Understanding the French (1)

I have always liked La Rochelle ever since my first visit in 1996, I like the sea food restaurants, the patiseries, the busy harbour and the leisurely pace of life; so much so in fact that I have visited four times, the last being in 2007.

Our final day in La Rochelle (19th April) began exactly the same as the day before.  A Hotel Ibis breakfast and then out into the city bathed in a soft blue sky and the early morning sun burning off the remains of the sea dew.  It was going to be another fine day.  We decided to explore the town today and set off first to do that thing that has become a bit of a ritual and go and visit the local market.   And it was a very good one indeed, just the place to get our market envy fix.  The meat hall was full of interesting produce alongside the usual including big portions of wild boar, whole rabbits and bits of chickens that it certainly wouldn’t occur to us to eat. These included heads and feet, and like most people from England I always thought that the chicken leg stopped just below that meaty piece of thigh meat.  Shoppers would have a fit in England but the French seem to have an appetite for the most unusual.

In the fish market, once again as with everywhere else we have been the variety and quantity was eye-popping, there were slabs and slabs of oysters all carefully graded by size from number one to number six and the breathtaking amount of shellfish and crustaceans simply served to confirm that the French will eat anything that swims, crawls or slithers through the sea.  Outside the vegetable stalls offered appetizing produce that was all arranged in spectacular displays with much more attention to detail and presentation than we had seen elsewhere.

Out of the town we sat in a green park and ate strawberries that we had purchased in the market and were startled by the most amazingly loud croaking noise, so loud we took it to be a man with one of those duck decoy whistles but when we investigated further we located the noise from the river and were surprised to find some frogs swimming about and making a really astonishing amount of noise for such small creatures.  Obviously not very bright either because given the French habit of eating practically anything and being especially fond of these little amphibian’s succulent legs you’d have thought that they might have learned over the years not to draw so much attention to themselves.

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9 responses to “Understanding the French (1)

  1. well, the Greeks have the quality and freshness down, but you need the French for that style, I suppose! I wouldn’t want to buy any of those vegetables and risk ruining their beautiful display!

  2. Oh boy ! Didn’t you learn anything for real in your trip ? The majority of the French have never eaten one frog leg in their life . I’m 53 and I ate them once . Some French like them, only with parsley and garlic of course, but even those don’t eat this dish more than once a year .
    This frog thing is an Anglo-Saxon mental creation ( since you don’t hear about that French “habit” in Spain, Germany or Mexico ) . And I should add that frogs and snails eating comes from the antique Romans, and it exists in Spain and Italy as much as in France . Once more, the Anglo-Saxon bashing-will says it’s only a French thing .
    About chickens or ducks heads and feet, if you were able to speak a little you would have asked what they are used for . Doing so you would have learnt they are used in vegetable soups ( the true, rich and thick South-westen vegetable soup ) to add some nice taste to the soup . To be complete, I seldom met some peasants who actually ate bits from them, but this is highly unusual .
    The internet is full of fallacies about the French because it seems very hard for English speaking people to get a clue of what’s going on around them when they are in France . Curiously I never read so many misunderstandings from German, Portuguese, Brazilian or Russian travelers . It must be a sort of specific handicap nested in Anglo mind . I’m more used to that from the childish close-minded-I-only-see-what-my-stereotypes-told-me Americans, though .

    • Thanks for the comment again. My post was not meant to be critical or derogatory and I am sorry if you interpreted it this way. Let me tell you though that the French catch all description of ‘Anglo Saxon’ that you use indiscrimately to describe all things English speaking we in the UK consider to be quite offensive – at least I have the courtesy to call French people French!

  3. I’m aware of how British people feel about this “Anglo-Saxon” concept, and I always call British or English, or Welsh, what clearly comes from a traditional ( and appreciated ) way of being and thinking .
    When I use Anglo-Saxon is when there’s is (unfortunately) a common attitude in every English speaking country, and this happens very often towards the French . You watch the same movies, you share the same internet . The language too, every structure of language, shapes our way of apprehending the world .
    The fact that the very little Americans know of European history comes ( mostly through Hollywood) from the English perception ( and lies), made the first link . But at least in my youth when I was in England I met English people who truly were English . And I liked that, the good and the bad . I was meeting the modern sons of the old England with whom France has such a long history . When they did some ranting, they were saying the old griefs dating from centuries ago .
    Now is different . The remarkable ignorant stupidity coming from the USA has contaminated the UK . Probably because the public education system has been destroyed . So more and more English only know what they learn from American movies or the internet .
    The consequence is I find now the abysmal American French stereotypes in English articles too . I found the same atmosphere in the rotten NZ press before and after the last Rugby WC final, or from English Canadians towards Quebeois .
    I can swear you from a French point of view there’s a precise connection between all Anglophone countries, alas, mainly for the worst things .
    That’s why I sometimes allow myself to use the term Anglo-Saxon .
    I’ve spent time in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, ( and USA) . When they deserve it I never call people Anglo-Saxon, I give them their real name if only they remember what it means .
    PS I can see you’re angry, but if you provide an old English French bashing I’ll take it with grace, because good grief! even that is disappearing .

    • Thanks for the comment! No, I’m not angry I just like to provoke response and debate. I will be quite honest and say that France is not my favourite country because that has to be Spain but I do enjoy your country, your culture and your language so forgive me if I am prone to tease – I believe it is an English characteristic that is not always fully understood? I have friends who live in Normandy (met through town twinning) and we enjoy this playful teasing about each other and our different cultures. Last year I visited Beziers and had a wonderful time. I didn’t know that few French people eat frogs but then not many English eat cockney eel pie! Anyway, I promise no more French posts for a while! Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  4. You’re welcome to do French posts, as long as they are not americanized . I love Spain too, I’ve been dozens of times and in every part . What about Italy ? It’s very different from Spain and enjoyable in a different way . From 75 to 85 I always went to England, and I miss that England . I feel sad when I see armed cops, no more social housing and no more English culture in the streets .
    Spain has dramatically vanished too you know . And (sniff) France is worse now from what I had in mind when they sent me there .
    My favourite countries are Brazil and India, and my favourite place in the world is the Hopi reservation in Arizona . These Americans don’t bother me .

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