Friday, October 08, 2010

Mandatory post about food in Paris

Back to "what I did on my summer vacation" series. It would be unthinkable to go to Paris and not try the food, but being on a tight budget, we got to taste very little of French cuisine. We lived mostly on my mom's cooking, which is not any worse than in a typical Parisian cafe or bistro, if the two we sampled were any indication. That's not to say they were bad, it's just that my mom is an excellent cook. :-) In both places we tried, the food was good, just not extraordinary. One thing that stood out was the popularity of mussels, served with fries. I saw this combination at several restaurants, just peering into the window to see what the people were eating inside. Mussels are yummy but not filling, and even a huge pile of them isn't very much once you throw away the shells. So a side dish is necessary, but I didn't expect fries to be served with such a... noble food. I always thought of mussels in the context of paella or risotto.

Croissants, another mandatory thing to try in Paris, are also not that different from the ones in Austin. I am, however, not an expert on any kind of flaky dough pastries, because they are too calorific to eat often. So all those cosy little boulangeries and pattiseries (bakeries that bake bread, and those that specialize only in pastries) on every corner got little more from me than wistful sighs. But French people, they love their bread. The city streets after work are full of people with fresh baguettes sticking out of their bags.

They also like rabbit meat, it seems. Every butcher shop has whole, skinless rabbits on display. The first time you see those little monsters, staring with their sightless eyes at the ceiling, it may give you a pause. Nor can you immediately tell what it is. So Ray did a little skit where he loudly wondered, in an exaggerated Texas accent, whether this was a possum. The shopkeepers successfully ignored him.

A whole rabbit without skin in a Paris butcher shop Tagine and vegetable stew
A possum.... uh, a rabbit in a Paris butcher shop. Tagine (or tajine) (left) and vegetable stew at a Moroccan restaurant.

In addition to two French cafes, we also went to a Moroccan restaurant in the Latin Quarter to eat some yummy tagine. By the way, Moroccan cuisine is so common here that you can easily conclude it is to French as Mex is to Tex. Many mainstream restaurants have Moroccan dishes on the menu. Years ago, when I made a superficial attempt to study French, there was a dialogue in my textbook where two friends went to a restaurant and ordered couscous. I was surprised -- is couscous so popular over there that it made its way into textbooks? The answer turns out to be yes.

Next: French fast food -- an adventure unto itself.

More pictures from my trip to Paris are in my photo gallery.

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