Wait, That’s All We’re Eating for Dinner? (Leigh Smalley)

Before coming to France, I knew that the French had a different schedule for eating and that they eat much smaller portions than we do in the U.S. Unfortunately, I did not realize how much healthier they eat as well, but I mean I guess that makes sense if you look at how skinny everyone is. There are markets almost every day of the week so many people do shopping on a daily basis instead of a weekly basis and get their fruits, veggies, and bread very fresh. These three things are what makes up most of the meals that are eaten here. Timewise for meals, it’s not too different from the U.S. but at my host house, breakfast is usually between 7am and 9am, lunch is around 1:30pm, and dinner is around 8pm.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my host parents are great cooks, but one of my first meals here was definitely lacking in the protein department for me. I am used to eating some type of meat almost every night for dinner at home, so when my host parents set the table I was quite surprised. The meal started off with a salad – which was all tomatoes with a few leaves of lettuce covering them and some black olives thrown on top; the main course was cooked green beans in olive oil – that’s it…cooked green beans; then for dessert, I was served apple sauce. All of the food was fresh and tasted amazing, but I was definitely still hungry after dinner. I was afraid that this was going to be how dinner was every night. Luckily, we do have meat a few times a week.

Another big difference and change for me is that French adults do not drink milk. It is only culturally acceptable for kids under the age of 10 to order milk and drink milk on a daily basis. Now, I’m from Wisconsin, dairy land, home of the cows, whatever you want to refer to it as, and I am used to drinking milk every day. First of all, they buy milk in bulk, which shouldn’t make sense because you’d think that it would go bad. But here’s the thing, they keep the unopened milk in the pantry until it’s needed and then once it’s opened it goes in the fridge. It is a very different milk than in the U.S. too. It is processed differently and has a much different taste than I’m used to, but I try to sneak it into my coffee and cereal (when I have it) as often as possible. Milk is usually only had with coffee, because even with their cereal they use very little or eat cereal with yogurt.

I love to eat breakfast. Cereal is a staple in my life. Unfortunately, the French do not share my love for cereal at all. At my host house we eat bread for breakfast almost every day. I was offered cereal for the first time recently, and I am only supposed to eat that if there aren’t any baguettes. I realize that every household is different here, and it depends how old the parents and children are, but with my host family, insane quantities of bread are consumed on a daily basis.

The food overall is delicious, but it is definitely going to take some getting used to the smaller portions, the later meal times, and the lack of some of my staple foods that I love. Who knows, maybe by December I’ll be completely transformed and eating like a French person!

Leigh Smalley is studying abroad in Grenoble, France, at the University of Grenoble III with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS).

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