Just a kid at the Sorbonne...My Food's Better than Your Food (?)

So this week in English class, the presentations rolled on as usual, discussing Rocky for what it was worth.  The group failed to discuss the importance of Philadelphia in the movie, though every time I tell someone I’m from Philly their only reaction is, “Rocky?”  Alas.

Before class, however, I was the subject of several classmates’ attention on the age-old topic of cultural differences.  Is it difficult living here?  Do you miss home?  The bise is confusing – the double, sometimes trip kiss on the cheek.  Even the French aren’t always sure what side to start on or how many to give.

And then of course they attacked it – the food.  Those who had been to the US recall gaining weight like crazy, those who hadn’t heard that everything is wrapped in cellophane.  I assured them it’s not as bad as it sounds, but when the subject of cheese came up, I lost the battle.  I assured them that food was not the only reason I wanted to live in France, but they weren’t listening.  After almost three years in Paris, I’m used to this sort of lecture. 

I grew up eating well.  Too well, sometimes.  I wasn’t a skinny kid.  We ate or share of mac-n-cheese and hotdogs – happily, mind you, but beef wellington and lobster made their way to our table from time to time.  I don’t recall my mother actually killing the crustaceans herself, but she prepared them well the few times we indulged.  Homemade Caesar salad, homemade pasta sauce and lasagna, homemade pastries – it was something we valued.  But we didn’t stigmatize things that came prepackaged either.  Frozen chicken fingers were a treat – and easy, to boot.  We were all just happy to be in the kitchen at all, to see what was bubbling over the stove, to peak into the cookies browning in the oven.

We had plenty of prepared food because, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, this is what you do.  You don’t drive to the supermarket every day, so you can’t afford to have the freshest of fresh produce every single day.  This doesn’t mean we didn’t have homegrown tomatoes or plenty of corn to shuck in the summer time.  It just meant that we appreciated frozen foods since it meant veggies all year long.  It also meant fewer trips to the store, saving on costly gasoline.

Trying to explain this mentality to a group of Parisian students was like telling them that their cheese was made with pasteurized milk.  Scandal.  I swore we had our benefits, that American food wasn’t always as dainty or fresh as French fare, but the variety, the possibilities, the combinations – they weren’t having it.
And that kid got a baguette???  Fool.
The one I wanted, too...

Then on the walk home, after grabbing a French escargot chocolat in defeat in a classic Parisian pastry shop, I found these delights – portable pizzas.  I’ve seen these in Spain and New York, and I’ve heard rumors of them making it to France, but I had yet to see them.  Confirmation is still needed to see how fresh those grilled tomatoes and onions are in this portable-pizza-to-go concoction.  I just wish my fellow students had been there to explain…it puts the term "cultural difference" in its place, I suppose...

I finished my pastry, my hunger satiated, so I didn’t indulge if you can imagine.  But head down to Boulevard Montparnasse and check it out if you’d like.  Just beware, the ham and cheese pizza-wraps sells out fast – it’s already √©puis√© at this local bakery, so you’ll have to try one of the three other varieties.  Good luck.