How do our experiences impact the way we interact with food from different cultures?
As I prepare for my next trip to France, I cannot help but reflect on the incredible cuisine I will experience this summer. On my first “Sista Girl” trip to Europe, I was excited to get out of the US, see what was beyond our borders, and just explore. Our first stop was London and the tea was divine. However, British food didn’t inspire me as much as I had hoped. But the minute we pulled into Gare du Nord station in Paris, I knew my tastebuds would be in for a treat. This experience would continue to expand my perspective.
My introduction to French cuisine blew me away with the flavors of the food. I was only there for a few days but it was enough to have my palette craving more. On my next 2-week trip, I was able to fully immerse myself in the culinary culture and lifestyle of Paris.
I began to embrace the busyness during the day to take time for a slow and relaxed dinner out.
I made myself be present in each activity and excursion that we embarked upon.
I did not allow time to be a constraint.
I indulged in fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.
I sampled some of the flakiest pastries from the boulangerie, everyday.
I savored the taste of fresh homemade bread, every morning.
I tried some of the best aged cheese to date.
Each of these experiences showed me why the French thoroughly enjoy their food but also the importance of ingredients. I could not understand why the strawberries had such flavor or why the yogurt had such a fragrant vanilla taste. It’s all due to the quality of ingredients that are available in France. They cherish the authenticity of everything they cook with and let each aspect of the recipe speak for themselves.
One of the most fascinating things I found was how simple the recipe would be but how intense the flavors were for every dish. When going to the grocery store, I learned that you only buy what you need for that day or the day after. Importance is put on knowing the source of your food and buying the freshest and best ingredients everyday. Having to go back to the store is not seen as a chore but instead a normality. French grocery stores don’t have large carts that we fill to the brim but instead small baskets to hold the essentials. The majority of produce only lasts a few days because they are not coated with preservatives and chemicals. This encourages us to plan accordingly with our meals and cut down on food waste. We purchase the necessities and come back as needed.
Experiencing French culture and embracing the way they interact with food has stuck with me to this day. I constantly am conscious of what I am buying at the store and only buy enough food for our weekly meals. I stick with a few staple ingredients and expand, if necessary, from there. I let the seasonal food inspire me in my curation of recipes. I eat out very rarely, and when I do it is because I want to experience food in ways that I am not able to replicate. Overall, I find myself intrigued by unknown vegetables and fruits and excited to try new things in the kitchen.
Traveling is all about experiencing new cuisines and cultures. These moments allow us to expand our mind and palette to see how people live their lives. How, when, and what we eat (or do not eat) is a reflection of who we are. Stepping out of our comfort zones is when we learn more about ourselves and let go of our preconceived notions. This is when we are the most present and truly start living. The next time you are in the midst of your travel adventures remind yourself to be free, embrace the unknown, and soak up everyday and every moment of the experience.