I have a love-hate relationship with French food. On the one hand, it is at once both glorious decadence and farm-fresh simplicity. On the other hand, I almost always get uncontrollable diarrhea. All in all, totally worth it!
I attribute the majority of my gastro-intestinal problems (fairly or not) to (a) unpasteurized dairy (my poor tummy’s not used to all those bugs–I’m American, after all, we sterilize everything always), (b) the animal-rich diet (I’m not a huge meat eater in my daily life, but put a bloody Charloais entrecôte in front of me and watch yourself–I’m like Pavlov’s dog, if Pavlov’s dog were rabid and lunged at his master’s jugular for just one meaty morsel), and (c) fois gras (eaten at every special occasion meal, and every in-between meal during the holidays–it’s delicious, but I can feel myself getting closer to gout with every forkful).
Charloais entrecôte: Charloais is a breed of cattle originating from Charloais France, which has a similar taste-reputation to Japan’s Kobe beef. Entrecôte is a delicious cut that I am unable to identify and am too lazy to Google. Knock yourselves out.
That said, truffles! Truffles are so ubiquitous that generous hunks of the fungus sit inconspicuously in people’s home refrigerators (stored with eggs in an airtight container–the eggs absorb the truffle essence and make a mean omelet), and I honestly struggle to remember the things with truffles that I’ve eaten. Highlights include: mashed potatoes with chunks of truffles, and truffle sausten–the latter of which is sitting in our fridge because we can’t get enough of the stuff.
But the thing I love most about French food is the quality of the local public markets, patisseries (confectioneries), and boulangeries (bakeries). We brought home dozens of lychees, passion fruits, and a a boxful of gourmet macarons (which are apparently all the rage in France at the moment, a trendy dessert not unlike the American cupcake phenomenon from a few years back).
While the lychees and passion fruits are clearly not French-grown, they’re fresh and add much needed diversity to a winter’s table. It’s a nice departure from English fare, which here in the southeast is very locally based.
Chinese medicine champions the belief that our bodies need what grows in our own climate, our nutritional needs changing with the seasons–this is something I also believe in and try to practice (when I actually have time,which these days is hard to come by). But, especially in our part of England where we rarely see food grown outside of the UK, the refreshing squirt of a tropical fruit is just what the doctor ordered. It livens the senses and broadens the palate.
So that’s why I love French food despite constantly falling sick from its guile. This ideal balance between locally grown and quality imported agricultural products that require a totally different climate in which to grow, is something that the French have managed to master.