I would not be doing my job as traveler, temporary Parisian, or human being if I did not dedicate at least 90 percent of my time to talking about French food. I have probably far exceeded that–food is about all I have talked about since setting foot on this continent. Luckily, being considerably food-obsessed themselves, the French don’t seem to mind.
Before departing for this land of food finery, I was warned by many a friend or relative who had dipped their toes into the French culinary pool that French food was not edible. Unfortunately, this was not true. French food is so addicting that it has both emptied my wallet and threatened my waist line consistently over the past month. Allow me to demonstrate.
1. Baguettes. Camembert. Comté.
Baguettes cost a single euro here. If you wander into the local boulangerie around meal time (make sure to look out for the artisanal ones for the proper, baker-rises-at-3-in-the-morning experience. It makes a difference), there is almost always a line. The boulangerie is also the only place in France with quick service because French people cannot live without bread at every meal. I’ve become personally addicted to tradi, the baguette au traditional. I honestly don’t know what exactly is different about it from a regular baguette, but I attribute it to a magical characteristic in the rising process, or the wheat, or the rolling?… My addition is exemplified by the fact that my dinner tonight was an entire tradi and two-thirds of a circle of camembert. When I’m drinking wine (which people here often are) I generally go for the comté. Because I like to pretend I know fancy things like how to pair wines and cheeses.
2. French onion soup.
Only here it’s just “onion soup” because the French is implied. Which I thought was hilarious when I first saw it on the menu. Unfortunately this hot, flavorful soup topped with a crust of cheese and thick bread doesn’t translate too fantastically to photos. But if I’ve had one bowl, I’ve had one at every single meal since I’ve been here.
3. Local food.
The French’s trick to everything. They only eat things grown fairly nearby, and you can tell. There’s a whole new level of freshness when your food hasn’t been flown half-way around the world before it reached your mouth. Downside being that it’s nearly impossible to get things out of season, or things that don’t grow in nearby climates. Like peanut butter and maple syrup. My I miss you, PB&J. I found a little brunch place in Montmartre that takes this to an extreme and only serves locally-grown products in their ever-changing brunch menu that is open two days a week for one meal. At long communal-style tables, I devoured the greatest bread, butter, and eggs Benedict I could ever imagine. Too eager to eat it to take a picture of what it looked like before I started destroying it, my apologies…
4. Creme brulée.
One of my favorite desserts back home, in its home country. Goodness, this stuff is magic. I could probably eat it with every meal of the day…
5. Fondant chocolate.
A flour-less chocolate cake, homemade by my house mother and left up to me to finish over the course of the weekend. Let’s just say I ate very well that weekend.
6. French attempt at American food.
After a month of incredible Parisian food, I got a little homesick, so my friends and I sought out “Breakfast in America”. We were greeted by a very goofy caricature of an American diner, complete with decorative toasters next to every booth (I guess they kind of look like jukeboxes?), a huge “Friends” poster, and an “Obama” milkshake (peanut butter and chocolate). I have to admit though, they make a mean burger.
7. The famous Angelina’s coffee.
Almost no words. Thick and nearly pure chocolate, mixed in with fluffy white chantilly (french whipped cream). I drank about two pitchers. I would’ve waited twice as long as the 15-20 minute line out front for a taste of this magic.
8. Last, but not least: escargot. Yes, snails.
With some fellow W&M friends coming in from Florence and Barcelona, we wanted to treat them to all the french specialties, so we found a little bistro near the Louvre with escargots on the menu. We were all but squirming with anxiety when the waiter brought over the plate and showed us how to pry them out of their shells. Surprise: THEY WERE AMAZING. We all fought over the last one and seriously debated ordering several more rounds. We used our bread to soak up every last drop of flavor from that plate. Who knew?
Apologies for the food obsession, but when everything tastes this good, it’s a little tough to stay cool…À bientôt!