French culture and cooking from some true locals by Christy Illius

I haven’t posted in a while, so trying to recap everything I have learned in the last week might be a little scattered, but I will do my best.

Since we last left off, I had met the mutual friends who live in the Paris area.  I was fortunate enough to spend every night from then on with these individuals, with a few meetings in the afternoon as well.

The first thing that comes to mind: Food and Wine. Food is an art form here , the dish being a  reflection of the chef himself. Everything is deliberately paired with another, as wine is paired with certain dishes back in the States. Myself and another friend were fortunate enough to have a cooking class with my new local friends, who happened to be 3 star chefs themselves. We made ratatouille and a bread crumb/herb coated cod dish, with a pear tart for dessert.  Delicious of course, and it was all in small portions. Once you come over here you will see that small is normal, and America’s HUGE size is an overindulgence that we have far too often. Even the placement of the food on the serving dish was deliberate and lovely to look at.  Our teachers were deliberate with everything they did, from cutting up the vegetables, to placing the pears in the dish just so. They had even chosen champagne to go  with our meal. Here’s a secret about Champagne: It should never be popped, and even though it looks impressive, you are actually spoiling the best part.

While I’m mentioning champagne, I might as well discuss wine and  meals. Wines and beers are paired with everything here as early as noon. It is typical for people under 21 to drink with a meal, and the super posh thing to do is to have a picnic in the spot of your choice, with a bottle of wine served in little plastic cups. Here’s the catch though- getting drunk is not the point. Wine and beer enhance the food and the experience, and so it is respected here. You would never see a box of Franzia being ripped open to play some game with at a party. Everything is very refined and classy here. Usually people will have maybe 2, or maximum 3 drinks here, and they aren’t heavy liquor drinks — although they do have the aperatifs and the digestifs, which I haven’t learned about yet. The point is, you generally wouldn’t go and order a rum and coke and continue to throw 4 or 5 of those back and then switch to beer. In fact, the idea that we drink to get drunk in the US is something that is very frowned upon. Yes, they do let go sometimes,but just because they drink in the afternoon doesn’t mean they are alcoholics, nor are they drinking to get drunk. Like I said, it is to enhance and enjoy the meal and the experience.

Now that I’ve mentioned that the French love food and wine, I should say this: The women and men here are all slim and small framed individuals. The are very little ( if any at all) heavy set individuals. They  walk , bike, and take the stairs everywhere. Parking is rare and expensive, and even then if you can afford a car, it is a little car. Mercedes even makes a smart car. Bet you’ve never seen one of those in the states. Hummers are non -existent and the SUV is rare.

With everything I’ve learned so far, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like going back to the US. As our new friends told us, “everything that we have learned is special, and it’s very classy, so share it with those who will appreciate it, but for those who won’t , don’t waste the magic. It’s special.” And it’s true, everything has a little bit of magic, and I can’t bear to think of a life without all of this, so when I come home, I will recreate as much as I can, and relive everything with each new day. Coming home will be hard. Coming home and coming down from any trip is hard, but this is Paris, a city that anyone will fall in love with, regardless of what kind of person you are. You spend 2 weeks or more here, you will fall, and you will fall hard. Leaving this city is going to be painful, but as the cliches go, there will always be Paris.

That’s all for now,

c

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