so I was involved in a comment exchange on a blog I like reading ... Ask A Frenchman on a topic that often seems to surface there ... food.
I've noticed that there seem to be 3 camps that regularly comment on that blog. The expats living in France who enjoy deriding everything French (and why was it they live here again .... ?), the French who read out of curiousity and defend their culture vigorously, and the rest odd bits and bobs like me.
On the topic of food ... camp 1 seems to think the French have their heads up their asses and that their food is either a bore or a legend in its own mind. After all ... they (the French) screw up everything (which really consists of those things that aren't really even that french like barbecues and sheet cakes... lol).
camp 2 stridently believes that France is the cradle of cuisine and everything is better in France. even things like Mickey D's. end of discussion.
I believe that no culture understands and reveres food in quite the same way as the French. Sure, every culture has its 'cuisine' ... the history of why it eats what it eats ... methods of capitalizing upon the local products. But no other culture has made food... its cultivation, preparation and consumption, the science AND the art AND the fabric of life that France has.
And this to a certain degree is an Achilles heel of many of the French I know.
On this most recent blog exchange ... the topic was what is missed by American expats living in France. It was jokingly commented that it certainly couldn't be the cuisine. That American food is regrettable and there really is no 'there' there. The idea that American food could be missed was (and I quote - ha) "ludicrous".
Here is where camp 3 pipes up again. Because frankly I agree that there really is very little in the way of "American" cuisine in the context of French cuisine. This is of course using the context that the only 'real' Americans were the Native people living there and everyone else just arrived. bringing their food ideas with them. and hell since its only been a little over 200 years ... in comparison ... yadiyadiya.
And in fact I even mostly agree with this. But I also think no one plagiarizes the wide variety of cuisines out there better than Americans do. probably for the simple fact that we DIDN'T have our own. I'm probably referring more to restaurants and such as opposed to cooking at home ... which I think the French have beat hands down.
But what I do think about the context of food in France is that because there is such an amazing history and culture of French foods here ... that many French are missing out on the delicious flavors of the rest of the world. There exists an attitude that we created it, this is our history, our trademark ... nothing else would even come close ... so why bother?!
I've even seen the internal variations (Basque as an example) mocked a bit as not being 'true French'.
Many of the French I know would not want to even try (or be interested). Last year when I prepared my birthday dinner (Mexican ... but with a variety of tastes ... prawn ceviche, sauteed fish tacos, chicken enchilada casserole, beans and rice and guacamole) ... about half the table picked at the plates ... eating only the rice and guacamole really, because they were afraid it would be 'too spicy'. The other half, mostly the fellas, devoured it and had seconds.
I see many of my French friends assuming that other cuisines will be too 'spicy' and won't venture there.
And the restaurants here cater to that mindset. They have equated spicy with HOT and different and change the recipes (Chinese for another example) into unrecognizable versions. Spicy does NOT equal everything folks...Chinese, Indian, Mexican foods ... in their most authentic versions...are savory more than spicy ... and utilize unfamiliar spices and flavors that have been lumped into one bowl here.
So when you do find a supposed 'int'l' restaurant here, most often the sauces taste like they've come from a jar or can or packet. With lots of sugar and gelatin.
I expected that with the reverence for food and flavors, the French would be adventurous. Would display more interest in experiencing and experimenting with other foods.
I would love to be wrong. I would love for someone to clue me in to some examples to the contrary, even if they are in the bigger cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles and the like.
Just no one from camp 1 please. because if you really believe that American food is "cuisine" and you jump to defend it and deride French food ... well, your judgement is automatically suspect!!!
(ps-okay ... I absolutely DO miss American breakfasts... they are easily replicated at home here but not the same as going to a warm inviting café and lingering a couple of hours with friends)...and bars with great cocktail menus .... but I'm sure those are found in Paris.