I’ve been living in Paris for over eighteen months. And it’s pretty apparent there is a different attitude to food. When I was back in the UK in January, the magazines were screaming: DIET, DIET, DIET. At least two celebs had books out on a new fangled diet that had changed their lives. But back here in Paris. We ate well over Christmas, and we are going to carry on eating well. Because food is for pleasure and it brings happiness to one’s life. But food is consumed with discipline and moderation is key. Here is what living in France has taught me about food.
1. We don’t drink jugs of wine
Wine is served in small glasses, the largest I have had is 175mls, that’s a small glass in the UK. Wine should be drunk with food, and French wine tastes so much better with food.
2. And the wine always seems to be French
I’m partial to a nice glass of Australian Shiraz, but it’s not easy to find wines that aren’t French. In the supermarkets and the caves aux vins (the cute little wine shops) they only seem to have French wine. And why would you sell anything else when there is so much to offer.
3. Butter is not the enemy
Everything tastes so much better when you have cooked it with a knob of butter. Just try roasting chicken slathered in butter and a little pepper and salt. Nothing quite beats it!
And I have a favourite butter. It’s from Normandy, with sea salt crystals. Eaten with a baguette, it is simply sublime.
4. Nor is bread
I have grown to love bread. I have a favourite boulangerie, it bakes fresh baguettes at least three times a day. Walking home with a warm, freshly baked baguette tucked under my arm, is heavenly. And we don’t just have one boulangerie, there are four within a five-minute walk of my apartment. And that doesn’t include the patisseries (another three). There is no point low carbing here!
5. In fact, bread is a religion
Next to godliness is breadiness. That’s what if feels like here.
The French might queue barge or queue jump in the supermarket or at the bus stop but never at the boulangerie. The boulanger must be respected. When I walk into a boulangerie behind the counter there are many types of baguettes. Check out this post by David Lebovitz to get your head around the French baguette.
6. I’ve rekindled a love of sugar
When I left the UK I was doing the sugar-free thing, cutting out refined sugar from my diet. But living in Paris it’s hard to do. I just can’t ditch those pain au chocolats for breakfast. And the cakes are to die for. I’m like a kid standing with my nose pressed up against a sweet shop window, trying to decide how to spend my pocket money, on cake!
7. Chocolate is an art form
Oh yes. Walking into a chocolate shop, you might think you have walked into a branch of Tiffany’s. The handmade, artisan chocolates are jewels exquisitely presented in glass cabinets by equally well-presented serveuses. The chocolates are packed in beautiful boxes, to be brought home and admired, gaze in wonder as to how such a little morsel can yield so much pleasure.
8. No eating on the run
No one eats on the street. That is just uncouth. A big no, no.
9. There’s no snacking
This has been a big lesson. I never really see anyone snacking in between meals. Now I eat three meals: breakfast, lunch and supper and nothing in between (at least I try not to!).
And it’s been pretty easy to stop snacking because snacking is almost impossible to do. The temptation to treat oneself to a little tidbit has been taken away. That’s because there aren’t corner shops selling bars of chocolates, sweets and crisps; cake stands in railway stations; a Krispy Kreme concession in the local supermarket. And the newsstands, they just sell magazines and papers.
But there is one single prescribed snack time, at around four o’clock, when it’s gouter when we are able to munch on a sweet snack. People are very disciplined when it comes to food.
9. No drinking vats of coffee
There is Starbucks, Costa Coffee and branch or two of Pret a Manager. And more, and more, artisan coffees houses are springing up around the city. But generally, I don’t see many people running around Paris slurping their grande soya latte with a shot of caramel. Mostly, the done thing is to nurse a little espresso in a cafe and watch the world pass by, thinking deep existentialist thoughts while scribbling in a notebook.
10. And don’t get me started on cheese, it’s going to be life long thing
When I first walked into our local supermarket I was overwhelmed by the cheeses housed within the wall of fridges. I like cheese, I am partial to a bit of Stilton, the kids love a mature Cheddar. When I was a kid, the most exotic we ever got was to eat a bit of Red Leicester.
But, French cheese, where do I start? Reblochon, Savoie cheeses, Mont d’Or (I’m going to treat myself to some of this!), Tomme. And I can gnaw my way through a block of Comte in a single sitting.
We went to buy a piece of goats cheese at our local market and were greeted by at least thirty different varieties. We came home with a goats cheese that resembled a mouldy grey pebble but tasted divine.
Yes. cheese is going to be a life-long adventure of eating and learning.