On Food in France

Farmer’s markets always struck me as bizarre places. They were where hippie adults went to sell and buy “local” produce, and, what, get in touch with the community and its circle of life. Often I found the food that the earth produced to be passionate-less, flavourless, unforgiving, and boring.

Perhaps I’m describing my attempts at backyard gardening, but perhaps not.

In France, or at least in the small city in which I live, the polar opposite is the case. It seems as all the food here is ripe, sweet, juicy, plump, cookable, authentic, wholesome, and simple. It’s no wonder that such cuisines as French and Italian rely on french produce. It’s because it grows bountifully from the soil.

How does one explain this?

Well, I’ve noticed that in Europe the terrain feels much more different. The streets are more protective, you feel warmer in the night, and everything seems close, as if the world is hugging you. I have a feeling that this is because I am on top of easily 2000 years of human habitation. Because humans have lived here for so long, it feels safe and secure. Not necessarily civilized, in that high culture kind of sense, but protected and ensconced.

Canada feels different. Or rather, North America feels different. Although I have not been to Mexico yet.

I remember on Boxing Day morning many years ago I woke up at 4:30/5 am in the morning to take the bus to go to Best Buy to buy myself a new laptop. It was very scary. Since it was so early, the local bus did not yet drive through my neighbourhood. Instead, I had to walk to another neighbourhood north of my house, to catch a bus there. In between those two places was the outskirts of the city, and Tsuu Tina nation territory.

As I walked through my neighbourhood in which I had played often as a child, I was extremely on guard. Those alert senses only magnified as I walked in the hills in between neighbourhoods. My imagination conjured a pack of wolves appearing on every hill around me, or behind a bush, or coming out from around a house.

Even today, when I walk out of my house to throw garbage away into the condo dumpster, I am afraid that a wolf or an angry moose will come loping towards me.

I’m not making this all up, you know! If you want concrete proof of this, I refer you to the way in which the city is designed. In Calgary, there is tremendous open space. Space between houses, space between lanes, space in parks, space, space, space. It feels like the inside of your mouth when you haven’t drank any water. Lol. But it’s not only space. It’s green with grass, and trees, and shrubbery, and plants, and evergreens, and more green things. It’s green everywhere. If there are houses, they look as if they were plonked there by the first builder who set his eyes on that plot of land. Yes, Calgary looks like a whole bunch of people just plonked houses on top. One sweep of the hand and they would’ve been restored to the original state.

But in Europe, it’s a different story. The buildings are decadent! There’s care taken in the appearance of buildings, and many of them have arches, and stone faces, and flowers and a whole bunch of other things carved into the walls themselves. They look good from the outside. But there are no trees. There is no grass. There are no houses. It’s all culture, and 2000 years of it. If there were to be a sweep of the hand, it would probably be bruised, because the buildings in Europe are anchored to the earth by other buildings much much older.

Anyways, I wish that Calgary and other Canadian cities would have more of that warmth and stability and rootedness that European cities have, and I wish that Europe had more greenery everywhere.


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