French culture and food. Is this a frog ?

Two things happened today which prompted me to look at my french upbringing and how it affects my relation to food and the social graces that goes on around it.

In the past week I have been invited to 3 different parties, some during the day and other at night but in all cases I was told, “it’s a potluck, bring a dish”. Now I have been living in the States long enough to know about potlucks but it still goes completely against my upbringing and the sense of hospitality around food I have been raised with.  At my grandparents farm in the southwest of France anybody dropping by would have been invited to come and share the meal and very often the village old priest would show on Sunday lunch after mass and others might drop in for dessert. My grandmother was renowned for her ratatouille, duck confit, foie gras, ile flottante and flan. All dishes were made from fresh produce right there at the farm and I realize now how lucky I have been to be raised with such fantastic fresh food.

coeur de boeuf tomatoes from my uncle's garden

coeur de boeuf tomatoes from my uncle’s garden

 

Check my post about famous french desserts  where I show you step by step how to make my grandmother’s flan, very easy and super good. Buy or get the best eggs you can and of course use whole milk ( skim should not even be in the picture ). Lucky you if you live next to a farm, your flan will be most delicious. Always start with the best ingredients and your dish will be unforgettable. For instance between vanilla extract and vanilla beans guess what is the best choice ?

I am going to try explaining the french point of view and warn you of a few “faux pas” you can avoid next time you are in France, if you are ever invited to share a meal with french people.

Do not and I repeat do not bring a dish with you, not even dessert.  The only exception would be if you went to a renown patisserie to get a very special dessert and even then it’s risky business. Your french host could get quite offended if you show up with food. Translation “What ? my food is not good enough”. A good bottle of wine is always welcome or a bouquet of flowers or maybe some great chocolate from the best “chocolatier”in town.

Food is very often tied with memories of places and people, food is tied to a place. The fig trees at my grandparents, melons growing in the fields, tomatoes, aubergines, zucchinis and garlic from the garden. The best peaches of my life picked up in an orchard in Ardeche. The “cadillac” of cherries  as I was told by the farmer who sold them to me at a road stand in Provence. He was very proud of his cherries and he was right, they were the best and as soon as I polished them up I regretted not having bought more.

Aix en Provence market

Aix en Provence market

You all know the french are proud of their culinary traditions and when you are in France accept graciously the invitation and really try to not refuse a dish under the pretext that you are on a special diet. And I am not talking about people being vegan or vegetarian but more about the low fat or low carb or low whatever… When you are in France relax your grip on all the rigid ideas about what you “should not” be eating and just enjoy the bounty of food this country has to offer. Let your taste buds travel with you too.

More to come on food and cultural differences very soon…

French markets in Provence

Who has’nt dreamed of visiting the french markets of Provence… ?

Next best thing to being there is following me in the videos while I walk through, listen to the music, talk to people, have lunch, drink a coffee. In brief, while I do what people do in French markets.

  • Friday market in Pertuis which brings a big crowd from villages around and vendors as far as the Alps.
  • Saturday market in Lourmarin with unexpected music and a great lunch.
  • The morning market in Aix en Provence where you can sit and have breakfast, watching the brouhaha (love this word).
  • Aix flower market in front of city hall- Place de la Mairie- Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, one of my favorites. When I was living in the Alps and spring was too late in my opinion, I would drive south to Aix just to be in the flower market and sit at a terrace again.
  • In the Gulf of St Tropez, the small village and market of Ramatuelle, early morning with coffee- a bit of lesson in ordering coffee- and a visit of the charming village. So many flowers and the scent is incredible, lots of jasmine.
  • Saturday market in Aix en Provence, the old town is blocked for car circulation and streets are full of people and vendors. Starting at city hall with flowers, all the way to the Cours Mirabeau. Everything from food of course- we are in France after all- clothes, antiques, soap…. and my favorite vendor with all his colorful handmade goods from Essaouira in Morocco.
French Markets. Aix en Provence

French Markets. Aix en Provence

Breaking French literary news (to know more click on link below)

Camus letter to Sartre reveals their early friendship

Albert Camus Nobel Prize, bought an old Magnanerie (silk farming place) in Lourmarin with his check from Sweden. In part because the area reminded him of his native Algeria. He died there in a car accident in 1960 but still reside in the village cemetery.

French news. Paris manual on How to treat tourists !!!

Paris Plage 2013. Medhi Chebil for France 24.

Paris Plage 2013. Medhi Chebil for France 24.

Paris, the most visited city in the world, and my birth place, does not have the best reputation for treating tourists very well….until now.

The city just launched a manual aimed at people working in the tourism industry.

A small 13-page guide, called “Do You Speak Touriste?” provides information on tourists’ expectations according to their nationalities.

The English, for example, like “Smiling, friendly staff, a warm welcome, and a playful dimension to cultural attractions” while the Americans expect “to be taken care of quickly, and a mastery of English.”

The manual also includes notes on how to say basic phrases like hello, thank you and goodbye in several languages

To read the full article and watch a video, click on France 24

Driving in Marseille.

Today we are going to Marseille in 2013 European Capital of Culture.

Exciting city with a very diverse population of different refugees from countries all around the Mediterrenean.

A little bit of history about Marseille

1,6 million people living together in and around Massalia founded by greeks 2600 years ago.
The city has always been a crossroad for all kind of minorities. In the 18th century half of its population was not from Marseille but from Italy (Genoa and Piedmont), Spain (Catalogna) and Greece. Russians in 1917, Armenians in 1915 and 1923, Spanish in 1936, Algerians and Tunisians between the two wars, Pieds noirs in 1962 (french persons living in Algeria), Africans (Comorians 50,000 in 1999).
Marseille is a vibrant city looking towards the sea, a rebel that became part of France only in the 15th century. A city
where the great architect Le Corbusier chose to do its experiment of communal living and where today you can find a modern art museum Le MOMA  on top of that same building.

Driving in Marseille can be fun if you follow my advices about driving in France and you will find them in my soon to be published travel guide book  My 10 best Zen backroads of Provence.

Click on Follow Blog I will send you an email when it is published on Kindle and you can take advantage of the short launching period to download it for free. You don’t need a Kindle device.

This is the page on Amazon where you can download a Kindle reader for any device under the sun.

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Private Provence Tours. Marseille Port

Marseille Port

Private Provence Tours. Marseille Port

Marseille Port

Related articles

Famous French Desserts, easy flan recipe.

Going through my videos on my YouTube channel, my mouth started watering when I watched the flan recipe.

It was a dessert my grandmother used to make and the fact that the eggs and milk were from her farm, certainly made it even better.There will be another post about the farm in the southwest of France, with videos of course, so stay tuned.

Try it, it’s very easy to make, refreshing summer dessert. You can add raspberries or strawberries on top or even a bit of shaved chocolate, mmmmm.

Private Provence Tours when you are more than a tourist…

Private Provence Tours with Lily

When you come on one of my Private Provence Tours you get the chance to experience how living in the south of France really feels like and the opportunity to be more than a simple tourist and meet with french people. Taste the sweetness of life in the south of France and make friends…

French markets. Aix en Provence

French markets. Aix en Provence

I have a large network of friends in Provence so if you are interested in beekeeping, organic farming, wine making, retail, real estate, food, art and antiques, music, french markets, history… I will find people you can visit and communicate with.

It is also my goal is to provide you with the best lodging in the heart of Provence, not another one of the cookie cutter type of hotel but a real house with a real kitchen in case you are inspired by the beautiful french markets of Provence.  

Provence lodging

Lodging with Private Provence Tours

 

Check my About Page to see what motivates me.

And if you want to know more about spending one week this winter in Provence Click Here