Of Hospitals and Cheese Courses

Cultural Differences, French Food, Uncategorized

Yes, I am being a slacker this week.  MB is having some health issues and afternoons at the hospital have proved to be uninspiring…except for the meals.

Now granted, I haven’t been in the hospital in the U.S. since the 80’s so my information isn’t at all up to date but what I remember of the food was pizza and jello (I was also 8 years old which might account for what stands out in my mind).  At the hospital here in Grenoble, however, MB’s meals are somewhat more sophisticated.  There is a potato soup, there is a tuna pasta, a freshly baked roll, fromage blanc.  These may show up all at the same time but this is basically a 3 course meal…in the hospital.  Yesterday he had saucisson…how is that a healthy choice?

Pfff…it is not healthy, it is good, you philistine; I am sick, not dead, eh?”   This is what I imagine France saying in this scenario.

Basically, what this means to me is that the French never surrender when it comes to food.

“You may take my life but you will never take my cheese course!”

It is a charming quality that I love.  I’ll never forget MB telling me how their school lunches consisted of three parts: a salad of some sort, a main dish, and then a bit of cheese.

“You had cheese courses in elementary school,” I asked him, incredulous.

“Mais oui,” he says as though it is the most normal thing in the world.  “What did you eat?”

Hmmmm…deep fried burritos?  Butter cookies that had so much butter that they would soak through the wax paper.

“We didn’t have cheese courses,” is the only response I can muster.

He looks at me baffled.

So, with these thoughts in mind I invite you, fair reader, to give me your favorite food moment involving France (I say involving because I don’t think you need to be IN France to have had a French food moment).  Whether it be your first French cheese or trying calf brains or just your first time at a French restaurant – let’s take the day to think about France’s most charming quality…their love of food.

*If you would like updates on when I am going to post each week please join my facebook page – I usually post a few little notes throughout the week!  🙂


31 thoughts on “Of Hospitals and Cheese Courses

  1. You just want one? Well the one that immediately sprung to mind was the most delicious foie gras I’ve ever tasted (and I have tasted quite a lot over the last 37 years). My mother-in-law who lives in the country had caterers in for her 70th birthday. The foie gras just melted in your mouth. I’ve been searching for it every since (and trying to make it as well). i remember tasting frogs legs without knowing it and being very annoyed because I absolutely HATE frogs of any kind. I tasted eel for the first time recently and was pleasantly surprised.

    1. I am happy to have multiple food stories! It’s funny that this started out as a bit of a lazy post but now I’m so excited to see what people say!!

      YUM – good foie gras (or even average foie gras, for that matter) is so fabulous – if you ever track down the makers please let me know! Were they Perigord? HA – and frog legs…not bad but I just don’t find them exciting…a bit “meh”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      p.s. LOVE EEL!

      1. This was “foie gras traiteur” as opposed to the foie gras that is packaged which I’m not all that keen on any more. Some restaurants and all traiteurs make their own using the “semi-cuit” method. You can only buy it from a “traiteur” who cuts it into slices. It’s very very different from the packaged stuff. As this was made by a local traiteur catering for private homes (popular in France), there is no way of having any more! But I’m working on achieving the same thing myself …

  2. In college, my French teacher made us crepes. It was the first time I had ever eaten them. Before you ask, no I do not speak French. Funny how you can study something for three years and still never grasp it.

    1. Ha – I understand completely – I took Spanish and my Spanish abilities are pitiful! And YUM crepes – that was what my husband made me the first time he cooked me dinner!

  3. I have no French food stories… unless you count French bread. I eat a lot of French bread. That doesn’t count, does it? I will tell you that hospital food in the U.S. has vastly improved. The last time I had a baby, we were very sad to leave the hospital, because the food was amazing. And there was a huge variety. You basically ordered from a menu, and the food was delivered to your room, no matter what time of day or night. I hope your man feels better soon!

    1. French bread DEFINITELY counts…especially if it is smeared with French cheese (whole foods has quite the selection these days). Good to know the hospitals are so much better these days – I haven’t stayed in ages. And thanks – I am hoping he is back in action soon too! 🙂

  4. Mais ouis….The French food experience(s)! My husband was quite a picky eater and a bit too inquisitive sometimes about what he was eating (ingredients, etc. immediately dismissing even trying a dish if it contained 1 thing he perceived he would not like). So began our road trip to the Loire Valley one summer with our bikes hitched up on the car. The quaint little B&B recommended a very nice restaurant down in the city centre for dinner. We order, and much to my delight, the presentation of my scallops and fish was just so perfect, all wrapped up en pappillote! My husband takes one look at his plate and remarks “this looks like it got picked up out of the garbage!” My response was, “just shut up and eat it. It’s French. I’m sure its delicious!” And he did. That was the beginning of the end of his nosy questions about his food, he just started trying everything. And it was the most delicious seafood I’ve ever had!

  5. I’ll always remember eating escargot for the first time with my friend’s host family. We were nervous about but actually ended up really liking it, but mostly I remember trying to be really cool about it. There was another host student staying there who was really wrestling with the tongs used to pick up the escargot. He must have squeezed too hard because the snail literally flew out of the tongs and across the table. As he cowered in horror, the host father just shrugged very gaulically (how is that not a word??) and said something to the effect of, “I’ve never seen a snail move so fast.” And everyone cracked up. It was THE BEST.

    1. LOL! That is a great story – I’m always terrified that I’m going to catapult my escargot across restaurants but I’ve never actually seen it happen. And an excellent save from the Father – too good. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I was 20, backpacking through Europe with another girl, and we stayed at a youth hostel somewhere near the French Alps (forgotten where). Being frugal, we usually bought our meagre meals at grocery stores. At this hostel, we decided to “splurge” on the evening meal there. Although I don’t remember the first two courses, I’ll never forget dessert. A huge serving bowl of plain yogurt was placed on the table alongside a sugar bowl. I’d probably only had Dannon boysenberry or something in college. This yogurt with a little sugar was simple, genius. I’ve never forgotten it and it was over 30 years ago.
    P.S. On a separate trip to Paris, 4 months prior, I think I bought a standard flan from every patisserie I walked by. Loved them.

    1. OOOOH – FROMAGE BLANC!! Yes, that is probably my favorite thing to have for dessert and something that we definitely don’t know about in the U.S. It is actually fresh cheese and not yogurt – when my Mother was in town she was talking about the “amazing yogurt” and it was the same thing – the sourness gives it such a similar flavor. Recently, I had the most interesting preparation at a restaurant – fromage blanc with a salted caramel sauce…phenomenal! I love remembering meals from years past – what a nice memory you have with this one!

      Thanks for sharing!

      1. I bought a cook book from Patricia Wells, a noted expert on French cooking, last year and there was a recipe for making fromage frais, or fromage blanc. It is gorgeous! Almost no effort and if you buy some nice whole milk from the fromagerie it has the most heavenly flavor.

  7. Where to start? I’ve had several food experiences that fit. Let’s see… The one that comes to mind is the first time I had a velouté de marron. Oh, what a lovely piece of heaven! It was one — yes, just one — of the entrées we had for New Year’s Eve dinner at a French restaurant in Toronto. (We got married at that same restaurant.) The entire meal was bliss and the chef’s brother, who is a pastry chef in Miami, did the dessert for the meal. Everything was oh-so-good!

    1. oh la la – that sounds wonderful – I’ve never had a veloute de marron. YUM! I do remember my first marron creme…num num num. haha! It is hard to think about just one experience. Sounds like your wedding meal was not to be missed!! 🙂

  8. During Le Belier marathon-style mountain run here in summer, runners may drink salty performance drinks and snack on fruit, while those walking the route are offered sausages, chocolate and a choice of wine.

    La Clusaz only recently stopped serving the afternoon school ‘gouter’ of chocolate wedged in bread, opting now for healthier treats such as yoghurt. I wish I’d grown up in France!

    1. HA – I love that – eating sausages and chocolate while doing a “race”. Too perfect and too Frenchy! I am afraid that if I had grown up in France I would be a porky little pig since I don’t have those fabulous skinny French genes…but it sure would have been a tasty childhood!

  9. Unsurprisingly, my favourite French food moment is a good baguette, good cheeses, and a glass of red wine. It’s also the ritual that I like: most French families would have this 3 course meal you described everyday, lunch and dinner. Most would add a desert or a fruit to it too. I like the cheese being part of the meal, and that we eat it with real bread instead of crackers…

    1. YES – as much as I am an American lover of crackers I can no longer eat them with cheese; it just seems so wrong to me now! But yes, I love that moment too – a nice red wine, fabulous cheese and a really good baguette (for my perfect one I would need a bit of pate too). Down where you are in NZ there are some good fromageries – it is expensive but they make some cheese that should tide you over! 🙂 This is good stuff and you can find it at the “fancy” shops: http://www.kaimai.co.nz/

      1. And also: http://www.kingsmeadecheese.co.nz. Very occassionally you will find one of their bries at a perfect state of ripeness and it’s heaven because brie in NZ is almost always sold under-ripe.

        Ageed that the cost of cheese here is a problem. Access to cheese should be a basic human right! If only it were feasible to make my own.

      2. Not sure I ever tried that one – will have to on my next trip…which better be within another year because I’m getting itchy! Maybe I’ll just move back…oh wait, I forgot about the wind. 😉 And as for the under-ripe, same in U.S. – which is so frustrating.

        Makes sheep’s milk cheese, George! That would be rad.

  10. My favorite French food moment was when I was studying in Wales and invited myself to visit my French flatmate at home over the holidays. “My mother wants to know what you would like to eat while you’re visiting,” she told me before the trip.
    “Why, horse, frog’s legs, and escargot, of course!”
    Little did I know that those aren’t very common foods (at least the first one isn’t), but her mother gamely cooked each and every one for me — and they were all delicious!

    1. Oh, that’s great! It is one of the things I really love of the French – they get really excited to showcase their cuisine to foreigners and want you to try everything. How did you like horse? It isn’t all that common but you don’t have to work too hard to track it down…it’s great for tartare – no fat!

  11. Oh Heavens! There are so many…
    Being offered tete du fromage at my very first lunch with my in-laws and having to eat it because I had only met them five minutes before (YUCK!).
    My mother-in-law heaping frog leg after frog leg onto my plate because somehow she had gotten into her head that I loved them, and me sneaking them onto my husband’s plate.
    My husband phoning me up EVERY SINGLE DAY at noon and asking me “What do you eat for midday?” And me explaining that as an American, my world doesn’t just stop at 12 for me to sit down and eat a three course meal (everyday we have this conversation!)

    1. haha – I love all of these! For the tete du fromage – I actually had the butcher offer me some as a gift on one of my first visits because he was super excited for an American to try it. I love how excited the French get to have foreigners try their food – it really is charming. HA – and great about your husband and the lunch…I think my lunches make my husband sad too. haha!

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