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The squeamish eater à Paris

Susan Ross Donohue - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Before everyone gets on my back about the fine cuisine in Paris and what a waste it is for people like me to visit a country where cooking is an art, let me just say in my defense that I was brought up on peanut butter sandwiches.

My mother wasn’t much of a cook as a matter of fact, and although she tried, her food was pretty disgusting. Cream fish, canned spaghetti … oh don’t get me started. I was scarred very young and it’s something I can’t shake.

As an adult my taste buds have grown but, unfortunately, not to the extent needed for fine dining in France. This is an embarrassing problem that only those in the same predicament can understand. Until I can learn to enjoy food properly, and by now I’m doubting it will happen, I’m stuck.

Susan Ross Donohue - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

So the question is: what should I eat to keep body and soul together without confessing I’m food challenged?

Foie gras? – No?.

Bouillabaisse? – Absolutely no.

Truffles? – No again?.

And Confit? – I’m going to faint.

Let’s see… I like steak but only if it’s very well done. I’m sure you’ve heard that this is frowned upon and you may as well write ‘STOOPID TOURIST‘ across your forehead as you order meat cooked this way. The waiter will give you an argument about how tough the steak will be so if you’re like me, learn the French for “I prefer it tough – the tougher the better” before going to Paris.

Susan Ross Conohue - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Chicken is good but I find it’s not cooked enough for me either. It sounds weird to say “chicken well done” so I don’t order it.

Any innards or parts of  animals I don’t recognize are out. Also, I don’t want anything looking back at me, like fish eyes.

Where to turn?

There are a lot of options for places where you can enjoy a meal without feeling like a misfit or, worse, slipping uneaten food into a purse/pocket à la Mr Bean).

Fondue is always a good choice if you like cheese. Add to it salad and a glass or two of a good wine and it’s a perfect meal. (Oddly, I had no trouble acquiring a taste for wine.) There are a lot of fondue restaurants especially in the Latin Quarter. It’s inexpensive (relatively speaking) and popular. Très French.

Susan Ross Conohue - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Crêpes are also a good choice. Individual fillings can be selected giving you the opportunity to choose what you like. Veggies, fruit, cheese … all delicious.

Then there is the soufflé! And what could be more French? No one could feel like an outcast ordering one of these. Don’t forget the dessert soufflé too!

Susan Ross Conohue - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

There are fantastic Italian restaurants in Paris and there’s nothing ‘raw’ about Fettuccine Alfredo or spaghetti with a rosé sauce. Safer for picky eaters. I know this doesn’t seem right being in France and all, but hey, we all need a break from the cheese diet once in a while.

For lunch, almost every café has quiche or baguettes stuffed with recognizable fare (cheese, ham, etc.) and all highly recommended. Lunch is a breeze.

I’ve been to many beautiful restaurants in Paris. I confess I wasn’t always able to eat the meal but that’s my fault. No … it’s my mother’s fault! I know I’ll never be able to eat at the Tour d’Argent. I can’t bring myself to eat duck (Donald and Daisy) or lobster (the staring eyes problem), but it doesn’t matter because I can’t afford it anyway.

Even with my embarrassing taste buds I’ve never had to resort to McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurant. So, go to Paris and enjoy. Just make sure you know what you’re ordering!

Image credits: 
1 Café – Susan Ross Donohue
2 Canned Food – Shabby Chics, Flickr
3 Overcooked chicken – The Very Lonely Traveller, Flickr 
4 Fondue – Alfesto, Flickr
5  Soufflé – Susan Ross Donohue


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  1. Profile photo of Lynne Pearce
    lynne
    5 years ago

    I know so well where you are coming from ! I could have written this article I LOVE food , salads ,vegetables, pulses and deserts. Meat has to be neat, tidy ,well done and with no sign of ever having been a living thing.Curiously my parents never drank wine and we knew only of the Harveys Bristol Cream variety of sherry but I took to vin like a duck to water. Thanks , you are a kindred spirit!


  2. Profile photo of Susan Ross Donohue
    Susan Ross Donohue
    5 years ago

    Thank you Lynne. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone with the meat thing! My parents never drank wine either. Aren’t we lucky we discovered it all on our own 🙂