To Be French: The Art of Seasonal Eating

tomato

As you may or may not know, French is one of the many nationalities that make up my muttliness. It’s also—barely beating out my affinity for my Portuguese roots—the nationality I feel closest to. Sure, I desperately wanted to study Spanish in middle school but was too slow returning my language preference forms and got stuck with French. Of course, I’ve been amoureux with my second choice ever since. I think they call that fate.

Since spending a semester abroad in Lyon in college, I’ve dreamt of living in France permanently. Also since living in Lyon, known as the gastronomic capital of the world since 1935, I’ve developed an even deeper appreciation for food and am preoccupied by thoughts of lunch and dinner and grocery runs roughly 70% of my day.

I just finished reading the illustrious French Women Don’t Get Fat (I’m about a decade behind, I know). Even as the most francophilest of francophiles, I found the author’s tone and lack of open-mindedness toward American eating and exercise standards pretty off-putting. I did, however, enjoy the peek into French eating styles and habits, particularly the habit of eating food that’s in season.

Seems straightforward. Even with the tiniest ounce of common sense, you’d know to eat food when it’s ready to eat. But go to any grocery store—even Whole Foods—and you can have whatever you want whenever you want it. That’s kind of the point.

But as French Women reminds us, a tomato in season is a heck of a lot tastier and more nutritious than a tomato out of season. One is clearly superior to the other. However, given that they’re both edible and available, how the heck are you supposed to know that a tomato in July is better than a tomato in May?

Maybe it seems obvious for something like a tomato, which you or your mom or grandparents have probably grown at one point or another. But what about something like bananas? Something so ubiquitous yet so exotic. I think the in-season mentality should stand. But  while eating local is very important, I don’t think I could survive on potatoes, squash, and apples for four long winter months.

Moral: Eat local, seasonal produce as often as possible. And when you need to supplement with some imports, make sure those are in season, too, with the help of these seasonal ingredient charts from epicurious, Sustainable Table, and the good ol’ USDA (the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture also has one specific to the state).

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