As a French enthusiast and British student going on my year abroad to Paris in September, excitement is an understatement. I await to explore the City of Romance, to walk along the Seine at sunset, to get lost in a book and feign 'intellectual chic' in a Montmartre café, and explore all the art and history Paris has to offer. What I anticipate just as much is of course, all that glorious French food.
The gourmande inside me already sees itself enticed outside the patisserie window and eating macarons of every colour under the sun. Sure, I do sound like the average foreigner falling for the French charm. But however, it's not quite the traditional French cuisine I love the most, it's the every day products that French expatriates in England would probably have withdrawal symptoms for.
I'm not sure if I speak for all foreign French fanatics here, but I adore French supermarkets. I have happily wheeled my trolley around Carrefour for more than an hour. What are the things I fill it up with? My 'staple foods' include; les carrots rappées, les crêpes dentelles, pompotes,(why is fruit compote only catered to babies in the UK?!), and a lot of yoghurt. If I had one food to live off for the rest of my life, it would be the cute terra cotta pots of La Fermière. Walking through the streets of Paris with a baguette tradition in my hand, sipping a daily espresso and dipping the specaloos biscuit that often comes with it in a French café are other little pleasures I look forward to in Paris. All the little products and habits one can hardly find in England. I will most definitely avoid the Starbucks invasion that has hit the city. (Does Saint-Lazare station really need the four Starbucks cafés within the radius of a five minute walk?)
The opinions of French people on English food always intrigues me. Apart from my French grammar professor who preferred her baked beans to cheese and wine which was just baffling, something French people said something along the lines of 'J'ai mal mangé en Angleterre.' My friend's mother even became a vegetarian when moving to England simply because she couldn't trust it. Although I don't agree with this exagerated view, I do understand where these views may be coming from. Fair enough, our butchers may not offer such a variety of meat, for example, a British eater may see an Alsacian choucroute garnie as a little overwhelming, and the same goes to horsemeat. I think British food is actually rather innovative and diverse, but conflicting culinary opinions will always stay put between les rosbifs and les grenouilles.
Although the British and French just have the Channel between them, food habits also remains as something that separates them. But if I ever crave my Heinz beans and Earl Grey tea, there is a Marks and Spencer on the Champs-Elysées now. I do wonder how Frenchified I will become. Will I start drinking le chocolat chaud out of a bowl? Will I prefer camembert over cheddar? Will I swap my porridge for les tartines and croissants? On vera!