Much has been written about French food, from the classic “French women don’t get fat” mystery to haute cuisine drool-worthy cookbooks.
Indeed, French cuisine has a long and rich history, and French certainly love eating, drinking, shopping for food and talking about it. But tourists may be shocked to see locals don’t always eat fancy stuff.
Markets. French actually go to the market, not just to buy meat, fruits and veggies but also to buy deli food, including world cuisine specialties. Even Saint Michel’s tiny weekly market around the church features “Asian food,” i.e. a third-generation Vietnamese selling spring rolls and riz cantonais (fried rice). I noticed that Indian food is getting popular, as well as delicacies from the French Islands, such as accras de morue (breaded cod).
French seem to be discovering a few American staple treats, such as bagels, donuts and muffins, now available in many bakeries (and invariably more expensive than your basic butter croissant). This is fairly new in Nantes—when I was a kid, the only “American” treats we had were brownies. There are also many burger joints, all claiming to be “100% French” and fancier than McDonald’s. They are certainly more expensive!
Sandwiches, panini (toasted sandwiches), kebabs and “américains” (half a baguette filled with burger patties, fries and mayonnaise) and always popular. Sorry, no one has foie gras for lunch.
French supermarkets are also interesting: they invariably feature a huge “wine and alcohol” section, and one or two aisles are dedicated to dairy products such as yogurts and crèmes and cheese. Oh, and the milk is not refrigerated.
Finally, you’d be surprised by the numbers of bars in Nantes. I think there is one in every block, at least!