It is difficult to write about Paris without sounding cliché.
Luckily a lot of stereotypes are wonderfully true.
....the beauty and romance.....
.......... and THE FOOD.
We arrived and waited for our shuttle that was very late, as traffic was bad.
Jet lag is heavy shrew, weighing down your body as it only can when you have had one hour sleep in a 24 hour period. Even though it was an uncomfortable scene, it's always good to experience negative things, so I can understand when people talk about similar events or experiences in the future.
We settled into our tiny hotel room, groaning about the set up of it all. It hadn't quite settled in yet where we were.... it was like shock. A culture shock.
Starving after only having belly-aching boring microwaved airline food, we found a little café and ordered sandwiches. Open-faced grilled cheese + ham is a big deal here, as all cafes and restaurants have it on their menu. It is fresh and delicious; the quality of the food here is just amazing. The cheese is like your first bite of cheesecake - one lick and your hooked.
And the frites! Oh the frites! They are not greasy or browned. The fats most used for cooking in Paris include sunflower oil, olive oil, butter and animal fats. These translate to the most amazing french fries.
Ones you see served with rare steaks, and not greasy hamburgers.
After a nap trying to reverse the jet lag, we got lost finding a restaurant for dinner that I wanted to try and ended up giving up and going to the nearest restaurant. (Discovering later that the one we wanted was a mere block ahead -- touché patience - touché)
We didn't want to ask for English menus ( touché Ego, touché) and so ended up ordering the special, which was a beautiful beef carpaccio.
Did I even know what it was?
After I ordered, I thought... "Hm.... no I have no idea." I didn't know what was coming.
So ,without realizing it was raw beef, I finished the meal in innocent bliss, having simple red wine. Only ever having well-done meat while I was young and growing up, it sure was a shock to discover I had raw beef sitting in my belly.
It sat well.
Back to the hotel to drift into dreamland, although I could say I'd felt all day as if I was dreaming....
Wandering around during our days there were many noticeable differences in the culture, beyond just the food, but the food culture is really what I wanted to focus on.
We hadn't seen any overweight people, really. Between all the bread and cheese and wine, something is truly to be said for the quality of the food in Europe. The relaxed nature.
People actually carry around baguettes…. Yes it is real. People having parties carry 7 to 10 of them.
Hungry folks eat them right out of the bag while they walk.
"It's actually a thing!" we exclaimed.
We then proceeded to act as the Parisians do and buy our own baguettes and walk around with them.
Bakeries are on every corner. Boulangeries are where the traditional bread is prepared each day for the public. We included Éclairs, a croissant or a baguette in to our daily menu....
Yes I mean daily.
Food is grown and prepared differently than it is here in "America" and you can not only taste but feel the difference. Most people have slight digestive issues with either bread or cheese, if they can eat it at all. We ate both each day and had no issues whatsoever! This came as a very happy surprise.
Many people who have digestive problems with the food here in North America find that they can eat the bread and dairy in Europe. Traditionally prepared food feels different.... and because the fermentation process breaks down gluten protein, most people with sensitivities can experience digestive comfort when eating gluten here in Europe.
In between visiting museums, galleries, shopping in fancy boutiques, and walking hours each day we definitely got a great TASTE of the food in Europe. Breakfast is slightly undercooked eggs, croissants, natural yogurt, cheese and tea or coffee with honey.
We also had breakfast at a very beautiful castle we stayed one night at in the south of France, and spent the morning feeling a bit like we were in Pride and Prejudice.
The same simple breakfast foods graced our plates, but with a magical touch due to our surroundings.
The wine is simple and usually served with olives or bread as an Apéritif (before the meal.)
Sorbet? Cannot compare to the ice cream we have back home.
During the summer in Paris the sidewalk terraces open and a movie unfolds in front of your eyes.
Of course the cafe's in Paris are amazing. No surprise there. The surprise for me was.... you are not meant to carry around your coffee supreme in a styrofoam cup all day, looking busy and important.
No one does that in Paris. No one.
You sit, you converse, you drink, you enjoy.
Enjoying a Diabolo menthe (the Diabolo is a generous glass of icy French limonade (almost like lemonade) with a bit of minty syrup mixed in. The lemony-mint drink is delicious and light!) on a street cafe in Paris.
The onions. The cheese. The perfect broth.
A self-indulgent moment.
Did we stay in for dinner AT ALL?
Only for one night :)
Turn on the jazz.
Chop the.... asparagus? The asparagus here is gigantic, and white!
It was a bit more woody than our thin green stalks here, but that might've been the way I cooked it :)
Truly Natures' candy!
Whole foods are easy to find. Red wine is even easier to find - and the Parisian womens' skin shows the regular intake of antioxidants is not just a wineries' sales pitch.
Wandering the markets was a delight for the senses.
For our home cooked Parisian dinner, we had BOW tie pasta with fresh tomatoes, broccoli and brie! Complete with a fresh baguette, of course.
It was easy to find beautiful heirloom varieties of vegetables, as the huge tomato below demonstrates.
....... well you thought you'd get away with reading a post about food in Europe without seeing a close-up of the delicate cheese and the crusty bread?
We liked eating in and enjoying our little Parisian apartment, but eating out was so much more fun! The restaurants are still packed at 9 pm, and when we finally got ourselves out of Cafe du Commerce (serving since 1921!) it was 10:40 pm, and there were still adults and seniors alike in there, enjoying dinner.
There are some big differences I could mention in the food like:
There is a procedure in place beyond words when it comes down to the ritual of eating here in Europe. That really stood out to me.
The settings in place, the wine poured, everything arranged in just a way. Then you eat. Where we are used to complaining about "bad service" (slow) in a restaurant because we are in a hurry to get in and out, being slow is encouraged here. It's just normal.
Accepted by everyone.
You aren't forced to leave your table - it's not even suggested to you by having the bill brought over "with no pressure." Even if you don't order coffee after dessert, you choose when you leave.
Twice I saw gentlemen eating on their own. There is nothing "awkward" to them about enjoying a meal out alone, even when it looks like such a social occasion. It's not just about the food, it's a formal, almost ceremonial means of covering your most basic need - calories.
The culture is such that food is so highly respected, that it is not questioned or not you are done with your meal - but you tell them when your experience is finished.
When traveling, do as the locals do. It entrenches in you the idea that even though us humans are all doing the same thing, we must respect where others come from and how their rules and thoughts and rituals may be different.
Eat a meal alone. Pat the napkin in your lap and set the table in "just a way."
It opens us up to other ways.
It gives us more room in our life (and diet) to play around.
Embedding the idea that midnight croissants are actually a pretty good idea.......