Food, glorious food (and drink)

Bonjour à tous!

Before I even begin, I just want to say that you should definitely read to the end of this post because I’ve managed to do a really cool slideshow thing with my photos near the bottom that I want you all to see. Just skip there if you can’t be bothered to read my ramblings about how much I love to eat.

Given my escapades this week (and the previous 4 weeks – omg I’ve been here for a month already) it’s only fitting that I use this post to talk about eating and drinking in France.

« Dis-moi ce que tu manges : je te dirai ce que tu es. »

Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.

~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Eating

I know it’s a stereotype, but cooking and eating in France is as much a national sport as it is an art form. At first, I found it very difficult to understand why Montpellier must grind to a halt for the two hours between 12pm and 2pm. Like, if you need a lunch break at all, surely an hour is enough? But now I understand. I don’t know if it’s France or just Ruth’s cooking (it’s probably both) but I’ve never eaten so well and for such an extended period of time in my life. I don’t even know where to start.

Actually that’s not true, I do know where to start: bread. To the people who told me before I came here that I wouldn’t find any good bread in France, you were mistaken. France is bread – freshly baked that day, obviously. I could eat baguette every day for the rest of my life and not get bored of it. I’ve been eating it mostly with boursin and tomatoes, which are somehow much sweeter and juicer here than at home. If you don’t know what boursin is (I didn’t before I arrived) then you must find some immediately because apparently it’s sold in England and truth be told, you are missing out on the finest part of life if you’ve never tried it. Eating fig and nut boursin is comparable to say, having a religious experience.

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Floppy baguette lol

Another thing I eat basically every day is yoghurt because the French are OBSESSED with yoghurt. Like, they dedicate whole areas of the supermarket to it and they have loads of different sorts that I’ve never seen in England before. Fromage blanc is amazing. So is compote, which I’m really going to miss when I come home – it’s essentially baby food. It’s just all kinds of puréed fruit with a bit of sugar and it’s incroyable.

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The crêpes, croissants and coffee are delightful, as are all the different types of couscous and the school dinners AKA the only good thing about university so far.

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At least they’ve got something right

On Sunday morning, we went to a proper French food market in Lattes (partly because we wanted to, partly because there is literally nothing else to do here on a Sunday) and bought all the ingredients for our dinner – classic blanquette de veau. Apparently it’s classic, I’d never heard of it though. I loved the market and I’m definitely going to go back there again – so much amazing food and so much choice! So many French people discussing species of mushroom and man handling the vegetables to find the perfect tomato!

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I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, but it only got better when we went to a bakery to buy dessert.

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By the time we’d finished buying food, it was lunchtime and Mickaël made us an amazing lunch: an olive, tomato and goat’s cheese salad with a smoked salmon omelette and baguette (bien sur).

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Later, he gave us a crash course in how to cook blanquette de veau. The end result was so delicious that I can’t actually believe I had any part in making it. My ‘part’ was mostly stirring and chopping things but you know, whatever, I helped. Maybe. The following pictures are nearly all stolen from Ruth’s snapchats.

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Woohoooo look at me (pretending to) cook!

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These two did the actual cooking

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OMG SO GOOD

Not all food here is amazing though. I’ve tried a lot of seafood, some of which has been delicious (mussels, prawns) and partly gross (oysters, sea snails). It doesn’t really help that the French not only like eat every part of an animal, but that they don’t bother to hide what it is. At least we squish together the cow’s eyelashes and toenails and call it a burger so that we don’t have to think about what it is; the French don’t even take the sea snails out of their shells. Only the French would identify an animal by how it’s served on a plate – when Chantal’s lovely coloc Virginie said the word ‘oie’ and we didn’t understand what it was, her explanation was ‘comme foie gras’. (‘Oie’ means goose).

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Nope.

Drinking

I would say it’s only fair that after the French have shared their eating culture with us, we should share our English drinking culture with them… Except that they seem to be doing just fine on their own on the drinking front. It’s probably more because they’re students than because they’re French, though having said that I’ve never had such good wine so cheaply. As I’m an English girl who doesn’t like beer (nobody here can believe it, they think I’m one of a kind/lying about being English), I’m relieved to have finally found a way to actually enjoy beer in the form of monacos – just add grenadine or some other type of sugar.

This week we did a barathon, which is like a marathon but with bars instead of miles, and not 26 of them, and without the running. So not like a marathon at all really. Anyway what I mean is that I did my first ever bar crawl! I’ll let the photos do the talking for this one. (This is the slideshow I was on about. So proud).

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Other than eating and drinking, I’ve been doing… not much really. Continuing to complain about Paul Val (WHY do I start lessons at 8am and finish at 8pm!?) and have awkward moments at uni – last week, Chantal and I accidentally ended up in a lesson on Shakespeare and had to get up and leave while all the seventeen year olds giggled at the silly English girls coming to a Shakespeare course in France. I’ve also somehow managed to blag my way into taking a beginner level Italian class and an intermediate German class… so now I’m studying German, in which I have a lowly GCSE, at a higher level than Italian, which I’m studying at degree level. Ooops. Oh well. Anything goes at Paul Val.

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This is what it looked like outside when I left for uni today. This is NOT OK.

I went to the climate change protest this week because I’ve never been to a protest before and also because, well, France. It wasn’t really a protest though, more a circle of people sitting on the floor and listening to other people tell us how important it is to turn off the lights and stuff. I enjoyed it, it was really interesting, but I don’t think it was like a normal protest. I did see this woman though, or more precisely, I did see this woman’s hat:

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I’ve also started doing bikram yoga at a little yoga studio, which is a new and very fun experience. Bikram yoga is a series of 26 poses (or asanas) in a hot room – hot as in, it’s heated to 40 degrees Celsius. That’s really hot. I didn’t realise that it was possible to sweat inside my ears until this week. The teacher is lovely – she’s Australian but teaches the class in quick French, which means I’ve learnt a lot of new vocab for parts of the body: for example, menton is chin, orteil is toe, coude is elbow, hanche is hip, tirer means pull or reach and relâcher is to release or let go. I haven’t joined a gym yet (I’ve run out of money…) but I think this definitely counts. I sweated more in one hour and a half session than I have before in my entire life.

Things crossed off the bucket list this week:

  • Visit a crêperie
  • Cook a meal from scratch with ingredients from a French market
  • Go to a boulangerie

(See what I mean about it being an appropriate week to talk about food!?)

Anyway, must dash. Got things to do before France closes for lunch. Bye for now!

Bisous xxx

PS. Big thank you to my step mum, who sent me some lined paper and blu tac after reading in my last post that I couldn’t get hold of any here. Too cute :)

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