Loving Food

The #1 Insult to the French Palate

Sugar.

Who would think that the French, with all their pastry and chocolate shops, would be offended by sugar?

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French pastry shop

 

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.

 

pies

 

Bon bons in Carcassonne

Bon bons in Carcassonne

 

 

Now, will someone please explain why the French are such love lovers of bonbons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 replies »

    • They love sweet foods, just not too sweet–like Americans love it. It really seems to offend them and think it not edible. The question out there is still, what about bonbons? They love them! Haribo is just down the road and it’s a favorite attraction for families.

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  1. Deborah another great insight to French life!!! I remember the story and am a little amazed myself but like the French too much sugar is not for me and the sweet potatoes I like are just the sweetness of the potato itself. Everything looks just great and am sure you all had a wonderful time–what does give with bon bons anyway??

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  2. It is not only the French that do not like overly sugary dishes. I am a Belgian and we do not like it either. The first time I had Thanksgiving dinner in the States, my sister in law had made the sweet potato dish with the sugar and marshmallows and I almost gagged when I ate it. Same for the ambrosia dish… I make a sweet potato souffle also but no sugar nor marshmallows added and my American family here loves it and request it every year. I cut down automatically the sugar in American recipes, especially bread.

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    • I had forgotten about ambrosia. So funny! It will be interesting how my tastebuds react when I go back to the states for Christmas. The chocolate fudge pie might be swapped for fruit tarts. Now, what about those bonbons? Do they love them on Belgium? Harbor is just down the street in Uzes…

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  3. Debby je peux me tromper mais une espèce de chauvinisme et un manque de curiosité peut expliquer qu’ils n’aient pas honoré les desserts de la maîtresse de maison. désolé acceptez mes excuses pour leur part. François. je ne savais pas que tu connaissais Christina de Sète. bises

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    • Tu es gentil. Je ne suis pas triste. Il est une bonne leçon sur la façon d’apprécier la vie comme une personne française. Longue vie à la France! Oui, Je adore Christina et ses œuvres d’art!

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    • They’re so easy I’m almost embarrassed to tell you! Pie pastry (store bought) spread with Frangipani (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frangipane), sliced fruit on top, choice of walnuts or almonds scattered on top, bake 30-40 minutes at 185c or 325F. For cranberry relish variety, warm jelly with a little water in a saucepan, then drizzle on top before baking. I don’t know if frangipani is available outside Europe, but it makes it so easy and fabulous almond taste!

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