Picadilly, Peekahdeelee, Pick-a-Deli…? a culinary exchange

Last weekend we hosted a party at our place for which we cooked a range of popular French party dishes, including a cake au jambon (a cake with ham, cheese, fresh green peppercorns and herbs). Our guests – who were mainly British – had apparantly never heard of a salty cake before in their lives. Some just called it quiche. A few said it was “very good”. Others just looked confused. It was as if we had brought fish and chips and steak pie to the French people: “what eez zeez eengleesh food?!”

When I tell people that I come from Paris, some will automatically tell me how they went there on holiday and how the food was absolutely fantastic. I wonder! The cake au jambon certainly demonstrated that there are differences in culinary tastes and expectations. Parisians know that you have to pay a lot to get good food in their city – and where tourists go is usually expensive and serves mediocre food. Did my friends really have real French food?

Just like I had to discover that in some parts of England having tea means having dinner and having dinner means having lunch, some still have to discover that British super-market quiche and baguette doesn’t taste French. And there was me thinking that Jane Eyre was constantly drinking tea and eating scones and sugar coated cakes! “yes, yes, verrree breeteesh”.

I still haven’t gotten used to steak (and kidney) pie and fish and chips, but there are a few things which I appreciate about English gastronomy:

  1. Pimm’s with lemonade – because it’s got cucumber in it, which I think is eccentric
  2. sausage and mash patatoes with ale – because it’s easy and filling pub food
  3. peas with mint – because other French people hate it
  4. crumpets – who would have thought that bread could have such a consistency
  5. Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam – because the Queen’s beagles have it for breakfast
  6. pheasant – especially if it’s home killed in fox hunting costume and AGA cooked
  7. christmas pudding and mince pies
  8. jacket patatoes with beans and cheese – because that’s the only decent food from my work cafeteria

Next dish I would like to try: the toad in a hole – because of the strange name!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to cook French I recommend the website marmiton.org. People have already posted many of their personal recipes on this site, and the good news is that an English version is also available.
For your next Paris holiday, you’ll get authentic food at Le Balzar. The best time to go is on sunday for lunch. Of course you’ll have to start with an apéritif like a kir. And after your entree and plat principal, you’ll have to eat one of their delicious dessert.

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