La Une’s New Year’s Resolutions: Of Culinary Habits and Health

Editors: Maia, Rachael, Nina, Ayanna, Ryan M.

Gastronomic Habits in France

Drinking and culinary culture in France is different than in the United States. For example, it’s strange to drink a lot of water here. With a meal, French people prefer to drink things other than water. Additionally, here in France you can drink alcohol with your lunch in the same way you drink soda or water in the United States. You can drink a beer, a glass of wine, or a hard cider with a mid-day meal at most restaurants and cafes in Toulouse, which represents a departure from American culture. We had expected that food and food culture in France would be like what we had seen in representations of France. These representations could have been incorrect, glorified, or incomplete. Our expectations of the food didn’t take into account that France is diverse, as Ryan observed: “Despite the cliches, my experience at this (ramen) restaurant, on the other hand, represented a departure from the traditional notion of French culinary culture.” We can drink a coffee and buy a pastry while paying much less than we would in the United States, but we can’t drink as much water as an American who is familiar with hydration. In conclusion, we are discovering good things and less healthy things related to culinary culture that add up to immersive cultural discovery in France.

Health Culture

One of the most significant differences between American and French culture is the culture surrounding meals.  In the US, most meals are very large.  An American breakfast, for example, is far bigger than the typical French breakfast.  In the morning, Americans often eat two or three eggs, hash browns or home fries, toast, and bacon.  Lunch and dinner are of a similar size as well.

Among Americans, there seems to exist a common perception that French food is healthier than American food, or that the French lifestyle is typically healthier than the American lifestyle. Although it is possible that the typical French lifestyle is healthier, it is not because of diet specifically. French food uses a lot of fat – butter and animal fat dominate most dishes, so the notion that American food is more unhealthy than French food is not quite accurate. Another interesting aspect of food culture in both countries is that in restaurants in the United States, meals are served with large glasses of water, but in France, the water glasses are tiny by comparison. It is understood that staying hydrated is good for health, so if French cuisine were healthier than American cuisine, it seems as if the French would drink more water too.

Why does this perception exist? While the stereotypic american life is defined by excess, the life of a french person is defined by activity and moderation. Despite the fact that fat is so important in French cooking, meal sizes are much smaller. In addition, the lifestyle in France is typically more active than the lifestyle in the US. In France, cities and towns are very walkable, but in America, by contrast, a car is a necessity to get around in most places.

While traffic poses a challenge to happiness and places pressure on mental health, sports promote mental clarity. Those who play sports can improve their talents while improving their mental health. In exercising the body, the thoughts fixate on movement and one can no longer focus on the follies of the outside world.

In a basketball practice at Jean Jaures, there are many players seeking the mental and physical health that sports can offer. In order to explain why there are so many players in a single practice, one might consider the possibility that there are not many opportunities to play sports at a fair price.

Although there are not as many opportunities to engage in organised sports as in the United States, there remain many people who exercise through their daily habits. So it is possible that the French find mental and physical health outside of sports. Even though there are many athletes in one practice, there are many more people who exercise in the streets.

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