Happy Wednesday, friends!
Join me as I take a closer look at a few French quirks, from the frustrating-yet-amusing (see #2,4) to the downright delicious (#1, 3).
1. Most dishes involve a significant amount of cheese: and that's not even counting the cheese course. Okay, French people like cheese, so what? While it may seem obvious, this is one stereotype that really lives up to the hype.
What can only be described as a profound appreciation for cheese starts at a young age. On a recent ski weekend, I noticed that even the 1 year-old had his cheese course, right after the main course (pasta) and before dessert (fruit and yogurt). Of course, the adults did the same, which wouldn't be noteworthy except that we had raclette instead of pasta.
Raclette is a traditional Savoyard meal involving a *healthy* amount of melted cheese, eaten with potatoes and charcuterie. I've seen it done two ways, with the cheese melted from one big block or as individual slices. Both are delicious, but after all that cheese, the last thing I want is a cheese course. So when someone popped up from the table and said "Qui sait qui veut du fromage?" I thought it was a joke. I should have known better. The French never joke about cheese.
Then again last weekend, in the latest installment of my French cheese adventures, I discovered the other plat ending in -ette: croziflette! Made with sarrasin (buckwheat) crozets, this baked pasta dish gets a generous helping of crème fraîche and an entire wheel of Reblochon cheese, melted on top. What's not to love?
2. Validating [insert noun here]: Decisions, tickets, you name it, the French love to “validate” just about everything. Maybe this is something we also do in the U.S. and I just never noticed?
3. Le café gourmand: the go-to order for when you want a dessert but pretend like you don't. Essentially a coffee accompanied by a small platter of "mini" desserts. That way you can try a little bit of everything and technically all you really ordered was a coffee. So much better than one regular dessert!
4. Pressing a button to open a door: why is this necessary? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to exit a building, pulling in vain on the handle, thinking to myself, or sometimes out loud, seriously what is wrong with this door?! If a French person happens to be nearby witnessing my struggle, he/she simply shakes his/her head and points at the button, sometimes not even next to the door, as if to say “Duh. You have to push the button to get out. Clearly you’re not from around here.”
5. The omni-present scarf: regardless of the season or whether the person in question happens to be indoors or outdoors, there is a 93.6% chance he/she is wearing some sort of scarf.
Not surprisingly, the French language has several different words for this wardrobe staple: l'écharpe, le foulard, le carré en soie, le chèche, et l'étole (not going to lie, I had to look a few of those up). Equally unsurprising is how everyone seems to be an expert in scarf tying techniques. Not me, as you can clearly tell from the photo.
At first it seemed excessive (does one really need a scarf in mid-July inside the office?) but now I find myself doing the same. If I leave my apartment without a scarf on, I feel like something is missing.