C'est si bon!

Bonjour à tous! Je suis Vanessa, étudiante de 20 ans en France pour le moment. Je viens de Pékin, mais j'étudie à la fac à Chicago.

Hello! My name is Vanessa, a 20-year-old student in France for the moment. I come from Beijing, but I go to college in Chicago.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

France, China, America: culinary observations

Is my hat French yet

Bonjour à tous!

I've been in Arles, Provence, for exactly a week now. Even though I've only spent a few days with my host family so far, already I've learned an abundance of things about the Provençal culture, and the French lifestyle! I would love to record and comment on all of them, but if I do that, it'll seriously take days! So I'm just going to talk about one  observation here today - the cuisine.

Before coming to France, I knew that European cultures are different from those in America, but still I generally thought they are both Western cultures, so they should be pretty similar. However, after having really lived here with a host family and participating in cultural events in Arles made me realize that this is not the case at all. In many ways, especially in the food cultures, I find the French culture more similar to the Chinese ways than to those of the US! Surprising, right?

In France, people take their meals seriously. Like, two-hour-per-meal seriously.  But as I was strolling through town, I hardly saw anyone overweight! Almost all the younger people around my age, including the teenagers, are slim, and the people my parents' age are sill mostly fit! As far as I know, working out/sports is not a big thing in France, so why on Earth does everyone look so good?

The secret lies in the French cuisine. The word "breakfast" in French literally means "little lunch," and a typical French "little lunch" usually consists of a piece of bread, a cup of coffee, and maybe a glass of juice. Really little compared to the American full breakfast affairs, non? For lunch, people usually have a salad with some kind of meat or fish with bread, or some pasta. Dinner here is super late, at around 8pm or even 9pm! At my host family we eat dinner at 9pm. But we eat very light, usually just a salad like this:

And this is what a typical lunch looks like:

Or this:

I don't have a picture of breakfast, because the lighting isn't very good in the morning when I typically eat so... but if I do get a good picture, I will add it to this post.

Overall, I find that the way people eat (little breakfasts, heavier lunches, light dinners) here in France are more similar to the Chinese than to the Americans. This is not a critique of American fast food, but here in France, it is very hard to find fast food chains! In Arles, for example, there are no chain restaurants at all! Also, another thing that I remarked on is how light French dinners are, and how small the portions are in general. When I mentioned this to my host Maman and host Papa, they were surprised that portions in American restaurants are so "enormous." 

I also think that in America, I often hear a lot (sometimes too much) about how/what/when to eat. In France, one just eats! That simple. It's more or less like that in China as well, because come to think of it, the problem with the American way of eating, in my opinion, is what and how much people eat, not how. If people ate more vegetables and smaller portions, I think then it'll be a better cuisine in general.

Of course, all of the above are just my personal views. All comments are welcome!

Vanessa :]

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