So I’ve reached the end of my most recent trip to France and it’s now time to write my first French Vintage Vie blog post…..and what is a more appropriate way to start than to simply share my thoughts on what makes France so special! Because there were many moments over the last few weeks when the French way of life made me smile, or when I admired the French uniqueness and style……for so many reasons I feel at home there and maybe one day I will call it home.
But for the moment, I will continue to enjoy my brief trips there and share my experiences with you.
Eat and drink like the French
I think one of the most obvious differences between the French and so many other nationalities is their relationship with food and drink, sometimes this makes me laugh but mostly I enjoy it like them for its simple pleasures. How can you not enjoy the daily morning walk to the local boulangerie for your fresh bread? Whether it’s a warm baguette from the oven or a crispy croissant or pain au chocolat, it seems to taste better when you have to walk to get it each day and carry it home under your arm! Better you must agree, than sticking a round of bread in the toaster before you rush to work? And maybe my experience of France is biased because often I’m on holiday there, or just have more time to walk to the boulangerie than I do at home, but yet this is the French way of life……they don’t rush their food or make sacrifices around meal-times. To be fair, breakfast is abit of an non-event – you will certainly struggle to find more than a croissant and a coffee at a cafe, but that is because the main meal of the day is just around the corner. Whilst some tourists are trying to find breakfast around 11.30, the French restaurants are buzzing with activity setting up tablecloths, a sparkling variety of different sized glasses, cutlery, napkins, and menus for lunch.
Lunch is a feast. You may be able to find a little cafe that will sell you a jambon baguette sandwich if that’s all you really want, but it’s just not the done thing. Everyone stops and takes time over lunch to dine on at least 3 courses! Starter, main course, and dessert are normal, not to mention the standard inclusion of cheese, wine and of course compulsory baguette. Most restaurants offer good value 2 or 3 course menus and a pichet of house wine, so its hard not to end up joining the French for a relaxing two hour lunch! I noticed men on their own in restaurants ordering dessert, instead of rushing back to work. I smiled at stall owners in the brocantes laying tables beside their stalls with tablecloths and eating fully prepared hot meals and sipping wine at midday. But funniest of all was the day, we went to a vide grenier in the country-side……it is a combination of a village fair and a car-boot sale in a field in the middle of nowhere. A full scale operation was in place with a large catering tent offering two options for lunch – a modest merguez sausage baguette sandwich and frites or a “plat” served on a tray and included an apertif, starter, main course, dessert, cheese and wine (remember, we’re in a field in the middle of nowhere!
Lunch aside, you will find yourself taking time to enjoy your food in France whatever the meal-time. Many restaurants, even the cheaper ones, offer simple tasty food due to the freshness and quality of their ingredients and uncomplicated dishes. Shopping for the ingredients is a treat too! You can take time like the French to visit their local weekly market for fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, bread and local produce such as jam or cider. I love the atmosphere of these bustling markets with everything on show under the large brightly coloured canopies. Or browse in the small local shops offering rows and rows of delicate patisserie or independent fish mongers and butchers. Even the supermarkets are fun with whole aisles dedicated to cheese and I mean a whole aisle!! Not to mention the meat, fish and deli counters…….no frozen food aisles here!
As for the wine, that’s another story for another blog, as well as all the other French idiosyncrasies that will make you smile if you love France like me, or make you want to go there if you’ve never been!!