Monday, May 28, 2012

Eating Our Way Through France

Is food really a better quality here? Is it really fresher, cleaner, greener, healthier, more flavorful, more satisfying? Or is it just that we are on vacation, moving at a slower pace, living more in the moment, enjoying everything more and eating more mindfully?
Plentiful shellfish is so fresh, sweet and tastes of the sea

Visiting the open air markets and conversing with the vendors is a travel experience in itself. My French is so intolerable, they all immediately lapse int their best Frenglish... we get lots of laughs, and I always end up with a packet of something that will titillate my taste buds, put 2 more inches on my girth, but will be so memorable I'll be able to share stories about it for years to come.
Trout almondine with terrines of courgette and carrot
Cases overflowing with luscious cheeses, goat, sheep, oh, and of course cow. Soft bries, Camembert's, mar bier, cheese of the region, as the walnut of the Perigeux, and the basque sheep's milk cheese in the south. The charcuterie, smoked, fresh sausages, dried sausages of duck, pork and even fish!

We have cooked part of the time, and eaten out on a regular basis. When sightseeing, it is easy to fall into the easy pattern of the long, leisurely 2 hour French lunch. Everything stops at 12:30 when the shops and markets close, and restaurant tables fill up. Sandwich boards on the sidewalk advertise the plats du jour, or the menu specials. Prix fixe menus are the norm all over France, and offer the best value for the money. For a fixed price, nominally between 12 and 20 Euros, one gets a choice of appetizers, main course and dessert. Regional wines by the carafe are also offered at nominal prices, and always complement the meal.
A salad nicoise Dordogne style
I'd love to think that French women don't get fat because  all this food, laced with buttery sauces and accompanied by the best bread on the planet does not expand the waistline, but there must be another reason. I suspect it is because they do not eat croissants for every breakfast, enjoy buerre blanc drizzled over every piece of fish, and do not finish every meal with mousse chocolate. What I do know, is that portions are smaller, food is beautifully prepared and presented, and so wonderfully satisfying, that less truly is more. Sitting with a friend and taking two hours to enjoy lunch, or 3 hours for dinner is nearly unheard of where I live. The pace is relaxed and unhurried, people expect to enjoy their meals, do not eat in their cars or while walking down the street. Children leave school and go home for lunch, and shops while closed during lunch, reopen about 2:30 or 3:00 and stay open til about 7:00PM.

We will be home in a few days. I so hope we'll be able to bring a small bit of the flavor of this amazing flavorful country with us, and retain a little bit of the structured, unhurried lifestyle. I guess the only problem is that we don't have a boulangerie down on the corner!


1 comment:

  1. My mouth is watering! I, too, love long leisurely meals.