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  • Rita Date

The Great Food Nation

Boulangerie, Patisserie, Fromagerie, Creperie…these are the words that every food writer loves to hear and see. The trip to France was well overdue; it had been nearly 20 years. Now as a food writer whose job it was to eat in fine restaurants, France was a new and unimaginable pleasure.

I notice food everywhere I go; it is the nature of the beast. The entire world tries to emulate France in one way or the other culinary wise. For example in the US there are gourmet shops and bakeries selling croissants, baguettes and palmiers even in the obscurest of malls. But what is it about France that makes this visual sensation different? Is it the displays, the smells, the people? The atmosphere of France is conducive to eating and eating with heart. The French know their food. They do not binge on sweets although they are available in nearly every store, they eat on time, they eat fresh and they eat simple. The book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is ridiculed these days as statistics indicate that obesity is on the rise in the country but the rate of this increase in miniscule as compared to the problem in both the US and India. The author’s comparisons with the food cultures of the US and France can also be an applied comparison to the urban Indian. We eat on the run, we eat out and we feel guilt on every turn. The French savor their food. They do enjoy exceptional meals at fine restaurants but are just as content with a baguette with meat, cheese and wine. At home a simple crepe with leftover fish and a side salad or soup accompanied with a glass of wine makes a complete meal. Each bite and sip is relished. In the town of Rouen which has a population of just over one hundred thousand, there are four renowned chocolatier shops, not to mention other lesser known sweet shops. The number of patisseries(pastry shops) and boulangeries(sandwich shops) are well over one hundred. Who is eating all this food, all of which is fresh and baked that day. Why is no one fat? I observed several hundred children during my stay and only two were a bit on the heavy side. My French friend tells me that everyone eats well but the sweets are eaten in moderation and definitely not everyday. The French do not fuss over calories or if they are eating too much. If they feel that they have overdone it one day they simply compensate by being a little careful the next day. This attitude is felt on the streets, the streets lined with restaurants and bakeries. The attitude I took pleasure in during my visit. The simple enjoyment where just a few bites are enough to satisfy is what makes France the Great Food Nation. This time I will not wait 20 years to return.

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