Easy as tarte

I can’t deny that I live to eat. And because of this, I look forward to every meal, especially those in a foreign land.

The French in particular are known for their expensive, scandalously rich foods. I dream of waking up in the morning, eating an almond brioche with a cup of café au lait and riding my bike off to the beach for a full day of topless tanning. I’d follow that with a three-course meal of chevre salad oozing with honey, the finest piece of filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and of course, to top it all off, a pot of crème brulee torched right in front of me. Is that too much to ask for?

Maybe not in France, but I have come to realize my body (and my pockets) can’t afford the wine-and-dine lifestyle of the French. There comes a point when I can’t possibly stuff another delicious meal down my throat just because I want the “French experience.” Luckily, I learned this lesson long ago, so my stay in Perpignan has been an exercise in moderation.

Before I left for this trip, I made myself a rule (more like a guideline) that I would dine out for only ONE meal a day. As much as I long to grab my croissant every morning and pick up an evening treat from the patisserie, I have come to the realization that food will always be there. Thus, I find myself at the supermarché. Not a hard task, n’est pas? Peruse the aisles, grab what looks good and try to be practical.

I strolled into the local gourmet grocery store, MonoPrix, with purpose. Proscuitto, check. Jus d’orange, check. Yaourt by “Danone,” check, with a slight hesitation. Baguette, must have. I threw some salad greens and balsamic vinegar into my cart, (I’m trying to at least look healthy) as well as some cereal called “Fittness.” All I needed was milk. I probably circled the store six times before I realized that the little refrigerator with a dozen bottles of “lait” was what I was looking for. I was searching for the massive wall of milk that one would see in an American supermarket, but alas, it was nowhere to be found.

Racking my brain for the French within, I tried to decipher the two different types of milk: entier and demi-écrémé. Where was the  2 percent, 1 percent and non-fat we have at home? I was out of my element, squatting in front of the milk for a good 10 minutes. Every once and awhile I would look around to make sure no one was staring at me, but secretly I was begging for help. My five years of French were not pulling me through. The clock was ticking. After a scare of thinking that “frais” meant strawberries and that I was buying flavored milk, I flipped around the bottles and compared the nutrition charts. “Ah, lipides!” Out of all words, I remembered “fat!”

I felt like I had conquered the world with my wits. OK, so maybe it wasn’t that impressive, but at least I didn’t end up buying the one that closely resembled the word “entire,” otherwise known as whole milk.