(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, August 26, 2011

funny little things I am forever finding in french

so four years into my life here and I still don't consider myself fluent. lots of people who know me disagree but I feel I have kind of plateau'ed for the moment ... and for the life of me I still blow most of the verb conjugations for "ils" ... j'ai un vrais tête de bois!

but here is another funny little thing just found ... the french view american eating habits as disastrous. (no that is not the funny little thing, I have known that for quite awhile now). I have heard lots of comments about folks who have been appalled after visiting the states ... things like americans are ALWAYS eating ! you walk down the street and people are eating as they walk! you drive in your car and look to your left and there is someone behind the wheel, eating! and so on ...

and yet, not only is there a plethora of comestibles in the metro here, but there are named times throughout the day just for eating.

maybe that is the trick, you eat at these designated times or you don't eat. a little more discipline is in order! I remember how shocking I found it on my first visit that if you didn't arrive at most village restaurants by 1:30 pm or so, you will have missed lunch. "complet" you will be told, and tant pis for you!

Here is a list of designated eating times

petit déjeuner ~ breakfast, early and usually simply coffee and a small pastry or baguette and butter with jam

en cas ~ just learned this one, "in case", typically a small something either tucked into a school child's pocket or worker's sack ... a small piece of fruit or bread in case you can't make it till lunch.

déjeuner ~ lunch and it begins at noon and is a proper meal. You sit at a table for it, cutlery is required and this includes the schoolchildren. You will have a starter and a main, fromage or dessert. You will finish with coffee and nobody will look askance if it is accompanied by some wine. Everyone has time for a real meal since, except for big cities, all of the shops, banks, and other stuff will have closed. For two hours.

quatre heure ~ 4:00pm, another small snack ... mostly children indulge but I know many adults who rub their tummies and take something as well.

apéro ~ 7ish, a beverage and little salty somethings such as nuts or a savory cake. Aperitif is not just for adults, kids have a sparkling beverage. It lasts no more than an hour and is a civilized end to the workday, a chance to connect with friends before returning home for ...

diner ~ yes, dinner time and traditionally during the week (although this is sadly changing and fast becoming a concern in France) this will be a lighter meal than midday ... perhaps a soup, a bit of pasta or a protein and a vegetable which balance out the midday meal.

I don't know if there is something yet after dinner. Since I just discovered 'en cas' this week, it is highly possible!

So yes there is ongoing eating in France as well, but it has been a more formal affair ... and until recently, it seems the population has been in better shape physically, as a result. But there is some concern that lifestyles of the younger generation are morphing towards american values.

there have been some national awareness campaigns to try and reverse this trend. The schools are involved in this effort, and in addition to the balanced meals they present to the kids, they keep the parents informed and even recommend possible evening meals that are appropriate nutritionally to complete the day's regime.

I suppose americans would say all of their non-mealtime eating was just 'en cas'.

probably ... ^cough cough^


The Pliers said...

Since I have been eating with a Frenchman for almost 25 years, I'm well trained in the timing of meals, something that I was NOT AT ALL for my first 34 years of life as a denizen of the USA.

And the "schedule gap" between the French and the USAians with regard to meal times has already caused some tension in our home here in France when mealtimes draw near during visits from Americans--men, women, and children.

Isn't that amazing?

Anna said...

First time in the US as students and we were horrified at the amount of food served up at restaurants - each portion enough to feed a small family! Then the cakes for breakfast - we all thought this sugar and fat combination was a really bad thing... but quickly got into eating them ourselves. And everyone eating and drinking walking along the streets and in their cars - all day long. Well, that was the 1980s - now it's (almost) the same in the UK! And the population is getting fatter and fatter.