It’s that time of year (well, the second time, after New Years) when everyone decides to quit sugar in the name of “good”. Sorry, but low-fat, low-carb, sugarless diets do not exactly compare to forty days of starvation in the name of an ideology. Western society tends to allow us to bend tradition, in this case, for weight loss. I can’t wait for Easter so that everyone can gorge on refined carbohydrates again and stop talking about how hard Lent is (props to you, my meat-loving friend who gave up meat for Lent and is loving it.) In the name of Lenten deprivation, let’s talk about good old, juicy, crunchy, mouth-watering food.
Don’t worry, this post is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. HAHA, just kidding. Food has been on my mind lately because many of my students want to know what Americans eat, as though I am a different species. In response to the common question, I created a presentation on American food that of course included peanut butter and BBQs, but also paid homage to the rich ethnic backgrounds that have allowed us the pleasure of integrating Japanese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, Haitian, Cuban, Chinese, Morrocan, Italian, Greek and many other world cuisines into our national table. Here in France, I miss spices and patacones; I miss coconut bread and outdoor BBQs; I miss an early-morning green lemonade followed by a late morning nutty smoothie. There are so many choices in the States, and living in several other countries has allowed me to appreciate our over-abundance of options (I’m going to stay away from the subject of food deserts in this post, but I will link it!)
I don’t eat that differently here than I do at home. I eat more meat, and more cheese, and more bread. You know, the usual suspects. Overall, I’m still pretty alternative in my eating habits, to the point where one of my students had to ask me how in the world I use *gasp* vegetarian salad as fuel for a ten-mile run. Simple, I said, load up on the regional cheese. At home, I’d have chosen an almond and spinach smoothie, California products, but in France I’ve learned to adapt to the local cuisine. Twice a week, I get a full four course meal (fish included!) at my high school cantine, shaming the pizza served in US public schools, and I frequently visit the fresh produce market just two blocks away from my apartment. France, or at least my French town, is not lacking in abundance of good French food.
Whenever I come home from abroad, I oddly don’t miss my favorite Californian foods as I do the rituals that surround them. I miss coconut water after a run in the hot sun and the liveliness of my favorite Mexican restaurant. A great perk that the slower French lifestyle has taught me is to savor every meal—every bite—and the moment it fills. I’ve learned to savor the glass of wine that accompanies sunset, or grapes picked on a hot summer’s day. Going back to my Lenten worries, do we not find the same meaning in Easter morning regardless of the presence of eggy-buttery-bread? Is that month really more reflective if we complete it without caffeine or dessert or bacon?
Feasting is not just about food, but the people involved and the reason for their being together. I am not religious, and cannot count myself an expert on the history of sugar and Lent, but I do know that I’d prefer not to think about food per se. I’d rather sit down every day to a feast of reflection on the circumstances that led me to my table. Today, I’m happy to have choice. I’m happy to have the warmth of family around the world and, if I feel like it, baked apple pie for dinner. With brown sugar.