Look who we hung out with today in the Luxembourg Gardens: the Catholic blogger Amy Welborn and her two young boys. They’re spending a month in Paris too. Amy and I have been e-mail friends for 10 years, but only met today for the first time.
Julie, Amy, and I were comparing notes about our experiences in France. Over pizza from a takeaway place down the street, I complained that the French don’t do pizza well at all. Julie and Amy didn’t think it was so bad, but Amy did say that she likes strong, sharp, spicy flavors, and she just doesn’t find them in France. I agree, mostly. Julie and I went over to the Latin Quarter outpost of Maoz, the falafel chain, to get ourselves rebalanced from all this bread, butter, cheese, and chicken. I ladled the hottest sauce in the house onto my falafel, and kept going back for more. I think I scandalized the woman behind the counter by all the hot sauce I was eating. But I needed it.
After all that, I was talking to a French friend tonight who told me he had so much trouble getting proper mustard in the US. “Even French brands, they sell an export formula for the American market,” he said. “It’s weaker and blander than what we have here.”
So, I’m having a gastronomy question. If French mayonnaise and mustard are so much more flavorful than their US counterparts, but the US has much stronger tastes in other ways than the French (e.g., pizza), why is this the case? You can’t say the French like only mild food. You eat Maille Dijon mustard and it will blow your head off. But they like strong tastes in certain areas. Same with us Americans, don’t you think?
Does anybody have a unified theory of strong force and weak force in national gastronomical tastes? I would like to hear it.