BAM! Frenchman Impressed!

By many, it is considered impossible to impress the French; I have, however, found a loophole.

During my most recent trip to le boucherie with MB, the butcher started chatting to me about being American.  Apparently, he had been a butcher in San Francisco for a stint (I’d love to know what that visa was).  After discussing the prerequisite things: where are you from, what are you doing here, etc.; he moved on to every Frenchman’s favorite topic…

“In America, you eat this?”  He said as he held up the groin of a pig.

As if he didn’t know.

“Not so much,” I responded.  “We are a bit precious about what we are willing to eat.”

He looked at me sadly.  “Oui.”

I think there is nothing that depresses a French person so much as someone who doesn’t enjoy good food.

Quickly, MB stepped in, “She eats everything though; she is very good.”

I looked at him with an amused expression.  Apparently, this was a point of honor for him.

“Ah, mais c’est bon!”  The butcher says, smiling at me.  “Pour vous, mademoiselle…”  He says as he cuts a healthy slice of a gelatinous, multi-colored terrine.  “I want to present this to you.”

“Merci beaucoup,”   I say without flinching.

“You know what this is?”  There is a devilish smile on his face.

“Oui,” I return, pleased that I could get this one right.  “ Fromage de tete!  I have already tried it before and I like it.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_cheese)

The butcher grins from ear to ear; a look of happy approval spread across his face.

BAM!  Frenchman impressed!

Upon my arrival in Paris, I ordered not one but two steak tartares on the first day.  At the restaurant of the second steak tartare, the waiter tried to get me to order something different.

“Does she know what it is?”  He asked MB.

“Of course, it is her favorite!”  He told the waiter.  “She already had one for lunch!”

I smiled up at the smug waiter sweetly…waiting for it.  Slowly his smug look was replaced with one of surprised appreciation.

BAM!  Frenchman impressed!

Everyone knows that the French love their food but not everyone knows quite how excited they get about it.  MB still tells people about the first time we met and how I told him that cassoulet was one of my favorite dishes; this is what piqued his interest in me…an American girl who loved food (BAM! Frenchman impressed).  I remember him looking at me dreamily from across the table as I described how good a hot bowl of cassoulet is on a cold, wintery evening.  To this day, I don’t know whether it was me or the thought of cassoulet that put stars in his eyes.

On my first weekend to meet and visit his parents I know they must have been worried; what would this American girl be like?  Would she turn her nose up at stinky cheese?  What if she is a vegetarian?! * At the first dinner, I could feel the tremor of apprehension in the air as food was set on the table…will she eat it?  Foie gras, homemade pate, pickles from the garden…

I almost passed out from excitement.

I pleased them immensely by devouring, fully, everything that was set before me and having no problem accepting the ‘seconds’ that were offered.  They were ecstatic.  (BAM!  Frenchmen impressed!)

The French connection with food is spiritual, in the truest sense of the word.  It is an integral part of every man, woman, and child; it is an integral part of being French.  Now, you might be thinking that all over the world people get excited about, and love to share, their food.  And to that, I say, the French are just like the rest of the world, only more so.**

Therefore, it is possible to impress the French; not just possible but utterly satisfying…on a variety of levels.    So, go for it!  Don’t order the hamburger or the steak frites; try the fromage de tete, order the tartare.  You might discover something that you love that you never knew existed and hey, even if you can’t stand it at least you have the satisfaction of surprising a society that has perfected the art of being blasé.

BAM!

*I’m not sure that the French government would allow foreign vegetarians into the country, as for the natural born vegetarians…they are tolerated.

**subtle Casablanca reference for those of you in the know

 

 

 

 

 

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20 Responses to BAM! Frenchman Impressed!

  1. Good for you, it isn’t easy to impress the French especially when talking about non-French cuisine which is where I had a small amount of success ; http://web.me.com/tournesol_bp/The_French_Village_Diaries/Blog/Entries/2010/12/5_They’re_English,_but_they’re_nice.html

    • breadispain says:

      HA – great post…just tried to comment on it but it wouldn’t let me?? didn’t like the code I was putting in.

      But yes, such a major compliment in France…classic!

  2. DiaryofWhy says:

    Oh man, this post had my mouth watering. I had a similar experience in France. My first time there I lived with a host family. I ate everything they put in front of me every night and asked for seconds (and went to bed stuffed and would have nightmares every night, but that’s another story). They would brag to their neighbors about my appetite. By the end of my stay they were calling me their American daughter. BAM!

    • breadispain says:

      HA! Love it – so like my boyfriend who totally brags to all his friends about the fact that I will eat everything. It’s too funny! Oh – and yes, can totally sympathize with the nightmare thing…weird. Makes me think of that line in A Christmas Carol in which Scrooge tries to blame the visions of the ghost of a bad piece of meat and too much rich food…

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m more carpaccio than tartare, ris de veau than fromage de tête, and I’d prefer a plate of steaming bourgignon than a dish of stodgy cassoulet, but that’s just me.

    I have a reputation in the village amongst my son’s friends for being a ‘good cook’ and one of them goes around saying I make the best pizza ever (thank you bread machine). That’s an accolade indeed!

    • breadispain says:

      ooooh, all good choices as well!!

      WOW – yes, I know I will have ‘made it’ when I can go from being impressive for eating to being impressive for cooking! Good on ya!

  4. Crystal says:

    LOL Great post but you are SO the opposite of me. I have a list of about 10 things that I eat, none of which are staples in French cuisine (although I DO love ratatouille). My mother-in-law calls days in advance when she knows we are going over to dinner to ask my husband “so what can I make that she’ll actually eat?” Oh, and going to French dinner parties is awesome when you don’t like French food. Not.

  5. laura says:

    Well they do let us vegetarians into the country, but they do not make our lives easy!

    I second Crystal, it’s really hard to go to French dinner parties when you don’t eat meat (or like French food in her case). Although I’m sort of glad I get to say I’m a vegetarian and not just a picky eater because honestly I don’t think I would have wanted to try some of the stuff the French eat even when I did eat meat.

    All this being said, I’ve turned FBF into a half vegetarian (when he eats at my place we don’t cook meat – and he’s here basically every night – but he still loves his viande) and one of his favorite meals is a vegetarian dish I invented! So the French can be open minded about eating meat-free as long as you’re a good cook, haha.

    • breadispain says:

      No doubt! When I was in Provence there were all sorts of fabulous vegetarian options! But yeah, in general, I imagine it is probably quite difficult at the dinner parties because I do think France has a pretty meat-centric cuisine. At least it encourages more creativity with the cooking!!! 😉

      p.s. would love your vegetarian recipe if you don’t mind passing it along!!

      • laura says:

        So this might not work for MB because I lucked out and FBF LOVES spicy food (which I’ve found is pretty rare in France). Also, I don’t have exact measurements for it, but here’s the recipe:
        Ingredients:
        – Powdered Cayenne Pepper (Piment de cayenne)
        – Soy sauce (sauce de soja)
        – Chinese egg noodles (nuiles chinois)
        – Vegetables (I use broccoli, carrots, red onion, mushrooms, and green beans, but if you don’t like those you can pick otherones!)
        – Olive oil

        1. cut vegetables up into small pieces
        2. heat pan with vegetable oil, add some cayenne pepper and soy sauce (a little bit, just to give some flavor to the veggies)
        3. pan fry the vegetables, in order of how long it takes them to cook (I do carots, broccoli, onions, then mushrooms. I then let the mushrooms de-water, then i add the green beans because mine are canned. If you get fresh green beans they go in first as they take forever!)
        4. follow package instructions to cook the noodles (this usually only takes about 4-5 minutes, so I wait until the veggies are almost done)
        5. once noodles are done, save a cup of the noodle water.
        6. put the noodles in the pan, pour in the water, add soy sauce and cayenne pepper
        7. cook together for about 5 minutes

        Voilà! Let me know how it goes 🙂

      • breadispain says:

        oooh excellent! I have almost all these things in the cupboard – exciting! And we are both spicy people so this should work just fine…thanks so much for passing it along!!

  6. Theresa says:

    I had to look up ‘cassoulet’; not sure if I’ve ever had one. But I’m with you on the trying-new-foods deal. Whenever I travel, or go to an ethnic restaurant, I try the most unusual things. Yes, sometimes this results in me eating cubes of blood or fruit bat, but it always leaves me with a good story — and sometimes, a new food I enjoy. Want some more haggis? Don’t mind if I do!

    • breadispain says:

      Woah…so you’ve had Haggis? Oddly, it frightens me more than the blood cubes or fruit bat. Haha – I think the Haggis thing goes beyond psychological to a whole smell situation…please describe! p.s. good luck with all your visa stuff at the moment

  7. BeijaFlor says:

    Not French, so off-topic, but ethnic …

    The fluffy pets we call “guinea pigs” in the United States are livestock in Peru, called “cuy”. Years ago, when I was sent down to Lima on official government business, my colleague and I tried “cuy” during an out-of-OUR-pockets side trip to Cuzco. Yes, it does taste like pork.

    A few months later, he came in to the office with a story about taking his five-year-old son to the mall, and stopping by a pet shop. His kid was captivated with the guinea pigs. “Look, Daddy, they’re so cute!”

    “You don’t want one of those, Gabby,” my colleague replied. “They aren’t good pets.”

    “But they’re so soft and fluffy!” Gabby exclaimed. The manager of the pet store smiled and moved in for the sale.

    “They’re not good pets,” said ‘Daddy’. “They aren’t even good to eat. Too tough and greasy.”

    They were thrown out of the pet shop!

    • breadispain says:

      That is HI-larious! Poor Gabby – haha, she’ll have that story to tell the rest of her life!

      I have heard about the guinea pigs but never tried them. It just goes to show one country’s trash (or in this case pet) is another country’s treasure! In this post I thought about mentioning things like sea cucumbers in China or cricket tacos in Mexico but decided to just keep it French. There are always interesting things to discover in the culinary world!

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  8. chickster says:

    I completely agree that eating different things definitely impresses the French! When Mr. O ordered a hamburger with froie gras his coworkers almost gave him a standing ovation. And I’ve tried so hard to like the weird meat cuts, but my idea of a good time does not include aspic and meat.

    • breadispain says:

      HA – so true, aspic was not an easy one for me and I can’t handle it all the time. I think a lot depends on your butcher, etc – all fromage de tete is not created the same!

      Mmmm…foie gras with ANYTHING!

  9. BeijaFlor says:

    Poor Gabby … Gabriel, not Gabrielle … indeed. Sad finale to HIS story; the poor kid died of cancer just about three years after. I haven’t talked with his dad for years, but I hope Freddie remembers the incident once in a while – and smiles.

    Part of the great joy of encountering a new culture is its food! (I say that with a “cuya” of erva maté at my side, a “preferable caffeine habit” I started in Uruguay.)

    • breadispain says:

      Good lord, that is really depressing. Phew.

      Yes – my favorite thing about traveling is trying all the different foods – sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes it is terrifying but always interesting!

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