My First Meal In France: Spaghetti
Words by Claire Burkitt
The first meal I ate in France was spaghetti. It took me 12 hours of flying, 2.5 hours of driving, and over 15 hours in just waiting around. Then I was there, the surrogate daughter of a French couple in a small city in France called Rodez.
French cuisine is renowned worldwide. There is no doubt that this country is home to endless culinary masterpieces (some of which I have already written about). However, there was something comforting in the normalcy of that first meal.
If you have travelled at all, you know. You are unaccustomed to the smells, sounds, and sights. It is thrilling; it’s terrifying. After months of preparing to live in France, I was finally there. Suddenly, reality hit me. I was thousands of miles away from home, and I was scared.
The terrain was new—red, volcanic soil; rocky cliff faces; and winding roads that put rollercoasters to shame. I was struggling to use all of my four years of French to keep up with my host parents, only catching non-essential words. Even the air and water were different. Before dinner, I had enough time to familiarize myself with my room—Prada duvet cover; wardrobe with lavender hanging from one knob; a sliding door leading to a balcony. I would soon learn that a housecleaner would come through twice per week to clean. In the three months I lived with that family, I didn’t change a single sheet (not all the new things were hard).
My host mom made spaghetti for dinner. It was a simple meal. We started with a plain, green salad and homemade vinaigrette (If you don't know how to make vinaigrette yet, keep reading!). The spaghetti was unlike any I had ever had. The sauce clung to the noodles and transcended in flavor. I don’t know if it was simplicity or if tomatoes in France are different than tomatoes in The States. I suspect, however, that it was thanks to the particular brand: Panzani sauce bolognaise. Whatever the reason, I loved it. Then, per my host dad’s instructions, I soaked up any remaining sauce with a piece of baguette (a perfectly acceptable thing to do in France, but not everywhere). For dessert, we ate yogurt—also uniquely delicious.
The spaghetti, though somewhat foreign, was curiously comforting. My mom often made spaghetti for our family of eight; eating something so familiar in my new surroundings where I would suddenly be the de facto only child made the little, French house feel a bit more like home.
To help you on your quest to follow my previous instruction, here is a simple recipe that will come in handy every time you find yourself short on a suitable salad dressing. Both the egg and the mustard serve to combine and stabilize the vinegar and the oil. If you can’t do raw egg, don’t worry about it. If you can, well huzzah! Often, you can make twice this amount and store it in the refrigerator throughout the week (like real French people do). Use it for salads, on roasted vegetables, etc.
2 Tbs white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg yolk (raw, optional)
1½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
pepper to taste
1. In small mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, salt, egg yolk, and mustard until well combined and salt is dissolved.
2. Add oil and whisk.
3. Add pepper to taste.