So as you probably already know, in July I was lucky enough to live in France for the month where I did an intensive language course whilst getting the unique opportunity to live with a host family (you can read about my experiences in La Rochelle here). And thanks to this program and this opportunity, not only has my French improved tenfold, but I think the French perspective towards food has rubbed off on me a little.
Luckily for me, Delphine, the incredibly French woman I was living with, is an amazing cook with a passion for food and French cuisine. At the time of course I was grateful to eat such incredible food, but I think it’s only now that I’m truly coming to realise just how much living in France changed my perspective towards food. And here’s how I think it’s changed…
*note to the hungry* maybe go grab a snack and then read…. because some of these pictures might inspire tummy grumbling!
Freshness is key
To cook good food, you need to start with quality products. And that means fresh. After you eat truly fresh food, it will make frozen food or week old food taste like flour. I’ll never forget the time that Delphine bought 3kgs of mussels (moules in French) that had been caught that very morning. They were so fresh that they even had tiny little crabs in some of them!
And as for your bread and baguettes, if you have ever had a crispy warm baguette that’s just come out of the oven…. you will understand. If not, you are missing out and must embark to your local bakery immediately to change this.
Unfortunately you generally can’t buy super fresh food from large chain supermarkets. If you want the freshest, juiciest, plumpest, ripest, most colourful produce, you need to buy local! Buying local means that the food hasn’t travelled as far, meaning less energy required to transport it. Buying local means you’re also supporting local businesses, people and their families.
This also applies to getting your morning coffee. I try to avoid going to Starbucks, Tim Hortons and Gloria Jeans. These huge companies already make enough money as it is. And this whole fair trade thing they advertise… I just don’t buy it. Instead, I’ll opt for a little cafe or street vendor. They’re usually cheaper, nicer, give better service and is all round a better experience.
Keep it simple
I think a lot of the meals I used to make in Australia were very ‘busy.’ I’d make pasta and need to put everything in it, I’d make pizza and need to put everything on it. I think it’s in our culture that we’re taught to believe that no meal is complete without meat, vegetables, potatoes. Or something along those lines.
In France, our meals would be very ‘deconstructed.’ And I mean that in a good way. We would have a bowl of tomatoes, a bowl of lettuce, a plate of steaks, goats cheese and of course some bread. I found that these meals were the most delicious! It purely relied on the quality of the produce and the flavours just did their thing on your tastebuds.
Quality not quantity
In France, it’s all about quality. Our meals that we ate generally weren’t huge and didn’t leave you feeling full. But I hate that feeling anyway. Where you’re so full that it hurts to move. The meals we had were all about the quality and you were left feeling so satisfied that it didn’t matter that you weren’t full. And if you felt a bit peckish later, we would have a piece of fruit or some strawberries with mint and yoghurt!
It’s an experience
The whole journey of preparing a meal, from buying the produce, pairing it with some wine, preparation, serving and eating is a beautiful experience. It also made me realise the importance of sharing these meals with special people. Some of the best nights were spent at our dinner table sipping wine, talking about life’s problems and devouring a whole block of goats cheese (I’m looking at you Laura 😉 ).
Oh – And there’s always room for Ice Cream! (Inspired by Elly)
The cons however are…
That every baguette you ever have after France is merde!
I’m trying to carry this perspective with me. That you need to have a healthy relationship with food. Food is there to bring people together, bring pleasure, experiences, happiness and health. We need to put the best food into our bodies so we can get the most out of us! If anyone knows me, they know how much I love food and I’m a strong believer in balance. Because in a balanced diet, there’s room for icecream and macaroons… and who doesn’t want that?