Frenchitude Lesson #37: Bring Hunger to The Table

It is no news flash that the French, especially Burgundians, take meals very seriously.

If you read my blog you know already that a Burgundian “lunch” can often go from 12:00 until around 6:30pm or so. In Franck’s family, that was just about time to break out the apéritif and sit back down again for dinner…

Often, non-French visitors wonder how the French can tuck away such prodigious amounts of food at the table. It is amazing to watch – an activity of stupendous endurance like the gastronomic equivalent of the Ironman triathlon. However, just like those triathletes, don’t forget that the French have had many, many hours – nay years of training.

Aside from adopting a grueling French meal training program, there is a simple thing you can do to enhance your enjoyment (not to mention performance) at any mealtime.

Copy the French – make sure that when you sit down at the table, you are truly hungry. The bigger the meal, the hungrier you need to be. It is optimal to sit down to a true Burgundian meal hungry enough to, as the French would say, manger un gamin de six ans avec le cartable sur le dos (eat a 6 year old child, as well as his school bag still strapped to his back).

This hearkens back to my Authentic France Travel Tip about eating meals at the same time as the French, and refraining from snacking. This has absolutely nothing to do with a dieting technique,and everything to do with that French obsession for enhancing pleasure.

Take this morning, for example, I had an apple for breakfast, instead of my usual tartines avec de la confiture.

I wasn’t being remarkably (okay, bizarrely for me) restrained, but rather I knew we were going to Franck’s tante Renée’s for lunch with my parents and his other aunt and uncle, Jacqueline and Jean.

Renée – at 80 years old – is a truly amazing Burgundian cook. I was starving by the time I sat down, which was a damned good thing because it meant that I completely enjoyed :

Renée’s absolutely delectable crab, vegetable, and quail egg in aspic entrée.

Then her famed Poule au Pot Henri IV. Then an amazing cheese platter, which I was too busy exclaiming over and enjoying to take photos.

And then Jacqueline brought out her contribution to the meal, a huge platter of homemade choux à la crème…one of my favorite desserts in the whole world.

When I bit down on my second delectable choux, I was sure glad I had been hungry to start with.

So if you know you are going to be sitting down to an extraordinary lunch or dinner, be French about it and try to eat very sparsely before (as well as afterwards, that is, if you haven’t simply exploded by then).

Hunger makes everything taste better. Vraiment. It is truly a worthy companion at any meal – from the most elaborate to the most humble.