To view recipes for all of the French food listed in this post, click here.
Being back in the States (for now, at least) is no excuse for me not to continue to blog about Europe, right? 😉 So who’s this blog, this bythepathlesstraveled thing, actually intended for? For my parents, friends, roommates? Not at all. While they are certainly a part of the audience, this blog has traveled the world right along with me, gathering readers from more than fifty countries (as of January 4, 2012) and viewers from every continent except Antarctica. Anyone and everyone, welcome!
While in Budapest, I put aside a short list of topics to discuss every now and then throughout interim and spring until this blog gets its new breath of life from my travels in Japan. The aim of these upcoming blogs, published a bit less frequently than the Budapest series, is to help travelers, both new and experienced — students studying abroad, new international travelers, temporary visitors, food critics, whoever.
Speaking of food, it’s one of my absolute favorite things about foreign countries. I believe that the food culture says quite a lot about its home culture; it only takes practice to read it. When asked to journal about culture in November, I jotted down this thought:
“I think that folks in Hungary view any food experience as a time of communication. The cook communicates with the eater through the food and the care he put into preparing it. The eater communicates with the cook by finishing the food with a smile on his face. People eating the same foods strike up friendly conversation solely on the basis that they enjoy the same things. A meal in Hungary, to me, is one person’s attempt at expressing himself to others. Eating is an activity in and of itself that is shared with friends and strangers alike, and good food is a goal unto itself rather than just sustenance. I think that, in America, we eat because we want to be full. It seems that, in Hungary, we eat because we want to eat, to savor, to enjoy, and to befriend or communicate with our community. I much prefer this Hungarian way of viewing food to the American rush and carry-away portions. This is why, in each and every European country I visit, I eat food as my souvenir rather than buying physical things like postcards, keychains, or trinkets. With an album of pictures and the memory of the taste of great food and good conversation with the people I shared it with (and got it from), I am much happier than I would ever be with just a bag of trinkets” (November 9, 2012).
When traveling to Paris to experience this food culture that I’ve talked so much about, what should be on your list? While my list of foods certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of Parisian food, I think that it can give new travelers to the City of Lights a good start. Keep in mind — I was able to find (and joyfully consume) this entire food list with less than 48 hours in Paris, only about 20 of which were spent actually wandering in the city.
First, I would suggest the cheap but delicious and notoriously French crêpe. Don’t panic — you can find them everywhere. It’s pretty hard to “mess up” a crêpe, so don’t be afraid to grab one from wherever you may be. Warm and delightfully portable, crêpes are a great snack for both adults and hungry kids. While I personally recommend chestnut-flavored crêpes, places which sell them will have a large selection of fillings, so choose based on your tastes, personality, and mood. It’s okay. You can go back for more.
Second, I highly suggest that you compliment your time in Paris with pain au chocolat. Just do it. Bread with chocolate in it? Yes…and no. It’s a very popular pastry-like snack also famous because of its low cost. I personally recommend the pain au chocolat at a small cafe on the small streets outside the Louvre called “Tea by The.” The buttery, light and flaky pastry has delectable smidges of chocolate inside that, when the treat is prepared fresh, are still gloriously melted. If you’re planning a trip to the Louvre and want to get there before it opens to secure a spot in line, swing over to Tea by The to snag a freshly-baked pain au chocolat.
Third, I’m sure you’re well aware that you just can’t go to France without trying an éclair. Native to France, these filled desserts are cheap and will certainly satisfy a sweet tooth without being too overpowering. Although I did not get my éclair from the notorious Parisian restaurant Laduree, I strongly suggest that you go there for one. That place is rated as one of the top three in all of France for its éclairs. Knowing how great it is, why didn’t I go? Well, I tried. Stupid remodeling work! 😉 You can find Laduree down the main street in front of the Arch de Triomphe. It’s a straight shot. When you come out of the metro station, you’re already on the right street. Put your back to the Arch and find #75 for a scrumptious éclair break!
Fourth, if you’re walking the streets of Paris (and especially if you’re thinking of climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower!), you’ll get thirsty before you realize what hit you. If there’s one drink in Paris that you absolutely must try, it’s Orangina. You thought I’d recommend orange soda? Hardly. That’s because it’s not orange soda. It’s orange juice with gas shot into it to carbonate it; the pulp is still in it and everything. Delicious, refreshing, and quite interesting, Orangina is a great, cheap way to quench your thirst!
Finally, you just can’t leave Paris without snatching up at least one (very addictive) macaron. But I’m begging you, for the love of all things food, do NOT confuse macarons with macaroons. They are two entirely different foods.
Ahem, anyway. Macarons are…well, it’s so difficult to describe them, so I just have to track back to yet another one of my food journal entries in which I described exactly what they’re like, saying:
“The two that I had were just basic vanilla and then a pistachio one. Both had an almond undertone that was barely noticeable (in fact, I’ve only been able to place the flavor in retrospect now that I know that macarons are made with almond flour). The “cake” part of the macaron was…well, “airy” isn’t the right word, as there were no pockets of air inside, and it wasn’t flaky or anything. I suppose “light” is better – you bite into it and the very outside shell gives way in uneven cracks before you get to the soft, almost nonexistent but very flavorful inside. Then, you come to the crème, which was smooth and refreshingly flavorful, having no taste of wax or anything that held it together. It all looks like a miniature cake with icing, but I can guarantee that is nothing of the sort. Not even comparable in texture, taste, or consistency” (October 7, 2012).
Recipes for all of this food can be found here: http://www.squidoo.com/cheap-must-eat-foods-in-paris-france-with-recipes
Food in foreign countries is a real treat, but you have to dedicate yourself to being immersed in it. None of this half-hearted “I guess I’ll try this one French dish, but there’s a McDonalds in front of our hotel for dinner” stuff. When you’re in a culture (and out of your element), go all-in. Go for it. You see this? —
This is rooster testicle stew that I snatched from the Christmas market in Budapest. Yeah, you gotta go there.
In all honesty, I have only one warning for travelers, both new and seasoned: be afraid.
Be afraid that you will never return to this place.
Be afraid that you will never find this food again.
Be afraid that the cook whose food you just scorned has been looking for days for a simple smile because of a meal that he prepared.
Be afraid that you will return to wherever it is that you came from no different than when you stepped out the door, for that is the saddest end of all.