Changing Habits: On Eating in Paris

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Changing Habits: On Eating in Paris

When you get excited about strawberries, something has changed inside you...

While having lunch with some tourists, I polish off my quiche while nibbling at the many fresh vegetables in my salad. 

“What’s this?” one of the tourists asks, poking at one of the veggies. 

“It’s a white beet,” I tell her, explaining that the rest of the vegetables are seasonal, and that the salad will be slightly different in a few months. I launch into a whole thing about how it’s springtime, and the strawberries and asparagus fill the markets. I also tell her not to repeat “beet” too loudly, because it sounds like “penis” in French. We giggled.

“So do you eat differently now that you live in Paris?” she asked.

Well that’s a question I never really thought about before. Cheesesteaks, bagels, Tastykakes, hoagies – sometimes I miss foods from home. But in Paris, yeah, I guess I do eat differently than back in the US. Maybe it’s a limited budget. Maybe it’s evolving tastes. Maybe it’s a health kick driven by running so much. Whatever the reason, there’s no going back to the way I ate in the US...


Fresh produce was always available at home, but there was very little concept of seasons. The supermarket had berries, corn, and tomatoes available year-round. There was never a question of eating something when nature decided it was at its best. If we wanted it, we ate it, never wondering what had to be done to get such plump strawberries in January. The American dream, right?


Berries in the spring, cherries and tomatoes in the summer, Brussel sprouts after the first frost, Corsican clementines in the winter – the list has grown. I’ve learned how to eat produce according to the seasons, learning most of what I know at the local market. Strawberries in January? No, never in France, you monster,


Snacking after school may have been a result of constantly growing, or plentiful empty carbs consumed at school. Either way, I did it. Shamelessly. There was always an Oreo to dunk in some chocolate milk or a half gallon of ice cream to dig into. Fruit wasn’t a snack. It was a punishment.


I might grab some cashews around 4 or 5PM. I’ll have some frozen berries thrown into a yogurt smoothie if I’m really hungry. Maybe a bit of peanut butter with some honey if I’m just feeling peckish. But snacking is not a thing. Sure, I’ll have a croissant or gelato if I’m out and about and I just happen to come across a favorite place – but it’s not the calorie bombs of my adolescent years. Alas.


We had this sliced stuff called bread in America. It was white, spongey, and full of things beyond flour, water, salt, and leavening agents. Why does white bread need corn syrup in it? Gross. And why did it take days and days to go bad? Magic? It's bad news when mold is the indication that the bread went bad...


It’s a French snobbism that’s well-merited. The bread is fresh with nothing beyond the basics. When it's no longer fresh, you can use it to hammer nails. It's perfect. Sure, some are better than others, but a baguette from a bakery has been the best thing well before sliced bread, I assure you.


Sprite. Coke. Orange Slice. Dr. Pepper (as I got older). Rarely did we drink anything other than soft drinks as children. I think we got our water in the form of the ice cubes that we put in it. That counts right? I remember when I got on a green tea kick, people looked at me weird, like I was some borderline hippie. “Do you at least put sugar in it?” they’d ask. Sigh.


Coffee (black). Water (tap). Wine (French). There is really no reason to drink anything else in France. But really it’s about the water. I never knew that you could actually feel better drinking lots and lots of water. We use it to clean cars and streets, but it’s a total revelation that it cleans our bodies, too. 

Hey, this is healthy, moderation...
I’m sure there are other differences – all raw ingredients, fish, an embarrassing quantity of beans – but I’ll save those for later. I don’t know if I can blame (er, thank) France for all of my dietary changes, but it sure has made it easier to live a healthy lifestyle. I guess if I really went crazy on all of the cheese, booze, and pastries, I would be singing a different tune, but I don’t. Everything in moderation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a nice herbal tea and a juicy apricot (who AM I?).


  1. Love this post! The following is all about me and how i want to live the life you have (LOL):

    I try to "eat French" here in the states, but it's nothing like the real thing. In the US our govt. lets corporations put nasty chemicals in and on the food they sell us. GMO is a label they won't allow on the food so we can NOT choose it. This narrows food choice considerably. It's all suspect.

    In France (and Europe in general) I wouldn't have to read so many labels and question the out-of-season "fresh" foods. In the US, apples for example: harvested one season & kept in tanks of methane, to be brought out later and sold as fresh as far forward as the next season. (This i'm told by an apple grower friend who does not do this with her apples).

    And the cheapest wine in the French grocery store was better tasting than any wine I've had in the States. And it's BYOB and draw it off yourself....amazing!

    Since I'm now gluten intolerant (thanks, big wheat corporations) I can't even eat a French bread baked in my own oven. ALL our wheat appears ruined. I once baked twice a week, but no more.

    If I could get my French significant other to move across the sea, I'd be in France in a New York minute!!! My language skills are pretty poor, but i know how to grocery shop......pain au chocolate!
    haricots vert! Cafe au lait! and the fresh fish laid out on ice!!!!! Caramba!!! I am so envious of you!! But I forgive you for living my life!!!! Now back to you mon amie.....

  2. OOPS! I thought I was on another blog!!!! Mon ami....... my apologies for my inadvertent rotten french.......