So I moved back to France

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by french fries, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. french fries

    french fries

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    So I moved back to France. After living in the U.S. for 20 years. And you know what's really, really funny? Back 20 years ago when I came here to the U.S., I was really, really scared about the food I'd find here. I was expecting all meats to be vacuum sealed, packaged as thin slices, etc... basically in the shape of ham slices, wether pork or chicken or beef. Fast forward to today, and... I'm actually scared to go back to France! I've been lucky to live long enough in L.A. to find some exceptional quality restaurants, 11 month-long haas avocado season, incredible local organic produce, cuisines from all over the world....etc etc. Aaah the fear of change.

    I've been here in France for about 10 days, and it's already challenging. My first challenge? Talking to my butcher. I've been accustomed to rib-eyes, T-bones, top sirloin, short ribs and skirt steak, and all of a sudden I have to deal with this:

    [​IMG]

    ...and this...:

    [​IMG]

    Hmmmmkay, this'll take a bit of getting used to. And of course 100% of the beef here is grass-fed, although some of it may be grain-finished (I'm not entirely sure).

    I'm lucky enough to land in a 1,000 habitant village (that's right, from Los Angeles!!!) where local means the food is grown across the street from where I live. Literally, I cross the street and I find fields of potatoes, french green beans, shallots, potatoes, kiwis (!!!), salads, cassis, groseilles, tomatoes, eggplants, cantaloupes, etc etc... go down to the farmer's market 2 miles down from here, and you're no longer buying "local." Their cheeses, for example, are different. Ahhh cheese. I wish I could mention some of it here but it would deserve its own 1,000 page thread.

    On the other hand, I'm going to have to say goodbye to mangoes, pomegranates, avocados, tomatillos...

    I'm still discovering what's here and what's not. I'm sure the process will take a while as produce is highly seasonal here, unlike in L.A. where summer is 11 months long, and spring 1 month long (winter? fall? what's that?) Here we truly have 3 month-long winter, spring, summer and fall. Enjoying summer now and eating the most wonderful peaches and apricots, which are SO much more flavorful than L.A.'s silly (and tasteless) apriums, pluots, plummets and apriplums. On the other end the crossing trend seems to also catch here with silly caseilles (a cross-variety between groseilles and cassis). As you may have guessed, I'm not a big fan of cross-varieties.

    Now I'll be honest with you: so far, what has truly BLOWN MY MIND is the local ratte potatoes. They are just... INCREDIBLE. You know what? I think I had come to terms with the fact that potatoes didn't have much taste. Yup. That's right. After 20 years in L.A. I had forgotten that a potato could actually have a taste at all. Even the ratte potatoes from the local California organic farmers were never really impressive. But now? Here? What a potato. What a taste!!!

    On the downside... there's a world of factory-industry-intensive food production here, and I went once to a big supermarket here and it's depressing to see what's being sold and bought. Okay the prepared food aisles are offering much more and better quality prepared food than in the U.S., but that also means TONS of people buying that prepared food. WTF? This is France, people, how can you buy pre-packaged crepes wrapped in plastic? Pre-made paella that is so dry that it doesn't even look tasty? Vacuum sealed pre-cooked lentils, really? How about a little French pride? Aren't we supposed to be a food nation? What a shame.

    Restaurants I haven't been to too much but same thing goes where many, many restaurants serve quickly thrown together microwaved crap. Pre-made desserts. Just an excuse to make a buck. This truly makes me sad. Of course, I can make educated choices but I see too many of my friends going for the shortcuts, and that's just a shame. Hey in the plane to here I watched that McDonalds movie with Michael Keaton, and that's a shame too.... same deal, different folks.

    Some of the good old local French bakeries/coffees have been replaced by Starbucks. Some of the good old local French sandwich joints have been replaced by Subways. The ONE French national burger chain, "Quick", has been replaced by Burger King.

    Ok but enough of the downers. I can open my windows and see my 75 year old neighbor feeding his chickens, his rabbits or his pigeons, or tending to his 2,000 sq ft garden. I can cross the street and see the young farmers who took over their parents' farms to grow organic, local produce. Raise chickens, ducks and guinea fowls. How can I possibly complain.

    As with any change, it'll take time to get used to and to find my best sources for everything.

    ONE thing makes me feel good: I can go to the store and buy a $2.80 bottle of wine that is MUCH, much better than any $15 bottle of wine I could buy in L.A. So worst comes to worst, even when I get unhappy or when nostalgia hits me, I can forget for cheap.

    :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  2. butzy

    butzy

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    Way to go @frenchfries :)

    I can really relate to the meat story.
    I went from being used to the European continental cuts to the Anglo Saxon cuts and still struggle with it at times.
    One way out of it is to buy a whole pig or lamb and butcher it yourself. Not really feasible for beef though.

    And wine, don't get me going, a very mediocre bottle here cost 15 U$ or so. I would pay around 2 or 3 back in Europe for a similar wine (and much more choice).

    Enjoy France!
    What area are you in?
     
  3. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    So happy for you and your family, what an adventure this will be for your kids.

    Globalization has had an effect all over Europe. Fast food is everywhere and cheap food is readily available everywhere you go. I can totally relate to what you are going through, I've been coming to Greece every summer of my adult life and I still can't get used to how butchers deal with meat and fish here. It makes me think they hate meat by the way they treat it. Firstly, there are no "roasts" as we know them, people just don't put a large piece of meat in the oven and then carve it. So I have to be quite adamant when I buy a roast to please please don't hack it up into pieces. They look at me like I'm crazy. Meat is also butchered and displayed differently so I'm not always sure what I'm looking at or how to communicate how I want it cut. Beef is unheard of here, very rarely will I find it. Meat is served well-done no matter what. If it's not charred on the outside and completely dry on the inside they won't even touch it. I ordered pork tenderloin at a fancy restaurant yesterday and, well if you haven't tried eating a tenderloin that has been roasted for 2hrs then I don't know how to describe it to you other than a bunch of meat strings. No such thing as sour cream here and despite being a stones throw from Italy it's very difficult to find parmesan cheese and forget about mozzarella.

    Find your nearest Lidl. They will have some things you wouldn't otherwise find in a local grocery.

    As for certain produce you can't find there, I'm not sure which region you are in but the weather might permit you to grow some of your own stuff. Here in Krete it is very dry so I've gotten my mom to plant an avocado tree. Still waiting on that to grow. I've also made her plant Italian basil and sage which are difficult to find and nobody here eats them. This year they are planting cantaloupe, only honeydew melon is known here. So brush up your green thumb and try planting the things you will miss most. I don't know about mango trees though. Pommagranate trees grow easily.

    I'm so looking forward to hearing more about this. Good luck!
     
  4. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I miss you already. But it sounds like a good life choice to me. Best wishes!
     
  5. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks guys!!

    A friend from L.A. sent me a 6 second video of himself picking a kumquat from his tree, eating it and spitting the seeds. Just to make me jealous. Makes me realize I can kiss citrus goodbye. Not many oranges/grapefruit/tangerine/lemon/limes around here.

    On the other end cheese is obviously exceptional.

    I've been enjoying wild berries as well, such as wild blackberries.

    Today I walked up the hill behind my new place and found some wheat fields. On my way home I bumped into the neighbors who lives right next door and we talked. Turns out he works in the local boulangerie, using that wheat to make his own flour and turn it into the organic bread I buy from the store. It's kinda cool tasting the wheat kernels directly from the fields, going home and meeting the person who transforms them into the bread I eat!!!
     
  6. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    French Fries, you didn't happen to pass Dorothy and the Tin Man on that road did you ????? No really, that is cool! You have to search high and dry to find that here. I love when that happens, it just gives you a different outlook of food......Hope your doing well in France, you not missing anything here.......The Best........ChefBillyB
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    Hahaha just about. Today our landlord hollered at us from our kitchen window, he wanted to share some of his hen's eggs with us. He was standing there with his big smile, and my wife later told me: "I KNOW who he reminds me of! The farmer from Shaun the Sheep!!" :)

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. rpooley

    rpooley

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    Excellent, excellent.

    It's interesting to hear you talk about all the packaged food. A couple of years ago, I did some intensive cooking with a chef in Beaune for a week. Actually, mother and daughter Americans, the daughter married a Frenchman. Anyway, they said they got a mention in a Paris weekly by a prominent chef from Bourgogne, highlighting two Americans trying to keep traditional French cooking going while French people were buying more prepared foods and cooking less.
     
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  9. kimmit

    kimmit

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  10. kimmit

    kimmit

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    Welcome back to France! Which part of France are you in french fries? I am quite rural in the middle of the country an hour from Dijon. Our local Super U and Auchan usually have pomegranates and avo's. I can imagine it is a bit frustrating compared to the choices you had in the US! Look forward to reading more of your posts.
     
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  11. french fries

    french fries

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    Hi Kimmit! I'm near Grenoble, in the Alps. It's beautiful here. I missed my mountains.

    Dijon is not an area I'm familiar with, but now that I'm in France, I intend to travel and rediscover France. So many regions I'm unfamiliar with.

    I hate that story! But I can imagine how it's true. Sucks.

    Well... still... just like there are some people who eat well in the U.S., and many who eat horribly, so it is here. But if I look hard, then I can find better products here. Today we walked up the hill for about 10mn and found ourselves right next to the farm that raises the local pigs. We sat down and enjoyed just watching the pigs while my kids were feeding them acorns they'd found on the ground. The pigs were so funny. They had their little water hole nearby and kept going one by one to cool themselves off, coming back out full of mud and eating the acorns. Looks like a good life to me.

    I should take some pictures and post them here... but lately I've been enjoying NOT taking pics, not carrying my phone around, and not spending so much time online.
     
  12. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Now that your back in France are you going to change your pen-name to pomme frite?
     
  13. french fries

    french fries

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    Haha I should! :)
     
  14. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    So how's the coffee over there? I find it very difficult to adjust my coffee needs when traveling. My first cup of coffee must be French press (and cold brew as of late!). The coffee culture in Greece is not pleasant. Mostly people drink Nescafé which to me as an anathema, or Turkish coffee (which they call Greek coffee). American drip coffee and French press as both refered to as "French" coffee. Is French press French? In Italy I could only find espresso which is too heavy for me to drink without milk so I had too many cappuccinos.
     
  15. french fries

    french fries

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    We do see some French press here... many people have electric coffee makers, some have espresso machines, some nespressos capsules, even some Italian moka pots... my wife buys cheap ground coffee and we use a melitta filter on top of a carafe, but I can barely drink it. This morning I just skipped it.

    I have yet to find a solution for drinking decent coffee. Back in the U.S. the best coffee I had was at Peet's, which means Peet's coffee, prepared by Peet's.

    But I'm not a connaisseur, I just don't like bitterness in coffee.
     
  16. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Maybe you should try cold brewing in a French press. No bitterness.
     
  17. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Good choice! I'm a Peet's guy, Italian roast with lots of 1/2&1/2
     
  18. french fries

    french fries

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    Been helping the young local organic farmers.

    Here, a bunch of us are helping the biggest farmer to harvest his onions. His field, on the photograph, is right next door to my house. About a 30 sec walk. It started with breakfast right on the fields, with coffee, tea, and all sorts of viennoiseries from the local boulangerie. Then work.

    Then we walked up to his farm about 3 mn up the hill and had lunch, which was made in front of us with all organic ingredients from his farm: pizzas, flamenkuche, and incredible Bavarian beer. Then we walked up to his water reservoir where we all took a dip. He had laid down long plastic sheets up the hill and used a water pump to put water down the plastic sheets, which made a HUGE water slide. There was a cord stretched on top of the reservoir for people to attempt to rope-walk, balancing on top of the water. Fun times. Later there was dinner, then music and dancing all night.

    IMG_7437.JPG
     
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  19. fatcook

    fatcook

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    A pinch of salt in the grounds before you brew helps to reduce bitterness.
     
  20. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    As a person who doesn't enjoy coffee, I find this effort to make coffee something it isn't sort of ironic.