Monday, January 23, 2012



some of the year's desserts. just some!

I could post every day for the rest of my year here on some cultural difference that I have observed between the French and Americans. Some of these are difficult to adjust to, some test my patience, some are surprising changes, and some are welcome without any reservations!

One of the greatest differences between French and American culture is the general attitude towards food and eating. The French eat very well, although that is on an astoundingly different scale than Americans. Here, good food is measured in terms of fresh ingredients, thoughful preparation, and classic recipes, all mixed with a little pride. It is a far cry from the typical American diet of fast, easy food. True--food here is made with plenty of butter, and other ingredients that Americans are generally wary of for their fattening qualities. But here, that is not a concern. I have noticed that on the whole, the French are concerned with eating healthily, but they would never deprive themselves! What Americans would consider indulgence, the French recognize as completely normal.

In particular, I have noticed this attitude with desserts. A typical meal consists of the apéritif, some sort of appetizer (usually a light salad), a main dish, cheese, and then dessert & coffee. Even lunch follows this outline. And it may seem like a lot, but portion sizes are modest to allow for the maximum enjoyment of each course.

Earlier in the year, I had lunch out with a French friend and her parents. They made an observation about my meal that stuck out to them, and that they asked me about. Besides the fact that I'm a vegetarian (which they quickly realized), they also noticed that I didn't get a dessert. Therefore, my meal wasn't complete! I knew a French meal ends with dessert, but it was just lunch and I wasn't particularly hungry, so I decided to forgo a dessert. Americans don't usually eat dessert with lunch, anyway. At least, nothing fancy. I explained that to them, but they were still a little shocked.

They insisted that I at least eat the little chocolate that one of them got with their coffee. I needed something sweet for the end of my meal! They also told me that I could buy a pastry later in the afternoon as compensation for not eating dessert directly after lunch. I was fine with that compromise, and it was just unheard of for them, that I would have had an incomplete meal!

Even with the welcome abundance of pastries, desserts, and sweets in France, it isn't in my American mentality to eat them all the time! I can't help that I'm not used to including dessert in an average meal. With that said, I certainly do indulge more here than when I'm in the States. When in France!

pax christi.

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