Living with a host family, I am able to experience dining in the French fashion first hand. Every night we have a sit down dinner- even if there are just two of us, we will sit down together and enjoy a meal.
Dinner consists of multiple courses, every single night. We always begin with a salad, which is followed by a main course, a cheese course, and dessert. On some nights we will even have a course that precedes the main course. The next part of the meal is left in the kitchen until the preceding course has been finished. Even with all the different parts of the meal, we never get new plates; you simply use a piece of bread to clean your plate after every course. I easily eat two or three slices of bread at every meal! We use cloth napkins every night, but we use the same napkin every night for a week. Of course, wine is served at every meal.
My host parents always let me serve myself first. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to me not knowing exactly the correct way to serve a certain dish, or cut a certain cheese. My family is patient and they love seeing me try new things, even if it means watching me struggle a little first.
The French eat with both hands, and this is one skill I still have not. They always have a fork in one hand, with either a piece of bread or a knife in other hand to help scoop up food. In theory it should be easier than using just one hand, but I’ve spent the last 21 years being told that eating with both arms on the table is impolite, and it is next to impossible for me to not feel awkward when attempting to “eat like the French.”
Living with a host family, I feel required to take at least a little of everything at every meal. This semester I have eaten a variety of foods I would have never ordered at a restaurant or prepared for myself. For example, I abhor olives, and there have been several times when my host mom has prepared a dish with olives in it. I know that she would be more than happy to make something else if I mentioned it, but I think going out of my comfort zone and trying new things is just another part of the experience. The food in Grenoble reflects the culture of the region, and I love being able to see how French people interact at dinnertime.
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