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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rachael's Dinner Table Travels to France!

Cheese Trio: Pesto, Pepper and prosciutto 
Steak & Potatoes with Bearnaise 
Steak Tartare 
That's Me Enjoying My Lunch! 
Beef Carpaccio
French Style Chicken Pot-pie with Melted Cheese 
Snapper with Mashed Potatoes and Chorizo 
Fresh Seafood Salad
Mussels in Provencale Tomato Sauce 
From Rachael's Kitchen: Egg Noodles with White Wine Herb Sauce, Goat Cheese & Lemon
From Rachael's Kitchen: Blue Cheese & Prosciutto Egg Scramble 
From Rachael's Kitchen: Pan-Seared Trout with Mache Salad, Pepper Relish & Roasted Potatoes 

My husband and I spent the first two weeks of September in France for vacation. We spent 3 days in Paris, 1 night in Aix-en Provence and 5 nights in a small mountainside village called, Bormes-les Mimosas located 1 1/2 hours west of Saint Tropez. I was concerned about getting around in a country not always known to be welcoming to Americans, having little knowledge of French. Luckily, the majority of our encounters were pleasant, especially in Paris where they must be accustomed to speaking English. It was in the south of France, especially the smaller villages where we encountered a few bad apples. 

I of course was especially excited to sample authentic French cuisine. The food we ate on the trip was good overall, but nothing I will remember forever. Thankfully, we live in a very cosmopolitan world where we can find any type, style or genre of world cuisine in our own back yards. The best part of eating in France is that everything is extremely fresh. Every town has at least one outdoor food market once a week where the locals buy all of their fresh produce. The French eat very little processed foods and rarely snack on candy bars and chips like we do in the US. 

My impression of the French after two weeks was mixed. They are prideful people, who live a slower paced life, savoring simple pleasures. I also observed the French to live a very structured life based on years of cultural expectations. The French live the 3rd longest in the world yet are known for eating rich foods and for smoking cigarettes like crazy... so what gives?? I have learned a few valuable lessons from the French lifestyle which may shed some light on this curious case: 

1. French people RELAX everyday. In most regions, the French take a lunch break from 12-2pm each day. Businesses close and people go home to relax and enjoy a long multi-coursed lunch. 

2. The French lead a STRESS FREE life by working less. France issues a mandatory 35 hour work week leaving plenty of time for travel and leisure. 

3. French parenting tends to be HANDS OFF. French parents demand more responsibility and independence out of their young children. As a result, parents have more time to themselves. 

4. The French DO NOT SNACK or eat on the go! Unlike Americans, the French allocate much of their day towards eating a meal sitting down with friends or family. Meals are sacred and enjoyed with guests. Meals are long, leaving no need for snacking throughout the day. 

5. The French eat a large mid-day lunch and smaller dinners and breakfasts. The French take advantage of their long mid-day break by eating a large lunch, often including 3 courses and a glass of wine. They eat smaller portions during dinner and breakfast, so as not to go to bed on a full stomach. 

6. Portions are smaller, yet satisfying. The French notoriously cook with loads of butter, cream and cheese. You will almost NEVER see low-fat, low-cal options on a menu. You might think this would result in obesity but that's quite the opposite effect. Obesity levels in France are extremely low. Because meals are satisfying, the French wind up eating less. They stand by the saying, "quality over quantity." If you eat low-fat, low-cal meals all day-long you're going to feel deprived and end up over-indulging! In addition, the french cook with whole foods, never processed foods which can be difficult to digest. 

7. They WALK A LOT. Especially in the bigger cities, having a car is not recommended. The majority take public transportation and walk or bike to their destination. Because people are not as rushed, they can take their time getting from place to place without a car.