Saturday, 19 July 2014

If you're not eating the French way, you're doing it all wrong.

Louloute was born in Australia, she's spent most of her three short years running over Australian soil and breathing Australain air. Yet when it comes to food (apart from a mandatory vegemite addiction) she is all French. More than that, she is Marseillan. Bread, tomatoes, fish. Chocolate and macaoroons, berry covered meringues. And cheese. All kinds of cheese. Which is fortunate for her.

She will not be cheese-shamed for refusing to partake of the platter passed around after Sunday night dinner with the family. (It was a long time ago, I was young and ignorant and I didn't know that I didn't have a choice. You don't say no to cheese) But her love of cheese aside, I fear I am raising a cheese shamer rather than a shamee.  I'm not sure if it is her blue Marseillan blood or simply being three but Louloute cannot eat for talking about eating. When it comes to all things food, she has an opinion about everything. And this, I have learned, is decidedly French.

Louloute was fifteen months old when we first journeyed to France.  Travelling on the fast train from Paris to Marseille, as midday approached I pulled out our trusty 'Fridge to go' and proceeded to feed Louloute the odd assortment of toddler friendly, travel ready food bits; bread, cherry tomatoes, cheese and a yoghurt. Distracted by the task, I did not notice the look of abject horror on the face of a fellow traveller.  She sat across from us, her dark knit dress flawless, her hair cut in a sleek bob. Everything about her screamed Parisian chic, everything but her slack jawed expression.

"Vraiment le yaourt avant le fromage?" According to our French friend(?),  despite the fact that Louloute sat perched on my knee and (somewhat) still and was eating (reasonably) neatly and with little fuss as the train pitched us back and forth, Madamoiselle was not impressed. What followed was a lengthy discussion between her good self and The Marseillan, debating the correct eating etiquette (apparently there was one): yoghurt before cheese? Dairy followed by dairy? The absurdity! While I struggled to follow their fast French, the conversation ended somewhat abruptly with The Marseillan shrugging and myself cringing under the weight of Ophelia Devore's open stare.

This time around, I will be more careful. I am prepared, I've done my research. I won't let myself be cheese shamed, not by a stranger on a train or a well meaning aunt at a crowded dinner table. I have my lists, two in fact. One is a careful record of the do's and don'ts of food in France, a guide to prevent me from making another mistake. The other a list of four letter French words to use when I do.  On second thought, maybe I won't need both lists. Maybe just the one will do.

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