Sunday, January 29, 2012



Normandy : France :: the Midwest : America

I have been realizing more and more that Normandy is to France as the Midwest is to America. There are so many reasons that this is an adequate--if not spot-on--comparison.

#1. Cows

There are lots of cows in Normandy, just like in the Midwest. Where I am living, specifically, there are more sheep than cows, but on the whole, cows practically outnumber people throughout Normandy. There are a lot of horses too, but drive through the country, and all you'll see is cows.

#2. Farms

Having lots of farms also means having lots of amazing farmer's markets. Most of the farms here are not necessarily corn farms (in fact most of them grow other kinds of produce), so that's a significant difference from the farms in Illinois, and most of the Midwest. The crops are not as tall, but still. Farms take up vast expanses of land, and old French barns and farmhouses are beautiful.

#3. Flatness

My little corner of Normandy is particularly curvaceous. But on the whole, Normandy is quite flat. There are not significant mountain regions by any means around here. Beautiful hills, yes. But mountains, none in sight. Driving through the country, which you have to do in order to go just about anywhere from Evreux, feels just like driving through the middle of Illinois. Flat farmland.

#4. Apples

Normandy is apple country. There are pommiers everywhere, and they give the most delicious apples around! Any recipe that uses apples is bound to be a success, and they certainly do make just about anything with apples here. I've had home-made cider, devoured more apple tarts than I should admit, eaten an apple-potato tart as a main dish that was so much better than I would ever expect. Apples rule. Picking apples in the fall was so reminiscent of growing up in the Midwest. We even picked apples in college. It was wonderful to be able to continue that tradition in France.

#5. The people. Most importantly.

I recently had dinner with an American from the East Coast, who has spent some time in the Midwest--mostly Chicago area. He told me that, if his family wasn't on the East Coast, he would pick up and move to the Midwest, simply because he found Midwesterners to be so friendly. Him talking about the Midwest like that warmed my heart, and made me really proud to be from there. 

And just like the Midwest, Normandy is known traditionally as being one of the friendliest regions of France. Particularly towards Americans (something to do with World War II...), Normans are very welcoming and hospitable, and I have been blessed to experience that first-hand. Friendliness is really tangible, and coming home after a day in Paris, for example, where you are completely anonymous, is so refreshing. I can count on being able to say "bonjour" to a passing stranger, and get a smile and reply back.

Not only do all of these similarities make for really interesting and sporadic realizations, but they are also a really big comfort for being far from home. The distance is considerable, and the language is different, but I was put here for so many reasons, and the fact that it's a French Midwest is one of them. It is that much easier to adjust when I already know this. And I am so thankful for that!

pax christi.

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