An Addendum: Contrasting French and American Cuisine

Writers are consistently advised to “write what they know.” In Aix, it’s easy to “know” more each and every day. My favorite culinary “knows” are below:

-Salad leaves are not cut, only folded gracefully around a fork until the bite is manageable. Practice makes perfect, and I am definitely still practicing.

-Cheese is allowed to be un-pasturized. “Cru” means raw. It is also synonymous for delicious.

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-Yogurt’s richer texture classifies it as a dessert.

-Pizza can be bought as a whole, half or in slices from places like Aix’s Pizza Capri (with three locations). A “slice” is really two slices, which they fold together and eat like a sandwich.

-The honey is much thicker, and comes in flavors like thyme and rosemary, lavender and wildflower. The more gourmet flavors are not commonly used in the French kitchen, but they dominate the tourist market.

-Lunch never entails walking and eating, brown-bagging or ordering to-go. This I discovered on my own, as I became a public spectacle while enjoying a crepe on a bench. Apparently the price of enjoying a solitary bench picnic is higher in France.

-Generally, workers either meet at a café for an afternoon lunch, followed by coffee (un café), or meet for a feast at a friend’s house. The French may work ten-hour days, but their interpretation of a “lunch break” is literal.

-Since lunch is such a production ­– and because dinner is eaten later – it is considered the main meal of the day.

-Restaurants do not offer “doggie bags” of any kind. Food is either consumed or left on the table…mostly consumed.

-Eggs are not commonly eaten for breakfast, and it is rare to find them in large quantities. After living here for five months, my hosts only know of one vendor that sells them by the dozen: Monoprix, Europe’s equivalent of Super Target.

-A diet does not restrict the amount of food consumed, only the nutritional value. A French dieter would never skip meals, rather eat more salad and fewer pastries.

-A “condiment” refers solely to salt, pepper and spices. All other additives, such as mustard or mayonnaise, are referred to as a “sauce.” Once I understood this concept, it became much easier to conduct research for my article about French condiments. And Nutella? That has earned it’s own category.

-“Aioli” refers to a dish, rather than a spread to flavor sandwiches as in the United States. The spread of mayonnaise, olive oil and garlic is eaten primarily with fish and vegetables.

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