Like I talked about in a previous post, the French don’t go to malls on Christmas, they have their Marchés de Noël instead. The one in Amiens, if I have heard correctly, is one of the largest in Northern France. This weekend there was a pretty good crowd in spite of the cold. Several of the local merchants posted their ouvertures exceptionelles for Sunday when everything is generally closed. In other words they *gasp* opened part of the day on Sunday for Christmas shopping! (Of course I’m speaking as an American who is used to Wal Mart being opened 24/7 in the weeks before Christmas)
These are some of the kiosks selling food, crafts, and various knick-knacks (but surprisingly, very few Christmas-themed items.)
This one is very interesting, the tartiflette. Now here is where I am ready to confront one of the most pervasive of French self-mythologies.
The French will tell you – will insist – that they are all thin because they eat “small portions”. This is a matter of some national pride, so it is at my own risk that I dare step up and challenge the myth. I just know this: I have been served HUGE portions of food everywhere I go. I often have trouble finishing what I am served and since taking food home in a doggy bag is not acceptable here I either have to finish it or leave it – paid for and uneaten. If you order a sandwich, it is on a baguette that is about 14″ long. That is pretty big and a lot of bread for one meal. Which brings me to the tartiflette. This is a kind of casserole that includes potatoes, a creamy cheese sauce, onions and lardons. They were cooking it up by the vat in this kiosk and les Français were inhaling great quantities of it. They offered a 1/2 portion, a full portion and a double portion. Silly me, I went for the “full” portion or the moyenne barquette. I got about two POUNDS of steaming potato casserole. I ate and ate and ate and could not finish it. Meanwhile, I watched while people all around me easily scarfed down the whole thing. (Couples would get the grande barquette with two forks and share it.) And not only this, but – if you can believe it – you could also get a sandwich which was a full baguette with about a pound of tartiflette stuffed inside. YES, bread stuffed with potatoes and cheese! YES, a big, huge, gut-busting portion! I have to laugh, really, thinking of the serious faces of the French people who have earnestly assured me that, “We don’t eat big portions like Americans do. We take very small portions.” Well, I’m not calling anybody a liar, but…
This is my container which I threw away unfinished, nestled among scads of containers picked clean. Oh, and it is delicious, BTW!
But here’s the ones that’s really funny. While Americans line up for footlong hotdogs the French line up for Crêpes au Mètre, which more or less means “Crêpes by the Yard”. (This was a very popular kiosk.) For some reason this struck me as absolutely hilarious. It is the French version of funnel cakes at the State Fair.