Some thoughts about food in France

I’m hardly an expert on what the French eat, so these observations are those of a traveler who has lived here around two and one-half weeks, eaten in restaurants, shopped in an area market, and gone to a couple of neighborhood grocery stores throughout that time. Perhaps, readers, you can add your own thoughts if you’ve traveled here previously.

DSCN4837Milk. I’ve heard that the French consume a lot of wine at meals. That would be very believable as each of the grocery stores we’ve been in has a very large wine selection with most bottles at very inexpensive prices. Milk, on the other hand, occupies only a small space in both the stores we go into. Perhaps eighteen to thirty bottles are on shelves. They’re in two or three varieties, and while we struggle to read the labels, none really tastes like anything less than whole milk or maybe 1% milk. And while things are measured out in liters here, there are no milk containers approaching the one-gallon type that are common in American grocery stores. So the impression here is that milk isn’t seen on tables as often here as it is in America.

DSCN4829Eggs. Not long after we got here, we made our first grocery trip and found where the eggs were. The first thing that struck us were that eggs were on shelves, not a refrigerated cooler. And while there were various types and sizes, there wasn’t a large supply. And finally, they aren’t that cheap. I think we paid the equivalent of around $6 for a dozen brown eggs.

DSCN4560What’s notable about the eggs are the eggs themselves. Shells are much thicker than the eggs we can get in Denver. And the yolks seem to have a darker color of yellow. Mary Ann noticed that the cover it said “Raised in the sun”, as in ‘not raised in enormous metal buildings by industrial food operations where chickens live in boxes where they lay eggs their whole life before expiring having never seen the sun.’

IMG_0349Markets. We are near the much-talked-about Rue Cler market. Rick Steves gives over an entire segment to Rue Cler on his show about Paris, and it’s deserving of this attention. Rue Cler is a small street where can be found probably a couple of dozen stores, and sidewalk stands. Among these are cafes, coffee houses, fruit stands, bakeries, a creperie, a formagerie (cheeses), wine stores, a grocery store, boulangeries (bread) and patisseries (pastry treats), Italian and Greek, Chinese and Japanese foods specialties, and much more.

The produce at Rue Cler is incredibly fresh and delicious. To understand why people say food is so delicious in France, one only need go to Rue Cler.

Croque Madame, a common item on most cafe menus. Cheesy, on bread with an egg. Croque Monsieur comes without an egg. Get the difference?

Restaurants. As a friend said to me before we left, the typical sidewalk restaurants in Paris are overwhelmingly ordinary. In spite of the great food available at markets, the preparations seem adequate but usually not memorable. There are exceptions, of course, but you need to check Yelp and Trip Advisor a lot in order to find these. On the other hand, you can find some of the best Michelin three-star restaurants, and other restaurants of quality, but you have to be prepared to spend far more than most of us would pay in the best restaurants in the towns most of us come from. Want to go to a top restaurant? Be prepared to spend anywhere from 600-800 Euros or more.

On the other hand, we think we’ve discovered something in between these extremes, restaurants with imaginative chefs doing great things with a contemporary touch. Reviews say the food is delicious without coming anywhere near to breaking the pocketbook. We found a few such places, one in Montmartre, where we plan to go next week. I hope we are pleasantly surprised.

Summing up, we’re really enjoying trying all the food options here. I’m sure we’ll be needing to get back on our exercise program when we get home!



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