Thursday, July 23, 2009

Food Tag

I was tagged by Zhu to list seven foods from France that I like and seven that I don't. Let's start with the foods I like:

Croissants, especially croissants au beurre

This is how I measure how good a bakery is. If the croissant is good, the rest of the stuff will be good. A good croissant is a delicate balance of buttery-ness and crispyness and just melts in your mouth with how good it is. You can only find good croissants in France, don't even try in the US. I think the secret is the butter. French butter has a higher butterfat content; it must contain at least 82% butterfat while in America only 80% is required, and the process used to make butter also adds more acidity to the flavor. Other croissant varieties are croissant aux amandes, croissant aux amandes et chocolat (deee-lish!), and I've also seen croissant aux framboises.


Quiches and tartes

Not the same thing, but similar enough that they get lumped together so I can include crepes on my list.

I love being able to buy delicious little mini quiches at local boulangeries. You can go in at lunch, look at your choices, pick a yummy little quiche and get it heated and ready to eat right away. My favorite boulangerie in my town in France, also the best one in town (had to try them all, of course) had this amazing tomato mustard quiche that I used to buy a lot. The classic quiche is of course the quiche lorraine, but I've never had one because I don't eat pig products. I assume it's good though. Salmon and spinach and tuna and tomato are other common combinations.
Tartes in France can be sweet or savory and I like both. Sweet tartes are basically a pie without the pastry on top. Again, you can get little mini tarte bites from boulangeries, which are usually sweet (tarte a la framboise and tarte a la fraise), or you can get big pie-sized tartes, usually tarte aux pommes or tarte tatin (both made with apples). The savory ones are a lot like quiches but they do not have an egg base. A popular savory tarte in the northern departements is tarte aux maroilles - the stinky cheese made popular by Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis.
*Note: boulangeries are open all day long and are therefore a good option for picking up a snack if you're hungry at 4 PM when all the restaurants are closed.


Canard


I love duck, and I love that it is on every menu in France. Magret de canard, or duck breast, with a fruit sauce, is a classic, as is confit de canard, or duck cooked in its own fat (sounds disgusting but is tender and tasty). I had the best duck of my life when I was in the Loire with my parents - a wonderful confit de canard in a curry sauce. Magret de canard is also common on salads.



Crepes and Galettes

Love 'em. Nutella crepes on the street are one of the best things you will ever eat. I also really like galettes. The only problem with crepes and galettes is that they aren't really filling enough to make a meal and they're kind of expensive, so you end up spending a lot of money trying to have a filling dinner. I did stumble on a crepe and salad place in the Marais once that had a well-priced menu.
*I'm also a fan of the galette des rois

Escargot


Yep, I actually like the infamous snails! It isn't about the snail itself, it's all about the sauce, a buter, garlic and herb based sauce that gives flavor to otherwise chewy little gastropods.





Cheese

I'm a big fan of dairy products, especially cheese. Sure, I miss cheddar, but I enjoy the infinite variety of cheeses in France. France has between 350 and 400 different types of cheese. I wasn't able to pin down an exact number. Who knew that so many different flavors could be created by a bacterial process?



Bread

Naturally baguettes are a favorite - a cheap, quick way to have a carb with your dinner or make a gigantic sandwich - but I also love all the different types of bread. They use a lot of different types of grains and yeasts to make different "normal" breads that are good. They also put things like olives, cheese, and tomatoes into bread and those are really good. That's something I wish we had more of in the US.


Now onto the foods I don't like:

Boudin Noir
Blood sausage. Need I say more? I blame the fact that I try this on cruel French people who took advantage of the fact that I was newly arrived and didn't speak French that well yet.






Herbs and Spices, or lack thereof

Sorry France, seasoning with only salt and pepper just doesn't cut it. And the complete and utter lack of heat in anything is just annoying. I can't even tell you how many times someone has said to me "careful! it's spicy!" only to try it myself and not be able to taste any spice whatsoever. Flavoring doesn't even have to be hot, you can use things that add flavor like rosemary, basil, oregano... Food in the south tends to have more herby flavoring but in the north salt and pepper are the only things in the spice cabinet. They buy mayonnaise and mustard to eat with the food to give it flavor.


Overabundance of pig products

As previously stated, I don't eat anything that was part of a pig at one point in time. Yes, I grew up in a kosher house, pigs are expressly forbidden, that of course has something to do with it. But I've tried pork and it just doesn't cut it for me, I find it flavorless and fatty and gross. But of course in France there are always lardons on salads and in quiches and omelettes. Yuck.



Andouillettes

This was another incident when I was tricked into trying something by cruel Frenchies. Andouilletes are sausages made out of intestines. Gross. In fact, let's just state right now that anything made out of intestines and stomachs and non-muscular parts of the body of an animal are very gross in my book. Remember, Americans like to think that the meat they buy in little plastic packages has nothing to do with actual animals who once wandered in the fields.


Foie gras

I have no idea why this is considered a delicacy, to me it just tastes fatty and blah. The texture is all off. And I haven't even started talking about the inhumane practices in several foie gras farms.



French barbecue

Wimpy sausages and bland rice salads do not a BBQ make! The French are convinced that little skinny sausages and merguez are the basis of a good barbecue (I'll avoid the obvious joke about French men). Sometimes if you're lucky you get flavorless brochettes, which are either chicken or pork on a stick with peppers, onions, and sometimes other veggies. And then you get the rice salads. Rice mixed with canned corn and other diced vegetables, usually without any sauce to give it some flavor. If you're ever invited to a French BBQ, make sure you eat beforehand so that you don't have rely on their food to fill you up. Of course, since it will be a few hours between the time you arrive and the time you actually eat, that really won't help you much. I've been to several French BBQs and the only one that was comparable to an American barbecue was the night I herded sheep. The lamb chops probably came from that same herd.


Flammekueche, or Tarte Flambee

I don't hate it, but I wouldn't choose to eat it. For me it's an inferior form of pizza. Traditionally flammekueche is topped with creme fraiche, onions, and lardons (see above about pig products). You can get get other ingredients on it, like provencal style or even sweet varieties, but no matter what you put on it you're basically eating a super thin, hard to cut pizza with no sauce. Sauce is an important component of my pizzas, so tarte flambee doesn't really do it for me.

There you have it. Seven foods I do and don't like from France. I never know if people find it annoying to be tagged or not, so I'm not sure who to tag or how many, but something tells me that Andromeda and Leesa (although because she's out of the country she may not write about it for a month or more) and maybe Monique will appreciate tags. Anyone else who I didn't mention who wants to be tagged, consider yourself tagged and tell us all about the foods you like and don't like from the country you're currently living in!

16 comments:

parlez-vous-kiwi said...

Loved this post.

"You can only find good croissants in France, don't even try in the US." - completely agree.

As for foie gras, I was also a victim when I could not speak french and had no idea what exactly I was eating (until they told me afterwards...ugh). I have also eaten rabbit in Spain and told afterwards too. Oh dear.

shannon said...

You've made me hungry. I miss bread and cheese and quiches and cheese and bread and I can just keep repeating these things over and over again. Especially since I'm eating in a cantine everyday here. And Jean Mace is actually way better.

And I didn't like the tarte flambee until I went to some little family restaurant in the middle of nowhere Alsace. It was amazing! And you're supposed to eat it with your hands! At least that's what my friend's in-laws were doing. Mmm... one of the best meals ever!

Eileen said...

I've had foie gras that I thought was amazing (in the US) and foie gras that I thought was just sort of weird (my cantine at my lycee). So I think you have to eat the right one.

With you on the andouillette though. I was equally unprepared and couldn't eat more than a third of it.

Andromeda said...

Thanks for the tag! Will get on it this week, I've been poor lately so it's been pasta and rice for a while, so I'll have to go rediscover all the yumminess here.

Escargot make me think of calamari (sounds so much more appetizing than squid, lol)in terms of texture, and I definitely like both. And I'm a big sensitive wimp so I am actually quite a fan of the lack of spices! :-p

au soleil levant said...

parlez-vous: glad I'm not the only one who gets tricked into trying gross foods! Glad you liked the post.

Shannon - you'll have to try bakeries in Montreal and see if they have pastries comparable to France!

Eileen - a third of an andouillette is better than me, I only got through two bites before I stopped!

Andromeda - calimari is something that I can pretty much promise you I will never try. They seem like they would be so slimy! Eeeeww!

Isabelle said...

Very nice post!

I would like to make some comments with my French point of view though ;)

About the cruel frenchies who didn't tell you what you were eating in the first place: my question is, would you have even tasted the boudin noir or the andouillette had you known what they were?
See, this is something we do a lot in France: for example we usually don't tell kids what they are about to eat, to make sure that they at least taste it and then can say whether they like it or not. Our point is that you can't say you don't like something unless you've tasted it.
My mother-in-law wouldn't eat goat cheese, just because it was from a goat... Once I gave her some melted goat cheese on toast (without telling her it was goat cheese) and she ate it and liked it... (I'm awfull I know!!).

Foie gras: did you have fois gras poëllé (basically fresh liver cooked in a pan, like a steak), or did you have foie gras mi-cuit or cuit (liver that has been cooked in port wine or cognac or just plainly slowly cooked in a pan in the oven, and to which pepper is added, or figs, or fleur de sel etc. etc.) that you eat cold on a toast?
The foie gras poëllé and cuit have very different flavors, so you might have tasted the first type, which in itself is quite tasteless ...

I understand that you aren't a big fan of pig products, but have you ever tried some jambon cru or jambon fumé. These are really good!

Tartes flambées are super good in Alsace, and yes, you eat them with your hands!

And last but not least: spicies!
Yes, the French don't like spicies and you won't find spicy French dishes unless you go to the Dom-Tom (like Guadeloupe or Ile de la Réunion for example).

It's a cultural and historical thing, that's it. I agree that we could add more herbs to our food, but then again there is an historical reason why you don't find thyme or basil in dishes from the north for example. Since they are herbs that came from the south and that like groing under the sun, no wonder people from the north didn't get used to adding them to their traditional dishes.

One last thing before I finish (sorry for the long comment btw!!), I know that Americans love spicy or hot food, but then they should ask themselves why they have so much heartburns! When I am in the US, I'm always very surprised by the number of TV commercials about anti-acid medicine I see there...

au soleil levant said...

Isabelle - thanks for such a long and thoughtful comment!

I did an independent study on the place of cuisine in French culture and read a very interesting book about the history of cuisine in France, I think it was called Un festin en paroles. You might enjoy reading it.

Leesa said...

LOVED this post, too!
BUTTTTTTTTTTTT, WHERE IS THE ICEEEE CREAMMMMMMMMMMMMM?!!!!

France has ice cream, too.. That's an important food in the summer time in France! OMG, I can't believe you didn't put that as #1!! HDG will be mad!

MilkJam said...

galettes are suuuuuper cheap if you're in normandy or brittany but outside of those regions they aren't as good and are much more expensive.
last night i ate at my favorite creperie out in the norman countryside - 6.50e for a HUGE galette, i was so full i couldn't manage dessert! it was stuffed with camembert, potatoes, cream, mushrooms etc etc etc. YUM i love normandy :-)
boudin noir is icky, i really dont' like the texture. same goes for tripe (famous in Caen) the sauce and sides were delish but the texture was too weird for me...

Isabelle said...

Thank you so much for the book recommendation!
I just added it to my Amazon basket. Can't wait to read it...

shannon said...

The boulangeries in Montreal were delicious! It was like returning back to France. I had a tartelette aux fruits that was to die for! Yummy!

au soleil levant said...

Leesa - definitely thought about including ice cream, you know it's my fave! But I decided that it wasn't really a "typical" part of 'a cuisine francaise, so I skipped it. But we all know ice cream is the best food ever. Period.

Milk Jam - that crepe sounds amazing! I can't believe you got a filling crepe for 6.50, usually the typical price for a non-filling crepe here is 7.50!! Totally agreed on the ickyness of all products made from digestive tracts and red blood cells.

Isabelle - wow, now I really hope you like the book, I'll feel bad if you hate it! I really like the part about Parmentier and the adoption of potatoes in France.

Shannon - I've always wanted to visit Montreal, now I just have more reasons!

Zhu said...

Thank you so much for participating! It's always interesting for me to see what kind of food people like... and don't like.

I'm with you for the croissant. I don't bother buying bread for a boulangerie that doesn't have good croissant. Oh, and if they are overpriced, the rest of the stuff will be too! It's my own "Big Mac Index", the "Croissant Index" :D

French do eat a lot of pork. I don't eat much meat, not for any specific reason, but mostly because I grew up in a mostly vegetarian house. I really can't eat sausage etc. Don't even mention hit dog to me! Let alone blood sausage...

I love quiches. I make my own in Canada (with ricotta cheese) because I can't find any good ones. I don't mind Flammekueche but I didn't have it often, it's not popular in Brittany. I like the dough (thiner) but I get sick of the lardon + crème fraiche mix pretty quickly. Last time I had it was in a restaurant by the Champs Élysées (a franchise, the only affordable place in the neighborhood!). It was all you can eat (really, in France!) and I was so sick of it after a couple of slices. Too stuffy.

I'm also a crêpe person, mostly galettes actually. I do add a lot of filings otherwise I get hungry with just the egg/cheese thing.

I'm hungry now :D

Isabelle said...

Yes, I know the story behind the introduction of potatoes in France, very funny!

I took a guided tour of the Père Lachaise cemetery a couple of years ago, and we saw Parmentier's grave site. There are some potatoe leaves and flowers sculpted on the gravestone, really nice!

au soleil levant said...

I think blogger ate my reply last night. Hmmmm.

Zhu - thanks for having me participate! It was fun to write about. Glad to see that someone else uses croissants to judge bakeries too and that it isn't just me!

If you go to a restaurant that specializes in flammekueche they will usually have a bunch of different varieties, which aren't a huge improvement on lardons/creme fraiche, but it's something, right?

And I can't believe you grew up in a nearly meat free house! Are you sure you're French? :)

Isabelle - if I ever get to Pere Lachaise I'll have to go check that out.

Zhu said...

I also don't drink alcohol... no wonder I ended up in Canada :D