Nov 062008
 

(asked by Grace from New Mexico)

What do French people have against peanut butter? When I lived in France, my stepmother used to send me jars of peanut butter. Nothing seemed to gross French people out quicker than watching me eat a peanut butter sandwich (especially with bananas on it.) Considering the way people suck down that hazelnut Nutella by the gallon over there, why do they have such a problem with America’s favorite nut spread?

I don’t think French people have any problem with peanut butter at all.
As a matter of fact, most French people don’t even know what peanut butter is, and those who know it usually don’t hate it, they just don’t see what the big deal about it as there are so many better things in the world, and things that don’t totally clutter and stuff your mouth when you eat them.

But what can gross French people out are peanut butter sandwiches (especially with bananas on it), or even worse, the infamous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Talk about a more unhealthy snack: sugar, lots of it, fat, quite a lot too, and add carbohydrates to the mix.
And then, one wonders why so many Americans are fat… When kids think that is a proper snack, it’s not a surprise they’ll eat anything at anytime later in their lives.
And I’m not even talking about the taste. I actually never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just thinking about it makes me gain weight and gives me cholesterol. And did I mention that I’m the kind of person that doesn’t care about these kinds of things usually (fat, carbs and such)?

And did you just compare Nutella with peanut butter?
There you have it. We’re touching here a major cultural difference between the French and Americans.
Most Americans just don’t understand that taste buds need to be educated too and that food is just not something to put in your body to not die.
And then they go say things like “peanut butter is better than Nutella.” OK, I must admit that Nutella in the US is not that great (blame it on the palm oil that comes in the US recipe, not the European one because we know it’ll mess up the product).

  41 Responses to “What do French people have against peanut butter?”

  1. Funny that this article I found says that peanut butter can help you lose weight and that it is healthy for you.

    http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/go-ahead-eat-more-peanut-butter/e61dc7043c8a4110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/nutrition.recipes/nutrition.basics/eating.healthy

    I think it all comes down to what you are used to eating. There is no way I am ever going to eat frog legs or snails. However, I do understand that others enjoy eating those things.

    French that I have met think that peanut butter is gross even before they try it. I think French are afraid to try new foods from my observations. French are afraid of change.

    Contrary to what the French think other countries do have food that is as good as French food. I eat recipes from all over the world which is very healthy.

    I think it is rude to say that peanut butter is part of the reason that Americans are fat. I think it is more about not taking the time to prepare healthy homemade meals at home as Americans did in the past when we were not heavy as a country. I, also, think it is interesting that Europeans like to point out that Americans are fat when Europeans are making the same mistakes and are quickly growing rounder every year. If Europeans continue they are going to be as fat as Americans in another ten years. And, that is a fact.

    Have you noticed all the crap that is added to French grocery stores every year? When I am in a McDonalds in France it isn’t filled with Americans or tourist…it is filled with French.

    Peanut butter is a healthy snack that I grew up eating on a slice of bread with or without jelly, on celery or right off the spoon. I was not fat as a kid. In fact, I was a skinny kid. My kids eat peanut butter and they are not fat.

    I think your comment about this is an good example of the stereotypical rude French person. Which is not unlike the stereotypical American thinking that French women don’t shave their legs.

    Instead of having an attitude about Americans lack of cultured taste buds…that was a pretty uncultured thing to write…I would try to educate myself on the facts and perhaps even try some new foods.

    Like my mother always said you can say you don’t like it until you try it.

  2. Sorry, I was upset. And, it is true that I won’t try frog legs but I would never say that someone was fat because they ate frog legs. That was more my point but I was a little too upset to get it out correctly. :)

    I can only listen to the fat American comments for so long before it gets old. It really bothers me when European countries are now facing the same problem with an overweight population that America has been dealing with. They do not have the right to talk unless they are fixing their own problem with food. I think they should be more concerned about the REAL reasons Americans started gaining weight. It only took 10 years for the American population to have a huge problem. Europe is well on its way.

    As far as McDonalds in the States…the last time I was there about two years ago the menus had included healthy items including soups. The kids menu was more in line with the French kids menu. I don’t think that McDonalds menus are really healthier in France or America. It all depends on what you order.

    When I was a kid Americans didn’t have this problem. My mother cooked healthy meals at home. We ate snacks but that was usually a fruit. And, I have raised my children the same.

    I do not think that peanut butter is unhealthy any more than Nutella or other things that French eat. Have you seen the cookies that French give their kids for goutier? Seriously…is that better?

    There were other articles on Google that support peanut butters value in diet due to the benefit of eating nuts.

    Of course, we don’t eat peanut butter daily but we don’t eat Nutella daily either. I try to give my kids different things each day to eat including at breakfast.

    I will agree with you that in the States the food is of poor quality. It is tasteless. Milk is like water compared to milk in Europe.

    But, it is changing. More and more Americans are looking for organic products and becoming educated about all the crap that is in the food which is what causes weight gain. I can’t argue with you there.

    My own mother is going to a farm to buy meat that is free of hormones. I never thought she would make the extra effort to do that but she is. So, that tells me that things are changing in the States when my mother is changing. She is definately an average American and I don’t mean that in a mean way (she is my mom).

    French grocery stores junk food selection has grown to be almost as large as in the States. When I first visited France about eight years ago the ice cream selection was tiny and now??? It is huge. That is the problem and it is how it all began in the States.

    Let me put it this way…The cookie aisle in a French grocery store is intimidating to even me, an American. ;)

    In ten years, Europeans will be as heavy as Americans unless they put their money where their mouth is and say NO! Because the companies selling all that crap will continue to as long as they are able to. More importantly, as long as people are buying it!

    We can blame it all on capitalism…but, sooner or later we have to take the blame. After all it is up to each person what they put in their mouth and whether or not they are eating a variety of food.

    No matter what country they live in.

    Sorry, if I was upset in my first comment but after years of hearing how fat Americans are while Europeans are growing fatter and fatter themselves every single year…well, it just makes me angry.

    I can see now where you were coming from. :)

  3. Hey now, I never said peanut butter is BETTER than Nutella, I just said they are both nut spreads! I'll admit, I probably made my PB&J sandwiches a bit gooier than necessary, just because it was entertaining to watch people grimace and grab their stomachs. (I didn't think you'd really answer my question, I was just kind of teasing you! But your answer is entertaining.)

    Well, I'm off to have a fried peanut butter and bacon sandwich!

    PS – I enjoy your blog very much, I hope you'll keep writing and won't be discouraged by the occasional rude poster.

  4. Sorry, it’s to early in the a.m. to read your lengthy response, D. It’s 4 a.m. Peanut butter may not be SUPER healthy– high fat content… but, in moderation, it’s not really “bad” for you or fattening.. It’s an okay source of protein… esp. coupled with celery or apple slices– yumm!! I just want to add that almond butter is MUCH healthier and of course there are other nuts that are better for you than peanuts…
    Here in France, there is the use of hazlenut, and isn’t nutella- hazelnut butter +chocolate?? It’s super fattening PLUS added sugar… I am sure hazelnuts are healthy, too.. just not with all the extra sugar and in moderation.. That’s the way it is with nuts, a small handful per day- 1/4 cup… is actually very beneficial… Just don’t eat the whole damn jar of PB!! It’s kind of addicting, though!!!
    I actually LOVE peanut sauce in Thai cuisine, though here in France, I have found it not as good as in San Diego! I LOVE Thai food!!!!
    Hey we can discuss the expanding belly of America– but I feel like I am quite a few pounds heavier here in France than when I lived in the U.S. b/c I used to not do dairy products/meat back in San Diego… Here… the cheese is too good to resist!! Anyhow… It’s other stuff, too… I think in California and maybe other big coastal cities, people tend to be more into exercise and outdoor sports.. It’s sad to see a person that holds about 2/3 people size but I’ve seen that in Vegas… where the “heaviest” people come from all over America to visit Vegas and eat at the buffets.. Did you ever make it to Vegas when you lived in the States?
    Anyhow… That’s about all I have to say for now.. Just catching up with your blog!!
    Take care and have a nice weekend!!
    Leese

  5. I’m an American living in France who lost 30 pounds the first 2 months … and I wasn’t ‘dieting’ as we are wont to do in the states. And no I didn’t start off by weighing 300 pounds, that 30 pound loss brought me to an ideal weight.

    Everything Frenchman has written here is true … about the snacking, the hormones, the food processing…even about McDonalds – where the hamburgers are all beef and the salads are fresh not tasting of chemicals.

    While Europeans may be gaining, they are no where near in the same state as Americans.

    I chalk it up to fresh food, variety, less to zero snacking, absolutely less stress in the lifestyle and a balanced attitude toward food … less about calories, more about taste!

  6. Thank you. I had never understood why the US version of Nutella tasted so different. Now I know that its like Cadbury’s chocolate–it’s a different recipe in America. I will continue to just enjoy it in Europe

  7. I think there are a lot of sweeping generalizations on both sides here.

    Regarding peanut butter, the US is just about the only nation that has a sustained palate for it and that makes complete sense as it’s a regional/national product. It’s not really correct to say that only French people hate peanut butter; almost everyone hates peanut butter. PB is a US novelty – I bet no self-respecting Frenchman has Fluff in his cupboard, either. Or *gasp* Velveeta “cheese”.

    Also, hazelnuts just don’t grow well in the US and are relegated to the ‘specialty’ shops and even then they’re usually rancid. I love ‘natural’ peanut butter – the kind you grind in the machine at the store – but even then it’s not a regular part of my diet.

    Regarding America having terrible food, this is simply not true. If you are talking about mainstream chain restaurants and fast food, then you are absolutely right: disgusting. I am fully against commercialized, industrialized food served in ridiculous portions with zero taste. But we also have access to very fresh produce and proteins from land and sea and I take advantage of that whenever I dine out. But I am a little different than ‘the norm’ I suppose and pointedly avoid anything that one would consider ‘junk’- I don’t want to waste my time or calories eating something that doesn’t taste vibrant.

    And frogs’ legs are delicious. They taste like…frogs’ legs.

    ;)

  8. Frenchman, did you live in the suburbs or something?

    Most produce in supermarkets is from South America and at least a week or two old by the time we put it in our basket. That’s why I shop at a farmers’ market. You can get meat anywhere without hormones – you just have to look for it. But I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway.

    Cake mix can’t possibly be the worst culinary aberration – have you not had cheese from a can?

  9. Oh my Frenchman…

    Come on over to California and you will eat better in restaurants… or even NY…. What’s up with Florida?
    Hey… I’ve eaten bad AND good food in French restos… BUT, I just prefer to stay home and cook…. UHHHH…
    I prefer my own home-cooking to any resto I have ever been to! Not trying to toot my own horn… BUT- YEH— I’m a damn good cook (and baker) and I’m proud of it…
    Thanks for the comments- Meg… I enjoyed reading them… Have you guys ever tried almond butter? I think it’s better than peanut butter… Nut butters are REALLY high in fat, as are nuts… and should be eaten in moderation… Nuts, on their own… raw and unsalted are actually quite good for you— depending which ones, very in nutrition… And I’m not saying to go out and eat a jar of mac nuts or brazil nuts… Just go easy on the nuts… and watch out for those baguettes, while your at it… How can anyone resist a soft, warm baguette… I’m not really a bread person, but French bread is TOP!!!

  10. my 2 cents… Céline here. French, "just back" from a 10-year life in Pittsburgh. Even though i wasn't crazy about peanut butter sandwiches (couldn't go as far as the pb&j) i love love love everything reese's… the cups are the best. I used to tell people who would say "PB is disgusting" to try the peanut butter cups.
    and then there are the peanut butter filled small pretzels you can get at Costco…yum! bad but yum :-)

  11. Frenchman (and all) – there IS delicious food and food products available in the US…fresh produce, organic products, quality meats … the problem is that this is the exception not the rule. Leesa, even you went about it by naming states … there ARE some states that have a market for quality food and can be successful in that niche. But mainstream americans shop in the cheapest high volume stores they can find … eat out at the familiar chains that serve huge portions of industrially produced, flavorless foods (except for the salt and additives) … Until there is a consistent demand for the alternative, prices will not come down and the market will remain the same. In the states you mentioned (particularly west coast) there are purveyors that are bringing better foods but at a higher cost (Whole Foods, New Seasons, to name a couple) … foods that are higher quality, ecologically aware, sustainable … but the mass market demand just does not exist.

    My weight problem centered around low quality of life, working too many hours at a high stress ‘career’ and very poor eating habits. Not high quantity, but high stress habits on my body did me in.

    Life is good in France, and while in the cities there may be a migration towards poorer habits, I can testify that in the countryside … much of the old approach remains and with good results. I see not even ONE-TENTH of the obesity that surrounded me in America.

    (PS-Frenchman I mentioned and linked your blog today … I think your approach is a unique one)

  12. Oh, what a beautiful, blossoming flamefest …

    Ok, I’m not french, I live in Paris, and I like peanut butter, and I also like Nutella. I can find PB in two places:

    1. At the Champion near Saint-Germain-des-Près you can find the “Calvet” variety. It’s nice, and it’s cheap, compared to the one that follows. I think it’s a french (swiss, maybe?) product, but I’m not sure and I don’t really care. It’s peanut butter.

    2. The MONOPRIX at Montparnasse has the small pot “crunchy” and “creamy” PB variety, and you can find it in the “ethnic” section, next to maghrebian spices, japanese soy sauce and indian whatevers. I find that amusing :)

    That being said, there’s another variety in a tin can with a white blond boy and some “cacaouettes” on the outside, so retro that it seems to be produced by turkish nomades in Anatolia or something similar … don’t get me wrong, I’m for retro — hey, I like living in Paris after all — but the looks of it are not that inviting.

    I also come from the part of the Mediterranean basin where we used to say some thousand years ago that “we are what we eat” (well, we used to write and say lots of things back then that we don’t exactly follow, but oh well … just keep up with me).

    Everything with moderation is also part of my credo. So Frenchman, please try a PB with grape jelly stripes if you’re able to find it in Paris, or next time you go to the states. It’s not that bad :)

    Let’s go to the facts now. Obesity in Europe is not and it will never be comparable to the epidemic in the US. It’s a cultural thing, very difficult to change: the kids that you see in McDonalds know the difference between junk food/fun food and snacks and real, granny-made food. The majority of them know very well what they’re doing. And yes, McDo in france are not comparable to the ones in the US. You can find a real tomatoe in a sandwich.

    On the other hand, the french may have some “idées fixes”, for sure. It’s typical to find 4 or 5 dishes, all the same in a surprising number of restaurants. Most of them are do not have an appetite for experimentation. But it’s ok, because this is Paris, and you can always go to the ones that do :)

    Last but not least, let us not forget the wine. Cheeseburger/Fries/Coke is not a pavé/légumes/verre du vin rouge. The chemical reactions induced by the first combination are simply overwhelming. The equilibrium in the second combination is simply better.

    And give us a break about the frog legs: first, they taste like chicken. Second, I believe they’re not even a french delicacy. And third, I live in Paris for so many years, and I’ve never ever seen them in a menu.

    Snails, on the other hand, are not bad :)

    De gustibus.

  13. I forgot to add (for the non-French readers) that here in France you can order a beer with your McD combo meal and it will be CHEAPER than Coke. go figure! *hiccup*

    and frog legs taste like fishy chicken. lol.

  14. Frog legs have a texture comparable to chicken, taste a little bit like alligator, but for the most part, taste like frog legs. People often say "it tastes like chicken" when they really mean the textures are similar.

    Frenchman, if you have a pb&j, maybe you should try it with a natural fruit preserve instead of the sugary grape jelly. I prefer my pb&j with apricot preserves or honey and cinnamon and never make one with mushy white bread. But then, I'm a yuppie/hippie, so I never have mushy white bread anyway.

    This is probably incorrect based on some of the posts here, but it was my understanding that nutritional content is rarely printed or very limited on packaged food in France. If so, how can you know that prepared French food is any healthier than prepared US food? I mean, I would assume it is because the US is in love with 'filler foods', but scientifically speaking, how would you know?

    p.s. – Whole Foods is not limited to the West Coast, I have 7 within a 15-mile radius and one in walking distance.

  15. Well, it is true that once the business model for Whole Foods morphed to Whole Paycheck, it became a more well distributed chain. However, most middle-towns USA fail to have even one within walking distance. You’ll find them in the vicinity of larger and typically liberal (!) markeplaces.

  16. Great comments…. I enjoyed reading all of them… BTW, I only mentioned Cali/NY 'cuz those are the only two states I really know… forget Vegas…. Though there are very high quality restos there… they're WAYYYYYY tooooo expensive for me!

    And, Frenchman… after living in Cali all my life and only living here for 2 years — I say that you can find really GREAT quality food in restos in the States… go ask my hubby… I know he throughly enjoyed the taste, quality AND lower prices in the restos in Cali– esp. the wonderful sushi resto we went to in LA…
    I think that just in general, the quality of the food is better in France– local stuff… I see stuff at the marche' shipped in from other countries… and I can only imagine the different types of pesticides they used on their crops…
    I was organic and a vegan back in SD and I was anything but skinny… but I WAS in good shape– I was not overweight but rather athletic and muscular…… I just ate MUCH healthier in San Diego than I do now… I didn't really eat cheese or bread or a lot of sweets when I lived in San Diego.. Anyhow… I'll make you some pb& j muffins… I betcha you'll like 'em, too!!! : )
    Take care,
    Leese

  17. Darling, Europe is bulging at the waist by the second. I’ve never been to France, but I eat two or three meals a day, and none of them are pastries. For breakfast I’ll have a cup and a half of whole grain cereal without added sugar and unsweetened soy milk, green salad for lunch, and some whole grains and steamed veggies or stir fried veggies and maybe lean protein like chicken breast or vegetable protein like legumes for dinner, and maybe some fruit as snacks through the day, with lots of water. I try to run for at least half an hour to an hour every morning, I love peanut butter, and I can’t remember the last time I had butter, wine, triple-cream Brie or foie gras… and I love the food I eat! My family prepares it all, and it’s delicious- flavorful, healthful, and fresh from the farmer’s market, inexpensive and ethnic. I’m not shipping it from France to my table- my food is as American as I am.
    Am I smug? Sure, but I work for it. My culture doesn’t make a habit– like the French culture does– of clogging my arteries with saturated animal fats. I’m Californian and Chinese, and my dietary habits reflect it- more vegetarian sources of proteins like soy, unsaturated oils, lots of greens and fruits, water as a beverage, no alcohol. Can’t say the same for the French, sadly :)
    I’ve lived in California for decades and I’ve eaten thousands of fabulous meals. Perhaps you are deficient in preparing food, if you cannot cook for yourself anything wholesome in the entirety of the US. (Kidding! As much as you were, at any rate.)

  18. Okay, my question is this: Why, oh, why does my belle mere insist on tasting my peanut butter every single time she visits only to make the face and explain yet again that she doesn’t like it? Does she just want to make me crazy? Is it revenge for my marrying her son? :-) Is it horrible of me to make a pb and jelly sandwich using her confiture fraise that she makes with only her own garden grown strawberries? Okay, that actually makes me feel better.

    I have two boys who eat everything from fois gras to peanut butter. I just like to think that they are well rounded in their culinary experiences but I do have to say that they eat a lot better than their American cousins. Speaking of fois gras and peanut butter though, there is a restaurant named Magnolia in Puteaux that has a lovely course with those very ingredients. ha

  19. Considering the obesity problem in France, methinks the French could use a bit of counseling about what, and how much, they eat.

  20. You are forgetting that I’ve just returned after three months in France. One of the first things at which we were astounded was the large number of obese people we saw every day. The second was the size of the portions we were served at every place we ate. One of my major complaints was the waste of food. I could never eat all I was served and, as you know, the French don’t believe in ‘doggie bags’.

  21. I agree with Frenchman, I live here (France) in the Dordogne, as well as travel all over and I do not see this overwhelming percentage of obese people. Just isn’t happening.

  22. My husband is from Bergerac and he agrees with your last comment one hundred percent. He insists that not only does your body digest duck fat easier but that it is, in fact, good for you. It sure does taste about a gazillion times better than anything else you could cook with.

    We live in la Ferté sous Jouarre now and I do have to say that people on average seem to be a bit heavier here. Maybe because of the cold and rain, it’s hard to be active outdoors. I really think that you would have to make an effort to eat badly here though.

  23. mmmm….potatoes cooked in duck fat….amazing! *mouth waters* …. ha! the Dordogne is amazing by the way, and won my heart my very 1st visit over 10 years ago. I love living here.

  24. Frenchman, you are absolutely spot-on re the American diet. It’s not only unhealthy, it’s proving to be lethal.
    It’s almost impossible to source food in the US without High Fructose Corn Syrup, and it still astounds me when I find European products adapted by a US company, and it’s identical except for the HFCS content and fat content!
    One thing that seems to compound it though, is the fact that most areas in the US are structured around the car, and thus it’s either dangerous or impossible to go a short distance without driving.
    I also lose and gain significant amounts of weight (10-15lb) depending on where I am. As with Europe, in NYC I average 12miles+ per day walking. Elsewhere in the US, it’s -2miles per day, terrible.
    A few months ago, I went to Copenhagen for one week, and lost 11 pounds eating the same diet/meal frequency as in the US. The difference was the food was fresher, without the terrible additives, and I was actually able to do without a car!!

  25. I was born and raised in New York and I have visited Paris twice in the last two years, having a great interest in French culture. Upon my
    first visit to Paris in 2007, I was immediately struck with the presentation of food in the many markets and shops and how different that was from what I know in USA. I couldn’t just pass by the fish
    monger, I really had to stop and stare as it was all so beautifully displayed — it seemed a sin to just walk by. Oysters were piled onto crushed ice in a tin barrel over here with plump reddish-pink shrimp piled high in a barrel over there… “gems of the sea,” I thought. No, I was not in a touristy area, it was a simple street in the 15th where I had rented an apartment for my trip. There were whole fish beautifully laid out in all of their real color and “parts” and several of them I had never seen before nor heard their names. The fish monger
    was more than happy to tell me their names and from where they are caught.

    Then I passed the fromagerie. Well, I didn’t exactly pass; I stepped inside, smelling the aromas, seeing glorious hunks, knobs and balls of this and that on counters and ledges and tables; shades of white and cream and grey and orange. “Gems of the animals,” I thought — cows and goats and surely the aromas told me, some serious cheese makers, too. The woman, dressed in stark white lending even more airy whiteness to the store allowed me to try several. She recommended a chevre that was
    enormously better than any goat cheese I had ever tried at home. She too was more than willing to educate me in the world of cheese and I
    who had no where more important to be was a ready and willing student. We spoke for quite some time. Since that day, I have been in love with French chevres and I search far and wide for them. I can no longer buy it or any cheese in a US supermarket.

    I stopped at the fruits and vegetables market where I lingered so long just browsing the colors, vibrant and so alive against the Paris greys. Awestruck. “Gems of the farms.” Again, there were items I had never seen before and I was amazed at the scents — rare in American markets except on very hot, sunny days.

    And I distinctly remember stopping to gawk at the butcher because it was only 10am but my mouth was watering. I could smell the chickens in
    the roaster and I watched them slowly turning. I saw in the case, not just chickens, but whole chickens with their heads and beaks and feet,
    a sight you never see at home. Rabbits. Hens. And the beef was beautifully different. The butcher was smiling at me and finally asked me why I was looking so surprised? As I answered him as best I could in faltering-French-with-American accent, he quickly realized I was a “tourist.” But he remained polite and professional. I told him I had
    not seen chicken like this before; that it looked like art. He pointed to two of them and explained that they are “Bresse” and explained what
    that was. And he told me the others, though not Bresse, are not raised and sold the way I am used to. No chemicals, no hormones and such…
    just chicken, he explained proudly. And we talked about the rabbit, how to cook it, the kinds of rabbit, etc. I decided right then that I wanted a Bresse chicken for dinner. He told me he could roast one for me and I could pick it up later after “my touring.” I had already told him of my plans for the day and that I was renting an apartment for the
    week. After talking with him for some time, he realized I was serious and so we agreed, I’d be back by 6pm for my chicken. His lovely wife
    came out from the back too, to talk and she recommended other things I should buy to eat with my chicken. And so I planned to be back in the
    neighborhood to shop for vegetables and cheese and get my roasted Bresse.

    If I wrote about the bakeries, the many that I passed, I’d be writing 1,000 more words. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about les boulangeries de Paris…?

    What I began to realize that day and everyday following and on my next trip was that — the French have a completely different “relationship”
    with food than Americans do. Though I have often heard of the “joie de vivre” of the French — who hasn’t? I had not really understood it the way it is meant to understood until I was actually there, taking part from that first day in Paris.

    I have seen over and over in my trips that there is a deep sense of pride in food in France — in presenting it, in selling it and certainly in knowing about what it is that one is selling. But it is more than simply “selling.” In many cases it seemed as if food was a “craft” or an art. As I browsed so many of these kinds of markets in many days it struck me that going to a supermarket is simply an option
    of convenience in France but not a necessity as it is here in USA. The market experience in France is just that — an experience — and this experience is part of the eating of the food.

    That first night’s dinner in Paris, I consider the best meal of my life. When I picked up my chicken, the lovely couple gave me (gratis) a cup of stock and a cup of drippings to take along and use to cook my
    vegetables, knowing I was a visitor and wouldn’t have these things on hand. How kind! But that’s not why it was my best meal ever. It was
    really about finally sitting down to eat and knowing where my chicken came from and the sweet couple that cooked it and the butcher’s genuine kind and interested chat with me. It was about the warm baguette that had been pulled from the ovens only moments before it was handed to me.

    It was hearing about the town that my cheese came from and what those goats eat and how long the farmer’s family had been making this cheese
    and why it is so loved. It was about the man in the wine store who took several minutes with me trying to choose the best wine to go with the Bresse chicken and the type of goat cheese I had while also trying to understand my tastes. (The woman at the fromagerie sent me to him because he would know best.) It was that my meal had actually
    started at about 10 am when I first started walking and it carried through my day as I visited through Paris and all of her historic
    streets and churches, wondering about the many who walked these streets before me over the centuries. My meal was a culmination of all of it.
    There was nothing that could be separated out of the day that did not have an influence on my meal.

    There is a deep inter-connectedness, integral relationships in France between history, art, culture, people, terroir, life itself and food,
    that is simply not present in American life. No wonder it is said that the French eat more slowly and seem to savor their food. I
    completely understood that night of my Bresse chicken dinner. I too savored every bite.

    I felt sad when I returned home to New York. I do love my country and no need for me to sing her other praises but I now know what we have
    given up or lost or never had. And it is extremely difficult to duplicate it here; I have tried and failed. The entire psychology of American life does not support it. Here, the mantra is “faster and
    bigger.” We are missing hundreds and thousands of years of history, religion, suffering — of wars and plagues and arts and travels that
    have had direct impact upon the evolutions of agriculture and regional foods and how and why and what people eat…

    When one thinks of “bread” in France, one might think, “life.” When one thinks “bread” in USA, one might think, “peanut butter and jelly.”

    Thanks again for a great blog full of interesting questions, answers and debate. You’re doing a great job and I completely enjoy your head-on honest approach!

  26. I find your response incredibly rude. My husband is French and we spend a lot of time inbetween San Francisco and the north of France. It's true, I have often wondered why French people don't like peanut butter. But let's face it, it has nothing to do with the healthiness of it. French people indulge in all kinds of unhealthy things, the difference is they do it in moderation. I found your answer insulting to French people (not only Americans) because you're allowing the stereotypical "arrogant Frenchman" to come out in you. You should really consider getting off your high horse of "everything French is better" attidude. My husband quite often sees the key differences between US and France and he knows France is no better. They're equal in a lot of ways, good and bad, however France is about the size of Texas and it's a little more difficult to run a country the size of US. So yeah, it's easy for a smaller country to poke holes in all the problems of a big one. The cultural differences from middle American, to the west coast, to the east are SO incredibly vast. Yet you lump everyone together as being fat. The fattest states are in the south, and I hate the fact that I get lumped together with them as a fat American. Since we're from California, it's true we have less fat people here. Especially in San Francisco where people walk all the time and eat only organics. You fail to mention a HUGE number of the population in the US eat organically (we practically invented it in CA) and care a lot about health.
    Also it's very true the second fattest country to US is United Kingdom…with France following (yes, you're 3rd).
    I understand the points you're trying to make, but you shouldn't do it by following stereotypes and you shouldn't do it with such arrogance…you have no facts proving French have superior tastes. That's a horrible horrible thing to say. Saying someone's personal tastes are better than someone elses based on your country. I cannot believe you even say this.

    If French people didn't eat things because they're "unhealthy" well then you'd have no pâtisseries, no boulangeries, etc. The lack of interest in peanut butter is NOT the health factor, and pulling that out seemed like cheap shot at American culture (which you seem to love to do). You should have researched your answer better.

  27. Minette, vous avez tout pigé!
    I just discover your comment now, I'm quite a bit late but I want to compliment you. I think you get it all. And wonderful text also!

  28. Haha, I love it! This is hilarious. Down here in Aussie we love nutella AND peanut butter (but we're not so crazy about PB&J – personally, it makes me want to vomit, way too sweet and sticky and gluggy). But let's face it, the whole nutella vs PB debate is moot when you compare them to Australia's favourite spread – Vegemite! For anyone who's ever tried it (who's not Australian), I'm so sorry for you, but you have to at least admit one thing – it's not sweet!

    I'm not going to weigh in on the whole "Americans are fat" debate because I recently read that Australia is now the fattest nation in the world (which, at least anecdotally, I'd dispute). But as for France's "obesity epidemic", I can tell you right now that that's a joke. Yes, there is a worldwide trend in Western nations toward an increase in BMI, but if I remember correctly from an assignment I did earlier this year, France is the only nation in Europe where the average BMI for both men AND women is within the healthy range (i.e. below 25). I believe it's around 23 for both. And I think a lot of it is to do with their perceptions of a "healthy" weight – for French men and women, it was lower than in other European countries (most of the overweight people there, esp. in Britain, thought they were healthy; in France, some of the healthy weight people thought they were overweight).

    At any rate, health doesn't only come down to weight anyway. France, with their health system and, from what I understand, their cultural attitudes towards food (as you mentioned Frenchman, you don't snack) wallops the US, for all their fancy technology. A baby girl born in France today has a 1 in 2 chance of living to 100. Not really related, I'm just always astounded by that statistic.

  29. Thanks for your feedback Jessica.

    I'll just comment on the last two things:
    America's technological advance is a thing of the past. 30 years ago maybe, but nowadays Europe and the US (and I assume Australia) have the same technology. And in any case, Japan beats both regions.

    And as far as life expectancy is concerned, food definitely plays a role. Eating habits have a strong influence on how healthy one is.

    (it was just two more cents)

  30. This is rather late, but have you ever been to New Jersey? We pride ourselves on good food in good portions made of good ingredients (knock US produce all you like, but you haven't lived until you've eaten a Jersey tomato or an ear of corn from a farmers market around here). We don't settle for food that is not fresh and well-made.

  31. "you haven't lived until you've eaten a Jersey tomato or an ear of corn from a farmers market around here"

    With all due respect Alf: ROFL!!!

    I see you're quite young, so my advice is remember those words for when you'll have traveled around the world a little. (and if you've already have… you're nuts then)

  32. You can get good produce in the US! I lived in Santa Barbara county for a time and found their produce (strawberries, avocados, garlic, etc.) to be as good as or better than anywhere I've traveled. California Cuisine and all that…though that tradition, of course, borrows from Europe. Where I'm living right now (again, in the US) has seriously awesome apples.

  33. OK, we discussed that a little bit too often, but the fact that "one can get good products in the US" (in some stores, not everywhere, if you know where to look, etc) is different from "good products are the products by default that you'll find in pretty much any store".

    And US cuisine sucks. Period.
    But "try to explain red to a dog"

  34. Interesting comments from all…I'm a Canadian and can state that yes, of course we have fresh produce and good food here – IT CANNOT AND WILL NEVER COMPARE TO FRENCH CUISINE. let's just admit it!

  35. Haha, all this talk about PB&J is making me hungry for one! :d
    Seriously, though, if you want to know a food that’s really disgusting, look up ‘pigs in blankets,’ ewww!!
    Oh, and btw, I don’t know if it’s this way in Europe, but Nutella in the US has hydrogenated oil (ie trans fat) in it, as well as a buttload of sugar! :6
    So yeah, I think I’ll take all-natural peanut butter any day! :)

    • “Pigs in Blankets”… I should try someday (although “disgusting” and “British food” are very often synonymous indeed).
      Nutella is not as bad in Europe (sometimes I feel that the US go out of their way to make food unhealthy) although it’s not perfect.
      And while all-natural peanut butter is alright, this is not the one that us being consumed daily by millions of American kids.

  36. This makes me want to make a list of American foods that forigners from various parts of the world have told me were disgusting. Most of these were when I was in highschool with exchange students, things I loved at the time and now kind of agree are pretty gross:
    Sliced Plastic Wrapped American Cheese (especially the orange kind)
    String Cheese
    Cheese Wiz
    Cool Whip
    Root Beer
    Tuna Noodle Casserole
    Tuna Melt Sandwich
    Salisbury Steak
    Steakums
    Goober (on the peanut butter note, this is peanut butter and grape jelly in a jar together…in stripes http://www.techaffect.com/2010/01/25/coming-soon-the-status-update-shakeout/)
    White Bread
    Cream of Cheddar Soup (oh hell, don’t ask if you don’t know)
    Hot Dogs
    Most American Beer (an exchange student in college brought that to my attention)

    I still like root beer and I never liked white bread because my Grandma made real whole wheat bread at home twice a week. What is it with my country and bad fake cheese? And though there are good small breweries that make fabulous beer here, 10 years ago that wasn’t so much the case and I tended to splurge on pretty much anything from ‘over there’ in Europe where people know that even beer needs to taste like something.

    • As you know, I agree. It seems that Americans don’t (and probably never will) understand the concept of “food.” Oh well, their loss (and their health).

  37. This does not need to be posted, I just wanted to say how confused I am reading the comments, because it appears many of your earlier comments were deleted? It is similar to listening to a phone conversation, when you only hear one side.

    • Well, I’m posting it anyway.

      I have indeed deleted some old comments, for a reason I forget when I moved this site from Blogger to WordPress a couple of years ago. That may be why.

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