Bonjour de Nice!
In bringing you guys along with us on this adventure of moving to a different country, I wanted to do a few posts highlighting major and minor differences I have noticed along the way. When I thought of what to cover first, I knew right away it would be food!
At home in the US I love to cook. I have a few cookbooks I use regularly, (I even wrote a post awhile back about my favorites here) but in Nice I do not have a single cookbook and have been relying mostly on memory and instinct.
Meals here look pretty different then they do in the US in many ways. Pictured above is a traditional breakfast, or "petit déjenuer a France", which includes a croissant, fresh orange juice, an espresso and basket of an assortment of local breads with jam. If one wishes to sit for a longer breakfast it is common to have yogurt with some granola and a plate with fried eggs and a small side salad. Matthew and I have always been brunch people, and it's amazing how very different brunch looks in France! I'm sure you can find pancakes, waffles, and omelets at many places around France (especially restaurants who cater to American tourists!) but they are not common.
Lunch breaks here are from 1.5-2 hours, and EVERYONE observes them. And you guys, it's CRAZY. This is such a major difference from the US. When meeting with our architect, or any designers for our place, we always must stop the meetings at 12 (sometimes 12:30) so everyone can break for lunch and reconvene at 2. There is no such thing as a working lunch here. It sounds bizarre, but everyone observes it, so no one else questions it. Many businesses also shut down, so it is important to plan your errands around the lunch break. In Nice, a cannon goes off everyday at 12 so everyone knows it's lunch time. That sounds like a joke...it isnt.
Our first night in Nice we bought some fresh handmade pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. I sautéed some eggplant and cherry tomatoes with olive oil and served it with some parsemsean cheese. It was excellent!
Local grocery stores are about the size of a very small gas station convenience store (and half of the store is filled with selections of Rosé lol), so their selection is very slim. There is a much larger store about a 10 minute walk into town which has packaged food and the basics I need create meals, but I love shopping the local stores and farmers market to get great fresh produce.
Above is a pasta salad comprised of fresh basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado and farfalle pasta. Below is a locally caught white fish seasoned with lemon juice and Herbs de Provence and a vegetable salad I made by steaming zucchini, red bell pepper and onions in a foil packet with the same marinade. I then added some white beans for texture. The kids loved it!
One of the toughest things I have encountered in France so far is adjusting to what is sold, and more importantly, what ISNT sold at grocery stores. France doesnt like to package things that could be fresh (what a novel idea!) they also prefer to only carry what is grown locally. This means the produce I find is excellent. I'm absolutely positive that the strawberries here, which are tiny compared to the US, are the best in the world. Berries here taste nothing like the US, they're SO much more flavorful! The produce here also isn't always as beautiful, it's often filled with imperfections, with large varieties in sizes and shapes. This is because they do not throw away or genetically modify their crops to look a certain way which is appealing to consumers. Their fruit is smaller, the zucchini is often inconsistant shapes and sizes, and the colors of fruits and vegetables many vary day by day. I love this about France (and Europe in general), but with this greatness there is also a downside.
Trying to find all the ingredients for an American recipe is a joke. The only produce carried is what is grown locally, so sometimes no matter how hard I look for cilantro, it's never going to appear. I went into the store recently to make a mixed berry salad only to find that no store in the area had blackberries or blueberries because they were not grown here. It took me 2 weeks and 7 stores before I found black beans, and when I did they were dried and I needed to hydrate them myself. I couldn't find cinnamon anywhere, and 911 GUYS, THEY ONLY SELL 1 BRAND OF PEANUT BUTTER AND IT TOOK ME ALMOST 2 WEEKS TO FIND IT!
Lol, all joking aside, things are different here! It's not a bad thing at all, but it does take a lot of getting used to.
Culturally, it's normal to have a small salad here with every meal (including breakfast!) so I have started making salads every night for dinner as an compliment to our meals. I love making my own dressings, it's so easy! They also basically don't even sell salad dressing here, I think it must be an American thing that we have so many different dressing options. I mix lemon juice, olive oil, dijon mustard and some fresh black pepper and it's delicious and fresh!
Pictured below I made stufeed eggplant! Eggplant is very popular here, which is fun because I rarely cooked with eggplant in the US!
There is a fantastic farmers market near our house every Wednesday-Friday and I love scouting out the best produce for our meals! I purchased an organic 'bio-box' there last week and made a traditional Nicoise Ratatouille, it turned out amazing! I also bought my own basil plant and I love using the frehs basil in all of my dishes!
And finally, let's talk about the fish! We're pescatarians (meaning we do not eat any meat other than fish), so I cook fish often. The fish here is also SO fresh that it is such a joy to cook and eat! While my cousin has been visiting, I made salmon with a marinade of capers, and it turned out delicious.
And just to balance it all out - Matthew and I get Gelato just about every night :) I mean, look at it! It's pretty hard to resist!
Thank you for reading along! If you're interested in the recipes for any of these dishes, please comment below and I will do a feature! I love cooking and sharing my meals with all of you!
Our time here is flying by, I cannot believe it's been almost 3 weeks! Please continue to post your questions so that I can tailor my posts to answer them! I love including all of you on this adventure!
Thanks for reading, Au revoir!