What will your host family bring to the table?

Moving into with a host family for four or five months can seem pretty daunting.  Before I even touched down in France, I had a lot of questions about what to expect:  Would they like me? How close would we become?   What if my host mom was a horrible cook?

 

Each host family is different, so I can’t tell you exactly how your experience will be.  But, if you’re on the fence about the issue, I definitely recommend that you go for it—there are so many advantages to living with a host family!  So go ahead, take the plunge into what will undoubtedly be an unforgettable immersive experience.

Without a doubt, one of the best things about living with a host family is all the awesome food you’ll get to try as a result.  Since cooking and eating both make up a huge aspect of the culture in any region of the world, I’d advise you to try as many different foods as you can while abroad.  Living with a family will provide you with a truly authentic way to accomplish this goal.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Raclette2.jpg

Food makes up a huge part of French culture.  Different regions within the country, for example, are known for particular types of cheese—and they make a lot of ‘em.   In fact, the French produce about 400 different typesof cheese, which is why they say that in their country, there’s “a cheese for every day of the year.”  Cheese was eaten almost every single time we sat down to dinner in Grenoble—after the main course and before dessert (which was usually fruit).  A specialty cheese of the Rhône-Alpes region was called “raclette,” and my host mom used it to make a traditional dinner that I’ll never forget.  The cheese was melted in a special tabletop heater and poured over a plate of pickles, cold cuts, and warm potatoes.  As you can imagine, the meal was filling, and it made sense when my host dad explained to me that it had been developed as a hearty meal eaten by peasants after spending the day tending sheep in the harsher conditions of the French Alps.  Today, raclette is a meal that’s popularly eaten after a long day on the ski slopes.  Walnuts were another specialty of the region, and there was always a bowl full of them on the kitchen table.

Food also helped me learn about the recent history of France.  Another popular meal at the dinner table was merguez sausages with couscous.  The combination is a traditional North African dish, and started gaining popularity in France during its colonization of Algeria and Morocco.  Döner kebab shops were a common sight around most French towns as well, owing to the substantial Turkish immigrant population.

Take note of how food is stored while abroad.  Our eggs were kept on TOP of the fridge, and unopened bottles of milk were stored in a CLOSET (it had to do with the different ways they’re processed over there)!!  Needless to say, I had some reservations about eating them at first, but it all turned out fine.

I ate my fair share of “different” foods while abroad, including gésier and andouillettes (look them up—if you dare!).  Sometimes I found myself pleasantly surprised, and other times I was less enthusiastic about finishing dinner.  But it’s all a learning experience, and you’ve gotta take the good with the bad.  Before going overseas, you should make up your mind to try every kind of food that’s offered to you, at least once—after all, it’s a big part of what the whole experience is all about.

Merguez et couscous

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