Hello Friends and Family,
Lately I’ve found myself daydreaming about food. Not just any old food. I’m thinking about food that I can only get in America. Dear Chick-fil-a sauce, I will never, ever take you for granted again, promise. People of America, you don’t know how good you have it. During these daydreams I started comparing the food I eat here in France to the food I eat in America. I began to realize I eat pretty well over here. The ‘Recipes’ page on Pinterest is my new best friend, and I’ve made some tasty meals. Although sometimes just getting the necessary food for my recipes proves to be a real adventure.
First let me start by addressing the accessibility of food. You know how they say ‘everything is bigger in Texas’? Well, there should be a saying ‘everything is shorter in France!’ This applies to everything from the people, the cars, and the work hours. One would assume that if the grocery store says it’s going to open at 8am, it will open at 8am, right? Wrong, very wrong. The grocery store will open when the people who work there decide to arrive. Just ask my dad, who made the rookie mistake of showing up at 8am while he was here. He was left waiting outside until 8:30. What’s the fast food like, you ask? I can only respond to that by asking, what fast food? Now, there is McDonalds, but even that isn’t open past 10 or 11pm. Also, you can just forget delivery because that would require me to call and actually speak French. You see, I communicate with a lot of pointing and hand gestures with a few basic French words sprinkled in. So if I were to call and order I can’t be so sure that what I actually wanted would arrive. Now, sometimes I do go out to eat. I have some favorite yummy restaurants in town, but if you want to eat dinner before 7:30, you can just forget it. Lastly, finding food on Sundays is like finding water in the desert. Except for the good people at Dominos (God bless), no one is working on Sunday.
Now, let’s tackle the grocery store. Luckily, there is a Carrefour right near my apartment. I say luckily because I have to go there multiple times a week. You see, here in France, you have to bag all your own groceries and carry them out of the store. I know I workout, but carrying a bunch of groceries is no joke. It’s not like America where we load up an extra large cart. People here in France just get a little at a time. So on Sundays I usually scan Pinterest and plan out what meals I will want throughout the week. This helps me come up with a list of things I need, but I enviably have to go back throughout the week for more fruit or milk or pita bread and hummus…YUM! When I first enter the grocery store I grab a little basket carrier because if you want the full-fledged cart you have to pay a euro, and nobody has time for that. Then I head to the produce section.
Now, the workers of Carrefour are busy little elves because every time I go in the store…literally, every time…the produce section is rearranged. The area that once held oranges now has carrots and the mushrooms are where the onions once were. Yeah, it makes no sense to me, either. Buying produce was a real challenge for me at first. You have to bag your own fruits or vegetables, take them to a scale, select what item you have, and a little price tag sticker prints out. (See pictures) If you don’t have this price tag on your produce bag the people at the checkout line will absolutely not ring it up for you. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, see I ran into a little problem. I really wanted to buy lemons, but I couldn’t find them on the selection screen when I would weigh them. No one was around for help, and so I despairingly had to put the lemons back each time I would try to buy them. I would talk myself up going into the grocery store like ‘You can do this, Katie! Today is the day that you will get your lemons.’ Each time, it was, in fact, not my day. It took me TWO months to figure out that there are some produce items that you bag and they weigh for you at checkout…lemons happen to be one of those items.
Some other interesting things about the grocery store: there is a huge section of un-refrigerated milk, and this is what all the locals buy. It’s not the powder milk, either. It’s actually the liquid milk sitting out at room temperature. I always wonder what my friend Maggie Harding, aka Farmer Ted, would think about this. Don’t worry, Maggie, I don’t buy the warm milk. I find the refrigerated milk section, which, if you blink you could miss it. Also, I found peanut butter! The tiny jars are almost 4 euro a pop, (outrageous!) but desperate times call for desperate spending. Also the peanut butter is kept in the ‘ethnic foods’ section right in between the salsa and soy sauce.
Here are a few of my favorite things! My pastry place, located dangerously close to the grocery store. They share a parking lot. So I end up there every so often. I mean, it would be rude of me not to go say hi to the pastry ladies, right? I would be unfriendly not to visit. Not to mention that they sell these amazing almond-powder sugar-chocolate croissants that more of a pound cake texture. They are to dieeee for, and they’re buy one get one free! When my family was here we went in there one night and cleaned them out! Here in France, you see every one walking out of the bakeries with their fresh baguette for the day. They’ll go back and get one each day of the week! Another place we love to go is Villa Romana which is the pizza place we went to for my birthday and most recently New Years. There is a brick-oven stove that they make the pizza in, and owners are very friendly to us. My favorite pizza there is cheese with anchovies. I don’t like anchovies, but I do when they’re on this pizza! France has changed me. Also, there is a restaurant called Moulin du Roy that has delicious crepes, and we also found the most delectable hamburger and fries there that come with a special sauce. Random thing to find at a crepe restaurant, but we love it! The kitchen opens to the seating area and you can watch the chefs making your crepes. It’s a cool atmosphere, and they have a salted-caramel dessert crepe that I crave! These are just a couple of my favorite places, but pretty much every bakery you go to is delicious and each restaurant has something special inside. Just remember, don’t go before 7:30!
Since coming to France I’ve turned into a bit of a top chef! I don’t think I’m quite ready to compete on Food Network’s Chopped, but give me until the end of season. As I mentioned earlier, I am always getting meal inspirations from Pinterest. One of my favorite recipes I’ve gotten off the site is for Honey and Balsamic chicken. I usually pair it with some rice and green beans, and there are always leftovers. Leftovers save lives. Another go-to dinner is stir-fry bowls. I sauté veggies and chicken in a skillet then add quinoa (Kelly Reeves inspired!) and top it with some teriyaki sauce. It’s an easy and quick meal. I like to think that one of my specialties is breakfast burritos. I love scrambling some eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes, green pepper, and a little onion and stuffing that into a tortilla wrap. It’s delicious. I think my favorite thing I have made off of the Pinterest boards is Tomato Basil Chicken Stew. I made this one back in December when the weather was cold. It was a very warm and cozy meal, and it felt like home. Also, if you know me, you know I love brownies! I have mastered making Microwave Mug Brownies where you basically make a single-serving brownie in a bowl, and you ‘cook’ it in the microwave for two minutes. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it topped with a little vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect treat to end the day.
Welp, now that I’ve done all this writing about food I’m hungry, and off to make some lunch. Hope everyone has a great day and great food!