vacation.  I am simultaneously auditing the Master d’enseignement while attending my Master de recherche classes (the two Masters have most of their classes together, luckily for me), as I hope to transition into the Master d’enseignement next year.  I feigned sick on Wednesday and Thursday in order to not have to attend these extra classes and recuperate a bit from a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Today I feel bright and chipper, but that probably has a lot to do with my only having had an hour of class.  The professor who is both my directrice de recherche for my Master’s thesis and teaches a seminar on Great Britain’s children’s literature Monday mornings was sick.  She also was unable to offer the last two hours of approches théoriques required for my Master de recherche, so I was effectively “liberated” from four hours of class today.  The one hour was quite delightful, as I love my translation classes.  The professor who teaches thème, that is, translating from French to English, is a very witty British man who tends to act out our false interpretations or applications of words in the text.

I’ve been rereading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening for that class on feminist literature.  I had forgotten how much I love her writing.  Since I started rereading it last night, I have been glued to my Nook, reading it on the bus to and from the fac (university), on my kitchen table, and snuggled up in my bed.  I’ve never regretted studying literature, language, and reading books for school and enjoyment, but I just hope I can make a career out of it, teaching English here in France or elsewhere…

Other photo updates:

Halloween pumpkin dinner

Hedi’s birthday cake

Categories: Amiens, Daily Life, Education, Expats, Food, France, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baguettes and Red Tape (part 2)

The Joys of French Food

One of the disadvantages of being a university student in a country that has really good food is that you usually cannot afford to eat in restaurants.  One of the advantages of living in France, however, is that good food is pretty easy to find, from the fromagerie at Les Halles (down the street) to the boulangerie beneath your apartment building.

Stand of spice packets at the “fête médiévale” d’Amiens

There are several rules of thumb to follow when you are living in (as opposed to simply visiting) France, especially if you are a student on a budget or if you have certain dietary restrictions.  If you are just traveling through, I’d recommend that you simply indulge.  Eat that croissant aux amandes, that pain au chocolat, that delectable cheese that you won’t find anywhere outside of France.  Sip back a glass of vin rouge if that’s your thing.  Choose a great Algerian restaurant in Paris or Nice, or fraternize with the locals at a corner kebab.  Pick something that looks and sounds good, and enjoy it.

As for the thrifty backpacker, impoverished foreigner, and generally broke college student, there are other ways to enjoy the quality and variety of cuisines you can find in France, whether or not French cooking is your cup of tea.  My first rule of advice is to try to buy as much as you can (fresh vegetables, cheese, even bread and meat) at the weekly outdoor markets.  The price of the food is almost always worth the quality of fresh produce, and the more vegetables you buy, the cheaper it is to live in France.  This is because when you cook your own food, even the exorbitant cost of living is balanced by the greatly reduced price of meals.

Pile of vegetables at the “fête médiévale” d’Amiens

The great thing about buying food at a farmer’s market, in addition to meeting a lot of the wonderful “agriculteurs” or “maraîchers” de France, is that you are also discovering some of the unique vegetables that make up the French cuisine.  From “pêches plates” to the famous “topinambours,” you will be forced to be more creative with your cooking as well as with your diet.

pêche plate

topinambour

To take advantage of French food, you also need to take advantage of the “specialty” food stores that the French are so well known for – fromagerie, charcuterie, boucherie pâtisserie, boulangerie, traiteur.  These local businesses survive in a world of convenience by the quality of their products and the loyalty of their customers.  Eating especially well sometimes only costs a few centimes more.  The difference in the baguette is profound between Carrefour and a corner bakery.  These staples and the French tendency to spend more money per household on food usually results in an outstanding quality in the ingredients that make up French cuisine.

Another rule of thumb when attempting French recipes is to try their more “exotic” staples that are so hard to find elsewhere.  For instance, crème fraîche, or fromage blanc, or even the ultra-pasteurized milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opening, at which point it lasts a mere 48 hours in the refrigerator before expiring.  A real challenge, however, is converting between American recipes and French measurement.  Even something as simple as flour can differ greatly between the two countries!  Here I found a fabulous website that gives a rough measurement of the equivalents between American and French ingredients.  Besides having to juggle between two different systems of measurement, as well as the way in which things are measured (volume vs. weight), the quantity and texture of the ingredients themselves greatly differ.

For those who are vegetarian, gluten-free, eat only kosher or halal, or prefer to eat “sustainably” or with a social conscience, the good news is that there is a little bit of everything in France.  There will be your typical “bio” stores selling organic produce or your “équitable” Fair trade marks, and there is plenty of Muslim boucheries, Arab markets, and kosher delis.  The only downside of eating out in France, as opposed to cooking chez toi, is that navigating a French menu is particularly daunting for “special diets.”  You will usually find little in the way of vegetarian options, and most Muslims I know avoid French restaurants altogether, wary of the cheeses and the alcohol or pork lurking behind certain dish names, or they are simply tired of ordering fish *again*.  As my gluten-free, vegetarian cousin who’s living in Angers will attest, it is also very difficult to find things to eat in France from the standard diet.  But for the health-conscious traveler, don’t fear the butter or cream you often find in French dishes.  The French lifestyle, which involves copious amounts of walking and a general taboo on snacking, compensates from the fat content.

Bâteau en cornet des hortillons

What have I been eating so far in France?  Well, besides consuming a vast quantity of bread, I’ve sampled a wide assortment of food.  Un libanais at my favorite Kebab restaurant.  Une salade au chèvre, a salad of greens and dried fruit along with goat cheese heated up on little toasts.  Un couscous tunisien, a first attempt with Hedi to make couscous with our little couscoussier for a group of international friends.  Un 3aja, a Tunisian dish with harissa (see this wonderful NPR article for more information), tomato sauce, merguez sausages, and eggs eaten with French baguettes.  A galette hortillon, a crêpe made of buckwheat (a recipe originating from Brittany), stuffed with the local weekly harvest vegetables of Amiens’ famous hortillonages.  Cheese. Fish. Pizza. Bagnat au thon, a round sandwich with tuna, lettuce, tomato, and hard-boiled egg slices.  Pâtes et émincé de poulet au boursin, pasta with thinly sliced chicken with a Boursin (creamy French cheese) sauce.  Pique-nique de gruyère et de pain, slices of Gruyère cheese on Sesame bread.  Macarons, brightly colored round meringue-like cookies, in flavors of pistachio, chocolate, café.

Macarons

What are your thoughts on French food? What experiences of open-air markets have you had in France?

Categories: Food, France | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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