Most people spend about one-third of their lives sleeping, but French people must spend one-third of their lives eating. Every meal here seems to be an experience, a time to savor not just the food but life.
On my way to school the other day, I saw a small creperie called Flaubert. I have a weakness for French crepes so I decided to go there for lunch.
First I had to stop at Monoprix to get some toiletries and then I went back to my hotel to grab my camera. By the time I got to the restaurant I had only one hour of break left before I was due back at class and I was afraid it wouldn’t be enough. In the United States, people might think I was crazy if I said one hour wasn’t enough time to eat a crepe, but here, in France, everything is different.
After a long heated debate with myself, I decided that I still wanted the crepe so I dashed over to the creperie. I ordered a salad and a Nutella crepe quickly.
The restaurant was pretty empty at that time and I was sure that the waitress noticed I checked my watch every five minutes. I tried hard not glance at my watch because I knew that wasn’t the French way.
While I waited for my crepe to arrive I looked at the other two groups eating in the restaurant – a pair of women and a group of three people in business suits. They seemed to have all the time in the world. The two women sat and chatted for a long time over two small cups of coffee. The other group ordered crepes and they talked without looking at their watches even once. I wondered if they had to go back to their offices after lunch.
I realized how Americanized I had become — or how far I was from being French. On my third day of school, I ran out with toast in my mouth and I didn’t even pay attention to what I was eating. I checked my watch while trying not to choke on the toast.. I drank my water quickly as if I was trying to cleanse my palette from bad food.
In the past week and a half, I’ve come to realize how bad my eating habits – and those of most Americans — are. The French take a two-hour lunch break. They relish their food, rather than seeing it as something they simply need to survive. Like cooking, eating is an art here.