Who would think that the French, with all their pastry and chocolate shops, would be offended by sugar?
I learned it the hard way.
After two years living in the south of France, I’ve discovered that the French have an aversion to overly sugary foods. The first hint I got was when I volunteered to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for friends two years ago. My dear friend, Geoffrey, hosted the event at his home and he prepared a fresh turkey, stuffing and vegetables. My contribution was a sweet potato souffle — just like my mother taught me to make it.
Who would think the French wouldn’t like a souffle? Well, after Geoffrey watched me assemble the ingredients into the bowl— sweet potatoes, cream, eggs and brown sugar. Then he saw me spread the mixture into a glass casserole dish and add marshmallows to the top. He refused to let me put it into the oven to bake.
“They won’t eat it,” he said. “it will offend their palates,” he stated, emphatically.
“What!” I said in surprise. “People who eat chocolate mousse, cinnamon-raisin pastries and cream puffs won’t eat a sweet potato casserole?” I was in complete amazement.
Not to embarrass the host, I left the sweet potato casserole in the refrigerator. I took it home later to eat by myself.
This year for Thanksgiving, I invited guests to my home for a meal I prepared by myself. I dared not cook a turkey. Instead, two fat hens. The menu included a creamy pumpkin soup; corn bread stuffing; mashed potatoes and “giblet” gravy; brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar, chestnuts and pancetta; and haricot vert (green beans).
For dessert? No traditional American pecan, pumpkin or chocolate pies. Just fruit tarts — pear and almonds; pear and walnuts — no sugar added. I sneaked in an apple and walnut tart with a sweet cranberry relish drizzled on top — just to see what would happen.
Most of the apple/walnut/cranberry tart was left in the dish.
Interestly, my taste buds have adjusted to the toned-down, French version of desserts. If it’s so sweet that it makes your teeth hurt, it’s too sweet. Not a bad lesson to learn.
Now, will someone please explain why the French are such love lovers of bonbons?