The Culture of Eating in Paris
If you know anything about the French, you know how important good food is to them. Good, fresh food is available everywhere - restaurants, cafes, markets, street food, small neighborhood stores, and supermarkets.
The availability of good food is one of the reasons for such a healthy population. But it's also the relationship they have with it that is so healthy. Food is more than something you shove in your face as you run from one place to another. It is a time to enjoy the flavors and company of friends and family.
For many of us in the States, it is a rare meal that we stop and enjoy each other and our food for more than a half hour. Our meals are often rushed, processed, and devoid of real nutrition. But in France, you will discover the joy of really eating!
It can be a real culture shock to see a huge city shut down for two hours during a busy business day just to eat lunch. Small shops, like the boulongerie or patisserie are likely to cater to the lunch rush and then close for a couple hours just after. But this happens - all over France. The French value the time they get to recharge their batteries.
Frequently, you'll see groups of office friends at a bistro enjoying a relaxing lunch before returning to the office. Sundays are often dedicated to spending time with families, friends, and food - be it a picnic in the park with the kids or a visit to family in the country for a long, enjoyable meal. Food is as much an intricate part of the social fabric in France as family, friends, sports, real vacations, and school.
If you sit down for lunch in Paris, expect a long, leisurely lunch. Even with my many trips, it still takes me a day or two to adjust. Lunch will often consist of three courses. And lingering over coffee is a must. Two hours is common.
Dinner is similar, long and enjoyable, relaxing and nourishing.
Breakfast, on the other hand, is quicker, lighter and simpler.