Small Country, Big Portions: An Observation

(Warning: this post may make you very, very hungry.)

When we were getting ready to move to France I had the misconception that portions here would be much smaller than the U.S. (after all, requesting a doggy bag in France is so gauche–at least according to many guide books). Boy was I wrong. Everywhere we’ve eaten, I’ve left feeling like I needed to be rolled out of the restaurant–and most places I haven’t even been able to finish the entire meal!

Let’s start with the goat cheese salad I ordered in Paris. I thought, “well, that sounds light and healthy,” It came out with three, deep-fried logs of goat cheese. I’m not even kidding. I have the picture to prove it (see below). I managed to eat one of the logs and all of the lettuce. I really wanted to eat them all, though. Not quite the light little lunch I had in mind, but they were delicious! Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. The tanginess of the cheese contrasting with the sweet honey drizzled on top. Yum.

Meanwhile, Matt ordered a cheese plate. Based on our experiences with cheese plates in the U.S., we expected a couple of small slices of cheese with maybe some olives and mustard on the side. Nope! The waiter placed in front of Matt a cheese plate that could feed a whole party. Needless to say, we left that restaurant in a bit of a food coma.

 Next up, the Croque Madame. Now I don’t know if this sandwich is really supposed to be for breakfast (my bet is no), but after suffering the carb-induced stomachache from the petit déjeuner (which, at many restaurants consists of a croissant, half a baguette, coffee, butter and fresh orange juice), I decided to try my luck with a hot ham and cheese sandwich topped with an egg. In fact, I tried it five times just to be sure.

The Croque Madames I ate all came out huge (including the one in Brugges which looked more like a grilled ham and cheese sandwich you’d find in the U.S.) and all came with a side salad. Yup, I was eating salad for breakfast. That’s healthy, right?

I am not typically a fan of salad dressing. In fact, I’m one of those strange souls who is okay with eating my salad dry (unless there’s some ranch dressing around–in which case, bring it on!). The dressing here, though, is so light, tangy and tastes of Dijon mustard. I love it. It’s my new favorite. Sorry, ranch, but I’d eat this stuff on anything.
Then there’s the cassoulet. This is the regional dish for South France, so of course we had to try it. Unfortunately we picked one of the hottest days so far to sample our cassoulet, so we were sweating bullets but all agreed it is a delicious dish (better served on a cold day). Big hunks of pork and duck sausage swim in broth with tender white beans. The top is broiled before served adding a nice crunch to many spoonfuls. But, again, it came out huge! And with a salad! I managed to eat about half before giving up, but I’m definitely going back for more.

Yesterday I discovered the joy of a French tart (quiche). I’ve had (and made) quiches before, but this one was savory, filled with big chunks of curry chicken and topped with slightly crispy artichokes. The massive slice of eggy goodness came out with a heaping side salad covered, once again, in the dressing I’ve grown to love. FoodOne of the other ladies ordered a Chinese chicken salad. It came in a huge bowl and was piled high with sprouts, carrots, chicken, tomatoes and cucumbers.

So, I guess I already new this, but the moral of the story is, if you move to or visit France, come hungry! Bon appétit!

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