Eating like a Parisian

I love to travel … and eat. Not necessarily in that order. When I am feeling wanderlust and don’t have any imminent travel plans, I turn to library books to take me away.

Lately my travel bug landed on Paris. (This was even before the terrible fire at Notre Dame. I have the library book receipts to prove it). Based on my reading, the unifying theme for any trip to Paris is food. Although I did not find a book titled, Eat Your Way across Paris, it is obvious that eating is an important part of any experience Parisian. Rather than an all-you-can-eat blitz through the city, the concept of eating in Paris is slow, tasteful, and luxurious. Parisians pride themselves in relishing every morsel of food, culture, and art and they expect tourists and travelers to do the same.

After a winter huddled next to the woodstove and behind the television, this vision is irresistible. My books enticed me with visions of open, airy, wine-soaked afternoons imbued with the smells of fresh baked goods complimented by the bite of sharp cheese. Ah…. Paris.

My book report on my virtual tour of Paris can be summed up by the adage, “quality over quantity.” To Parisians, it is more important to savor every morsel rather than blaze through a plate of chilaquiles.

I think I finally have found the reason why Frenchwomen don’t get fat – they are satiated by aroma alone. The secret to this approach of mindful eating is to recognize that food has many attributes such as taste, color, and terroir. It should be noted that in this model of eating, convenience is not an attribute of food. Furthermore, more is not better – better is better, fresh is better, and local is best.

Using the French guide to evaluate my food situation, I have adopted a few of their habits to enhance my eating experience. These include investing time and money in the best-quality local food, and taking time to prepare and eat it like a Parisienne.

First, I have adopted eating meals in courses. It all started when my husband decided to incorporate “happy hour” into our day after his recent solo trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. He used happy hour to mark the transition from river time to establishing a camp and downing some calories before it got dark. (His trip was during the short days of February).

Now, we start our evening meal with a small bite of fine cheese, olives, canned fish, or pickled vegetables accompanied by a modest drink of wine or spirits. It makes every day feel like a celebration and slows down the hectic pace of life to a leisurely one that is focused on savoring our daily accomplishments in the fading light. After this break, I can prepare a smaller sized dinner (better for evening digestion), and we pace ourselves through the main course and a light dessert. Do not be fooled, Parisians love their sweets and no meal would be complete without something sweet at the end. At our house, this course is based on the extensive stash of frozen peaches from the abundant harvest of 2015. A reminder to stay on top of the freezer rotation.

Another aspect of French eating that I have adopted is “café culture.” While I live too far out of town to use the local coffee shops and restaurants as my living room, I am determined to break up my trips to the big city with a stop for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat in a public place where I can watch the world go by at my leisure.

I am always rushed when I am in town. My visit to town is a sprint to the grocery store, gas station, and hardware store following the most efficient route to each. What a revelation to break up my campaign with a stop to look up and notice the gardens in bloom and the friendly faces around me.

This leads me to the final change in my food habits. Putting a face on my plate. Who grew this food I am eating and what is the story behind it? I usually get my local food fix at the farmers market, where I can explore and ask the farmers directly about what they are growing and how it is doing. I really appreciate the weekly updates on “my pig” that is being raised for me at a nearby farm/ranch. While I don’t go so far as to name my pork, it makes me feel a deep connection to my food and anticipation for what new recipes I might try with the upcoming ham hock or pork chop.

Recently, we started getting milk and cheese delivered by a local micro-dairy. I forgot how special you can feel when the milkman stops by and fills your box with fresh dairy products. I even get an update on the herd and what the cows are eating. And the taste more than compensates for the slightly higher costs. I feel like I am eating pure milk rather than wondering what chemical is thickening my cottage cheese.

This conversion to eating like a Parisian has introduced me once again to the abundance of high-quality local food that blesses our community. We have access to fresh meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and wheat flour. It is hard to find that wide array of fresh local foods in any big city. So, I hope you will join me in seeking out local, fresh foods and take the time to enjoy them during happy hour, at the local café, or with dreams of Paris dancing in your head. Bon Appetit!

Carolyn Dunmire gardens, cooks, eats and writes in Cahone, Colo.

From Carolyn Dunmire.