May 29, 2014

La cantine

My internship has come with many perks. The company is paying for half of my monthly metro pass, there is a small gym with a trainer and group classes available for free (yes, even to us interns), and there are two in house lunch dining options available with very reasonable prices.

Up till now, I have avoided eating at French cantines(dining halls/canteens). My first experience was during my time as a teaching assistant. They didn’t have anything that accommodated vegetarians, and so I would just make myself a sandwich and eat in the teacher’s lounge.

Next up, as a student, the cantine still didn’t have many vegetarian choices, and since I didn’t want to pay €3,50 for a plate of fries and over cooked carrots, I brought leftovers from the previous night’s dinner that I would reheat in the student’s lounge.

But now, as an intern, I eat at the cantine. There are many more options for vegetarians at this cantine, and for that I’m greatful. Plus, they have understood that it is disagreeable to pay the price of a meat meal when you don’t take meat, and charge less for a vegetables-only plate.

All of this is a vast improvement from previous cantine experiences, and I am grateful for cheap eats, especially as everything is expensive in Paris.

That said, I just don’t understand why the French culinary greatness can’t extend to vegetables. It has been my experience that the French think they can just boil a vegetable until its soft, put absolutely no seasoning, herbs, or spices on it, and declare it done.

Normally I love broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, but every time the cantine serves them they are just lukewarm mush.

After three months, I now know which plates I like and which plates I don’t, and more often than not, the dishes served fall into the don’t category. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking and choosing parts from different dishes to make up a worthwhile plate, but I still think side dishes should be just as important and flavorful as the main attraction.

That's why I put herbes de provence on my hauricots verts(green beans).


  1. You don't like lukewarm mush? How strange. ;)

  2. Ever since school, I've avoided canteens my whole life. You give your money away with a result that's probably just disappointment!


  3. Well it's not so much french cooking as a whole that is too blame, but French cooking around Paris.

    See have you lived in Nice you'd be facing the contrary problem, any of your guest that couldn't conceive a single second a meal especially at the restaurant without meat, would have a hard time finding anything really interesting and flavourfull on a daily basis...

    Call me crazy but the more I study the cooking cultures of the world the more I also notice a pattern. The more a region of the world is experiencing very harsh winters, the more the vegetable parts of the cooking culture is not that developped. On the flipside the more you get closer to super hot places of the world the more meat begins to be an exceptionnal part of your plate, and the cooking of said meat is often uninteressting and unappealing.

    I was born in Lille so of course I have been surrounded and raised by meat lovers, therefore of course I am one too. But each and everytime I dive into the cooking culture of a very sunny part of the world, I found myself able to say the same thing you said about vegetables cooking part of the plate being overlooked about anything that contains meat.

    Soooo let's just say that get closer to the sun and the colorfull flavorfull and varied and rich vegetarian plates will follow immediately...

    Cheers ;)


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