So I just got back from Paris after finishing my 5-week course there, and I’m excited to be back. I’ll definitely miss a lot of aspects of Parisian life, but I also missed being in the U.S.
Even though French eating habits are currently evolving, the French eat differently than we do. Many of these French eating habits play a role in keeping their obesity rates lower than those in the U.S. For example, the French seem to dedicate time solely to eating, and they rarely eat outside of these times. They have a set breakfast, lunch, and dinner—breakfast usually being the smallest—and set aside time to sit at a table and enjoy the degustation of food. Most French people are not frequent snackers, and snacking remains a largely American habit. Oftentimes, dinners with my host mom would last up to two hours not because of the amount of food we ate but because of the conversation and slow-paced eating that occurred at the table.
Furthermore, the French seem to eat small amounts of food but with greater variety. Dinners with my host mom always consisted of an entrée, main plate, and cheese. She would also offer fruits as dessert. Throughout the course of dinner, I was able to taste a variety of textures and flavors and almost always left satisfied in terms of taste. I would never, however, leave the dinner table feeling “full.” Emotional satisfaction of eating without the copious amounts of calories likely plays a role in lowering average calorie consumption in France.
Ironically, the French diet consists heavily of fats and simple carbohydrates. My housemate and friend Bernardo often relied on a simple baguette and cheese for lunch, two French specialties. Baguettes always served as a vehicle or side accompaniment at dinner—though I myself did not divulge in this habit.
Parisians also have a habit of smoking. While in the U.S., smoking has diminished, Parisians believe smoking to be a la mode, or in fashion. Consequently, not a day went by without inadvertently inhaling second-hand smoke. Though smoking is inarguably detrimental to one’s health, and I do not at all recommend smoking, smoking does carry the side-effect of reducing appetite. That, coupled with a more active lifestyle attributed to biking and small portion sizes, the Parisians seem to stay slim.
The confit de canard, or duck confit, I had at Chartier exemplifies many of the French eating habits described above. The portion, though small, contains a lot of duck fat from the cooking process. To confit something means to immerse in a substance for flavoring, and in the case of duck confit, duck meat is cooked in its own fat along with seasonings. Fortunately, duck fat contains a higher percentage of mono and polyunsaturated fats, which one can use to somewhat justify eating duck confit.
The potatoes, though laden with simple carbs and covered in grease, tasted phenomenal. The seasonings were poignant, and the insides were cooked to perfection. Though flimsy and soggy, the potato skin provided a nice textural contrast. I donated all but one of those potatoes to my friends, since I also ate a steak tartare that night and only wanted a taste of the potatoes.
I love steak tartare. It has got the fresh, raw feeling of sashimi but the additional allure of it being made from livestock rather than seafood. The taste, though bland on its own, consists simply of salt and pepper, usually. Steak tartare generally consists of minced beef, usually from a cut such as strip steak, onions, capers, and a raw egg—all mixed together and formed into a fat cylinder.
This steak tartare was from Chartier, like the duck confit. Again, we see attributes of French cooking in steak tartare. The portion is small but rather fatty.
Chartier itself serves traditional French cuisine at a bargain price. It is definitely a must-visit for tourists as it gives off the traditional French brasserie vibe.
7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre
01 47 70 86 29