My husband has got a job in France so we are going to live in a town on the outskirts of Paris for a few years. I have the small task of learning French and getting used to life as an ex-pat. It is quite exciting – I love to travel and it is quite a different thing to live a decent amount of time in a country so you can make friends, learn the language and immerse yourself properly in the culture of the place. That includes the food!
Oh the food, the French are famous for their food and their attitude towards it. The cheeses, the butter, the patisseries, the tart tatin, the dauphinoise, cream, the chocolat, the crepes oozing with butter, the artisan ice creams, creme buerre sallee….. Will my waistline grow with my time in France?
The French paradox has often been discussed in nutrition circles – the high fat cheeses, the butter, the salt, the red wine etc and yet a surprisingly low incidence of heart disease and lower rates of obesity compared to other European countries. I need to go and look at the stats to see if the gap is narrowing but the paradox has long been talked of. However, maybe some of the food culture in France may be part of the explanation.
The phrase ‘Je n’ai plus faim’ means ‘I have no more hunger’ is said in place of the English ‘I am full’, a phrase that suggests we eat until there is no more space to eat another thing. The French imply with their turn of phrase that it is enough to eat until there is no more hunger suggesting that the general rule is to to stop eating before that stuffed feeling kicks in! Is this significant in their better diet related health?
There are other cultural differences between the French and the British. The French are renowned for preserving mealtimes – having long lunch breaks and that meal times are sociable family affairs. They also have a greater respect for produit terroir (locally sourced produce) and buying their food from markets and specialist shops rather than from generic supermarkets – the markets of France are alive and kicking in a way that we don’t see so strongly in the UK, that tends to be the preserve of the middle class foodies to a great extent. I think things are changing in France – the fast food grazing culture is more prevalent now and supermarkets are getting a bigger market share than before for fresh goods but this trend is way behind the UK. It will be interesting to experience the difference in food culture whilst living in France.
Where we are to live, there is a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays held very, very close to where we are going to be living and a small supermarket in the high street with a number of boulangeries, chocolatieres, greengrocers, boucheries etc. I will have my bike and my wheeled shopping trolley and do as the French do – buy food from the market and the little shops. And maybe I shall eat until Je n’ai plus faim.
Only downside is that there is a real lack of vegetarianism in France and my husband is a vegetarian (has been for 20+ years) – that can be a challenge in restaurants and cafes. Une assiette des legumes isn’t really a substantial meal and Duncan isn’t really a man who loves salad and even these are often garnished with lardons! It is an omelette or a galette (buckwheat savoury pancakes) or we find an Italian restaurant! So recommendations of good veggie restaurants and cafes very welcome!!