Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.
The four of us (my sister and her son, Husband and moi) were on our own for five days in Paris. We learned a lot about food and about eating as the French do one evening at Le Petit Baigneur just a short walk from “our flat”.
We discovered that we should not first have a snack at home. We didn’t realize that ordering from the menu would consist of a (fixed price) a three course meal: a starter (which they call the Entrée); a main course with vegetable; a cheese and/or dessert course(s); and café – a small cup of espresso. And wine, of course. And bread – I learned that the French bread brought to the table is so good it does not require, or come with, butter.
That was a lot of food. There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as taking food home with you in a “to go” container. The idea is to order something marvelous (no problem), and then take two or three hours to eat, drink, talk, and ENJOY it. You have to shift gears, especially if you’re an American usually in a rush.
No wonder breakfast is usually a light “continental” affair – i.e. croissants and jam, a beverage, and that’s about it. We could walk around the corner from our flat and find pastries from a patisserie (dessert bakery), baguettes from a boulangerie (bread bakery), or crepes and quiches from a crèperie.
Luckily, our Paris eateries often had someone who spoke some English, so we pretty much knew what we were getting. Our waiter at Petit Baigneur brought us an English version of the menu, and my tiny bit of French helped at times. But there are other differences to negotiate – there are more manners in France – “merci” and “s’il vous plait” are expected. We heard about a brasserie (bistro) where the following was part of the price list, aimed no doubt at unthinking tourists:
- Une bière ou vin – €2
(One beer or wine – 2 Euros)
- Une bière ou vin avec “s’il vous plait” – €1.5
(One beer or wine with “if you please” – 1.5 Euros)
When have you mis-communicated with your server in a restaurant?