Thursday, February 11, 2010

Francophilia in full effect

Now, this isn't a new thing, as I've been a Francophile since the age of 7, which I first starting taking French language classes. However, it got revved back up again after spending the entirety of last week in France, with some layovers in Geneva, Switzerland.

I love France. I always have, and I probably always will. I love the language, I like the people, I love the country, and I truly adore the food and culture. French people have gotten a bad rap for a variety of reasons, very few of which I think have any merit. I have spent time in Paris and found Parisiens to be accomodating, polite, and downright nice to me. I found Meribel and Les Trois Vallees to be absolutely no different.

My personal biases aside, I have had a series of interesting conversations regarding food and eating both on the trip and afterwards that have me thinking quite a bit about food issues in the US and abroad. We ate so well on the trip, and came back feeling so good that it made me wonder why it's so easy to eat well abroad and so difficult to eat as well here.

I think the crux of the issue is really the availability of locally produced, inexpensive, minimally processed food. I don't mean to sound like Michael Pollan, but we spent a bunch of money on food in France, and it was totally worth it. Americans seem to insist that cheap is the norm and that they as a whole are generally totally unwilling or unable to pay more for food.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what to do with Swiss chard either, but I can usually figure out how to whip something up from a few ingredients. And I live in a place where inexpensive (to me) fresh produce and other locally produced goods are readily available. If I'm really lazy, I can get in the car and be at a supermarket in under 5 minutes. Three, in fact. That's about as far from a food desert as you can get.

Now that I've managed to excuse myself into a corner, it's time to back out. I think that the major American excuse for eating poorly is convenience. I do this myself--it's a hell of a lot easier to pour a bowl of cereal in the morning and inhale it than it is to prepare a morning meal like I did this morning: yogurt, slices of Comte cheese, slices of prosciutto, slices of baguette spread with Nutella with fruit and nuts packed for snacks during the day.

Disclaimer: I still ate the whole thing standing over the kitchen counter, which no self-respecting Frenchwoman would ever do. She'd have sat down at a table and enjoyed her meal with a cup of coffee, rather than making it to-go like I did.

What's also funny to me is how all six of us pretty much ate every single meal abroad sitting around a table talking, laughing, sharing plates, and focusing on the meal, rather than anything else. This scenario is in direct contrast to my house, because getting Indie Rocker to eat a meal at the table instead of on the couch in front of the TV feels like punishment to him.

Which is patently ridiculous, and finding a solution to that is driving me berserk. I don't really care how he did things when he lived by himself, but that ship has sailed and I'm tired of eating on the couch. I want to enjoy my damned meal instead of trying to balance it on my knees, eat without spilling all over myself, and yell at the dog to stop begging every 19 seconds.

Which leads me to my last point, that stream-of-consciousness rant makes me realize that American food consumption isn't going to change until we change our relationships to meals. Food needs to be more of an experience, and less of a commodity. Meals should be prepared and enjoyed rather than inhaled in between frantic activities. And that doesn't need to be an arduous process--I think there's clearly a place for Mac & Cheese when it's been a ridiculous day and there's nothing else to eat.

But for me, I do think that I need to spend a little bit more time and money making sure that my house has a little bit less crap in it, a little bit more real food, and a little bit more time to truly enjoy it. Wish me luck!

Quote of the Day: "There is no French paradox, really, only an American paradox: a notable unhealthy people obsessed with the idea of eating healthily. So, relax. Eat Food. And savor it." Michael Pollan.

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