Mastering the Art of French Eating

A Parisienne patisserie, where sweets are taken seriously.

I’m watching “Julie and Julia” and smiling through the entire movie. When I get back to Boston in January, and have access to a full kitchen and grocery delivery service, I want to invoke Sunday as my domestic day. Cleaning and cooking. I plan on cooking WAY too much food, so that I have enough to freeze and share with friends, enough to last me for the week. Normally, I don’t eat super healthy because by the time dinnertime rolls around, I’m too lazy and exhausted to bother cooking. Plus, I love a good cheese pizza.

Anyway, this movie just makes me smile: food and Meryl Streep and Paris all in one movie. It makes me want to shop for charming little aprons with frills (I’m legitimately obsessed) and 1960s felt hats, and to wear heels in the kitchen. Trés adorable.

True French food is so different. Better than crepes and jambon-in-everything, and fancy names… French food is fresher, richer, more expensive. And so drenched in butter and cheese and creme, it will make your heart explode in a cholesterol-ful frenzy. But delicious.

It goes beyond simply cooking differently, though. The French shop differently too. There’s the crémerie for dairy goods (except cheese, which you can find at the fromagerie), the magasin de fruits et legumes for fruits and veggies fresh from the nearby farms, the boucherie for fresh and preserved meat (except pork, which can be found at the charcuterie; and fish, which is at the poissonnerie). Then my personal favorites: the boulangerie for baked goods, the patisserie for pastries and sweets, and the confiserie for candy. I’ve even seen more than one vacuum cleaner stores, with all sorts of shapes and sizes of vacuum cleaners (some even with painted on pink faces). And for everything else, there are marches (farmers’ markets) and scattered grocery store equivalents throughout.

I moved in to my new Paris apartment a couple of days ago (pictures to come!) and had to stock my fridge. But per usual, I’m doing it wrong. Even in the overpriced grocery store that I stopped in, people were only buying two or three things at a time—cleaning goods, water bottles, beer, all things they couldn’t find elsewhere in their specialized corner shops.

I now know why the French don’t buy in American-esque bulk. First off, I let three people pass me because I had 100 dollars worth of food and they were buying milk. Second, bagging your own 100 dollars worth of groceries is a royal pain.

But the worst? Carrying 50 pounds of jambon and oefs and huile d’olive up six flights of stairs is the most painful, sweaty thing ever. Not really, but a serious pain, just saying.

As I said before, the French have a way of finding the beauty in, well, everything. Food is no exception: it’s an experience and an indulgence and every cholesterol-loaded calorie is savored and sucked dry of every last bit of flavor. So to buy things in the supermarket is blasphemy; it robs the eater of the true food experience, walking into a fromagerie stinking of brie and camembert and bleu, and meeting the monsieur or madame that runs the place. The French are all so skinny because they don’t eat as routinely and regularly as us McDonalds-gobbling Anglophones. Thus, when they do, it’s a careful ritual.

Noted. And no more supermarchés pour moi.

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