Let’s talk about food. La gastronomie, if you will. Since my obsession with the Food Network that began the fourth grade, it has been one of my favorite topics and definitely something I was extremely excited for when deciding to come abroad to France. Food is central to French daily life (and daily life in general I suppose), and I would be remiss to not wax poetic about it while I’m here. Since coming to the gastronomic capital of France, I can say with certainty that I have not been disappointed in my culinary experiences, and I have pretty much loved everything I’ve eaten here. In addition to pretending I’m hosting my own show on the Food Network every time I try a new French food, I have gained a new insight into the French attitude towards food and eating in general.
From my experience, for the French, food seems to be more than simple sustenance to get through the day. While of course it is that, it is also an art form and a social activity meant to be shared among friends and family.
One of my favorite parts about French cuisine is its focus on fresh, quality ingredients. It is not uncommon for French families to make several small trips to the grocery store, or local markets, per week, to ensure that they have the freshest ingredients for daily meals. I recall one Tuesday night, when I was walking around my neighborhood around 7pm, seeing lines in all the grocery stores near me, as individuals purchased fresh groceries for meals in the immediate future. Each evening, when my host mom cooks dinner, she makes simple dishes, but they are always fresh and delicious. On weekend mornings, I love strolling through the open air markets in Lyon, smelling, seeing, and tasting all that the local vendors have to offer. To some, grocery shopping in smaller trips like this might seem like an inefficient use of time, but from what I’ve witnessed, it seems to be an activity that is both necessary and enjoyable in the eyes of many French people. Beyond that, there’s something so inexplicably heartwarming about seeing real French people buying their fresh baguette everyday.
Through my own experiences eating in France and observing people eating, I’ve found myself inspired by the French approach to mealtimes. Whereas I am often tempted to eat “on the go” as I walk to class or home from a boulangerie, I am constantly reminded that mealtimes are periods in the day intended for slowing down and savoring whatever food is being eaten. Forcing myself to adopt this mindset, even if it’s only for a 15 minute lunch, has profoundly altered the general pace of my days and my outlook towards food. While I sadly won’t be able to take a suitcase of French food back to the U.S. with me (I would if I could), I hope I can carry this new outlook towards food and eating with me once I leave the lovely Lyon in December.
Of course, in typical Millennial/Gen-Z fashion, I basically have an album on my phone dedicated to food at this point, so here’s a couple of my favorite shots: