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: ...and this...: 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.