Compromising Positions

I heard somewhere that France is called “The farm of the world.” I assumed that this was because France is such a fertile country. It is true that as you drive along the roads of France you can see field after field of crops and the soil looks incredible — as dark and rich as cocoa. France grows a tremendous amount of food for the rest of Europe. Some people (my husband being a good example) like certain foods grown just in France, such as strawberries.  In the spring, enormous mounds of strawberries start appearing in the street markets. The first to appear are from Spain and they are huge red berries and always look wonderful to me but Maurice always shakes his head and says we have to wait for the strawberries grown in France. They are smaller and less impressive looking but he is right. They have a much richer, sweeter taste. For some reason I thought the quote was that France was the “stomach of the world,” because to me the word “stomach” and “France” are always associated together because the French are so interested, even fixated, on food. Maybe the Italians are, too, but I don’t live in Italy so don’t have any first hand information on them, other than the fact that they lead Europe in the design and production of kitchens. I just know that the day can hardly be underway before my husband asks what we have in the house to eat for lunch and dinner. “Well,” I always tell him, “I’m sure we’ll find something. Maybe an omelet or a salad.” He doesn’t like how casual I am about it. In fact, since he retired (a topic for a book) he does a lot of our grocery shopping at the local grocery store just to make sure we are covered when it comes to any meal time. We do go to our local street market twice a week together, roaming around and deciding what we will eat in the next few days, such as meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. That’s always enjoyable. I do miss grocery stores like we have in America; I especially miss the fact that you can always find one open somewhere anytime of the day.  Maurice and I have put together a few strange meals on a Sunday night because we forgot to plan well. When I first moved to France and Maurice and I were cooking meals, I discovered that, even though he didn’t eat much for breakfast, he expected two full meals a day. That meant a meat or fish and a vegetable, a salad, cheese, bread and either some fruit or dessert, plus wine. At first I tried to keep up with him, eating away and staggering away to the bed for a wine induced nap. A look at the scales, a few months down the road, told me that there was no way I could continue to eat at this pace. Finally I told him that I could only eat one main meal a day; the other meal had to be light. He went along with this although he still adds cheese, bread and fruit to it. I cut out wine at lunch, too. My liver was wondering what in the world happened with the sudden influx of all that wine. When I lived in the States I had to get up at 5 a.m. every morning for work, which meant I ate breakfast early. By eleven I was famished for lunch. I rarely ate dinner later than six, and seven was pushing it. Then I married a Frenchman who thinks 8 p.m. is early for dinner. I learned that if I waited until Maurice even thought about getting things together for dinner we wouldn’t sit down to a meal until 9:00 or 9:30!  I guess I could have gotten used to eating this late, but my stomach couldn’t. I don’t like going to bed with a full stomach–it makes for a restless night. And if I drink as much wine as we used to, I wake up at 3 am in the morning thirsty and with a headache. So I have started watching the clock. By 7:30 at the latest, I start getting dinner ready. Maurice will eat by 8 pm. So slowly we have met in the middle. Me moving up from six and he coming down from nine. I still get a laugh when I picture his face when we visited my parents in Arizona and we all sat down for dinner at five. Since we married 3 years ago, I have been the one who has made the most changes when it comes to food and eating. I’m not complaining, believe me. I have come to love many types of cheese, I am learning to love red wine, and I am trying many French dishes I had only heard of formerly. I even like foie gras. Maurice likes some of my dishes such as those from Thanksgiving meals (except for the gooey sweet yams topped with marshmallows), and he likes my barbecue and mashed potatoes. I bought a French cookbook and have been trying to learn to master new dishes. I don’t think I will ever have the obsession for food I see in many French, even the young ones, but I’m working on it.
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